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Someone Like You … may long for God's presence


"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
- Joshua 1:9

One of my favorite parts of the story of Andi Allen, is what she does with her pain. Yes, initially, Andi leaves home and moves in with her biological family so she might know who they are – and maybe who she is in the process. But there was something Andi never did.

She never let go of her faith.

God is with us in our disappointments and devastations. He is with us when we wrestle with heartbreak. When disappointments hit, God wants us to walk through it without giving up on Him. Even in the times when our relationships – or our very lives – are falling apart, God wants us to know there is hope in His presence and in His truth. In the darkest days, we can learn to walk in step with the Spirit, so we never walk alone.

I remember when Austin was born and he struggled to breathe. His little chest would rise high with every breath and his skin color was off. Something was wrong, but for the first three weeks the doctors couldn’t figure it out. Then at his three-week checkup, the doctor heard a heart murmur.

The next day we were sent to Children’s Hospital where tests proved what the experts by then guessed might be the situation. Austin had a coarctation of the aorta and a bicuspid aortic valve. Two aspects of a congenital heart defect. He was dying of congestive heart failure