God, Are You Crying?

“In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.
In his love and mercy he redeemed them;
he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old”

(Isaiah 63:9).

It was my third pregnancy and I sat across from my midwife at my 37-week check-up.  “I don’t think the baby has turned,” I told her.  “I think she’s still breach.”

I saw her face change from “easy-breezy check-up” to “let’s investigate this issue”.  She expertly prodded my massive pregnant belly with her hands and then popped the baby up on the ultrasound machine to be sure.  Breach baby.  Thirty-seven weeks.

Maybe the doctor will turn her, I thought?  Maybe she’ll turn herself (I hoped)?  Anything sounded good if I could avoid a C-section.

She said, “I’ll call you.  I need to tell the doctor what’s going on, but I’d start preparing for surgery.”

I trusted her.  During both of my other pregnancies, she had cared for me frequently.  She was a strikingly lovely woman, an inside-out kind of beauty, so open and full of joy.  Her hair was just beginning to grow back into small bouncy curls after a fight with breast cancer years before and it was so like her to pour herself out for others even during chemo treatments and cancer recovery.

Just as she promised, she called me later that day.  She treated me like I was the only patient in the world, taking more than 20 minutes to tell me how serious the baby’s position was because she was sitting on her umbilical cord.  How turning the baby could kill her and if I went into labor on my own, she’d probably suffocate.

C-section it was.

But she gave me great reassurance, how good the doctor was, how she had seen him work and knew he would take good care of me and I would heal well.  “Don’t be afraid,” she said.

That was the last time I talked to her.

The doctor delivered my baby via C-section and he was expert and wonderful and my daughter was healthy and beautiful and safe.  When I returned for my check-up weeks later, they told me that my midwife’s breast cancer had returned and she was starting treatments again.

Any time I had an appointment at the office over the last 3 years, I asked about her.  She popped into my head periodically, and I prayed for her and we prayed in my small group, as well.

She passed away this weekend.

It’s a part of the human condition on this broken planet to grieve.  I am sad for her struggle, for years and years of fighting, for losing the battle to breast cancer, for her pain, for those who worked with her, for her dear friends, and most of all for her family and her two children who watched their mother fight and then die.

This world of sorrow isn’t a place of God’s design.  It’s the mess mankind made through disobedience and sin, ushering in death.  One day, we have the opportunity to see what God’s perfect design is really like.  Heaven is the ideal place, where death, crying, pain, and disease have no place because sin has no place.

But here we are, facing sorrows in the here and now because good people die, people of faith hurt, babies don’t make it, children are abused.

When Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb, he was surrounded by mourners in the midst of their own loss.  Martha was weeping.  Mary was weeping.  The entire crowd was weeping.

My commentary tells me they weren’t just sniffling quietly into their tissues in the good old Western style.  They were “wailing” (klaiontas).

Seeing their distress, Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled . . . Jesus wept” (John 11:33, 35).

The crowd took it as a sign of Jesus’s own grief over losing a great friend and said, “See how he loved him!”

But is that why Jesus cried on the edge of Lazarus’s tomb?  He wasn’t wailing in the same way they were; he was quietly shedding tears (edakrysen).john11

Anyway, what was there for him to mourn?  He knew he could raise Lazarus from the dead.  In fact, Jesus was just seconds away from doing just that and watching Lazarus stumble out of the tomb still wrapped up in his grave clothes.

It couldn’t have been his own grief.

It had to be the sadness at the sorrow of others.  That’s why he was “deeply moved” and “greatly troubled,” not when he knew Lazarus was dead or when Mary and Martha confronted him over it, but when he heard “her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping” (John 11:33).

He felt sorrow over their sorrow, sadness over their sadness, and compassion because they experienced death, loss, the grave, pain, and sickness.

In the same way, when Jesus saw a widow following behind the coffin of her only son, “He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep'”  (Luke 7:13) before touching her son’s body and raising him from the dead.

This is the Savior we serve, who saw the sorrow of death, who faced it Himself, and who comforts us when life is hard, when loved ones die, when we grieve the loss of people, the loss of hope, and the loss of dreams.

Even though I know He doesn’t always intervene with miracles, resurrecting in the places we grieve, it’s somehow helpful to know He isn’t ignoring us either.  Jesus isn’t cold-hearted, looking down stone-faced and unmoved by our sorrow.

Instead, when we’re hurting, He’s moved by compassion for us and ministering to us with His Spirit.  He’s comforting those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).

I use the Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition, edited by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Tomato Plant Prayers

Last week, my daughters and I spent a picture-perfect day outside planting in the garden.  As I pushed the dirt around each  of our tomato plants, I whispered a little prayer for God to bless it and let it grow strong and healthy to produce much fruit and to be protected from weather and pests (those nasty huge green worms that appear every year) and also to be protected from my ineptitude (I’m no expert gardener).

My daughter giggled at me.  “Why are you praying over a tomato plant, mom?”

I stopped to think.  Why was I praying over a tomato plant?  Earlier that very day, I had prayed for the names listed in my prayer journal.  For job decisions.  For financial help.  For needed housing.  For strength while caregiving.  For a broken marriage.  For children growing up with instability.  For a small girl with cancer.

Now, here I was just hours later, asking the God of the Universe to care about my tiny garden.  Did it seem presumptuous of me, selfish perhaps to think that the small things that mattered to me, mattered to God, as well?

Yet, I looked up into my daughter’s face and said, “God cares about us.  He cares about every little thing, so it’s okay for us to pray about all that is on our mind and heart, not just the big stuff.”

I believe that.  Sometimes we see God as too wrapped up in world affairs, global weather patterns, and hospital rooms to have time for the daily thoughts and concerns we face each day.  Somehow we think we’d just be wasting his time, taking His attention from those who really need His intervention if we prayed about “silly” little things.

Satan has great success defeating the prayer lives of Christians by making prayer seem so complicated.  He tells us prayer is hard and it has to be done a certain way and for a certain length of time.  He tells us we don’t pray as well as other Christians we know.  He tells us we are lacking and we fall short.  He tells us God doesn’t care about our concerns and needs because they are too insignificant for God’s notice.  So, with all of that pressure and the feeling that we simply can’t measure up, we sometimes don’t pray at all.

And yet, Scripture tells us to “pray continually” (1 Thes. 5:17).  It’s not that we need to quit our jobs and devote ourselves to on-our-knees intercession all day, every day.  It’s that our every thought and emotion can be turned over to God in prayer, living in continual conversation with a listening and caring God.

I am reminded that the Psalmist told me to “cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (Psalm 55:22) and Peter told us to “cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  Cast all my anxiety—-not just the big life-altering problems, but everything that puzzles my heart and occupies my thoughts.

Honestly, there have been few more stressful seasons for me than potty training my children.  Nothing made me feel quite so much a failure as those months of accidents and pleading and systems that didn’t work and children who refused.  God has endured many a potty-training prayer from this crazy mom and as silly as it sounds now in retrospect, those days were anxious for me; diapers and potty chairs were constantly on my mind.  I scoured the Internet for advice, talked to every mom I knew (who all had miraculously potty trained their children by 18 months with no effort, making me feel even worse), and spent an hour or more of my every day sitting on the bathroom floor singing Old MacDonald while trying to convince my child to keep sitting and trying while singing just one more verse of the song.  Old MacDonald’s farm for us was expansive, holding animals that didn’t even make noise (making the song difficult) and housing exotic breeds more often found in zoos than in an average barn.  But, if Old MacDonald needed an elephant in order for my child to use the potty, he got an elephant.

In a world where we are constantly reminded of need and hurt, when wars and revolutions are started everyday, when tornadoes and tsunamis wipe out homes and countries, when our email boxes fill up with prayer requests for the homeless and the sick, it may seem so foolish to lay at God’s feet the little things like tomato plants and potty training.

And yet, Isaiah 63:9 says, “In all their distress, He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them.  In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”  Isaiah here is writing about how God carried Israel in the past.  During all those days in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan He delivered them from Pharaoh’s mighty army, He carried them across the Red Sea on dry ground, He gave them the Ten Commandments, but He also made sure they had food and water to drink and led them to an oasis to refresh them when they were weary.  He cared about every event and every need—big or small—that mattered to them.

About a week after I had knelt in the dirt to pray over my tomato plant, my daughter and I sat next to each other talking about a birthday party she was going to the next day.  I looked up the directions on the computer and realized that this family lived exactly in the middle of the hardest hit area of tornado damage from the storms a week before.  My daughter announced, “Well, my friend says that she could hear the storm and it went right by her, but they were okay.  I guess God knew she was having  a birthday party and didn’t want it to be ruined by her house being broken.”

Sweet innocent faith!  I had told her that God cares about every little thing, and she believed it.  If He cares about tomato plants, why not a birthday party?  If He cares about my daughters potty training, why not the worries on your mind?  Your decisions, your financial needs, your relationship problems, your job choices, your shopping list, your schedule for the day, whether your kids behave in the store (I have prayed that prayer many times).  Isn’t it one of those miraculous aspects of God’s nature that He cares about the big and small, the world events and the personal concerns, the global crises and the daily struggles?

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Now it’s your turn:

How have you learned to pray through your every day life?  Have you ever had a prayer breakthrough, something you learned that really changed your prayer life?  Please post a comment to share with others!!

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Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King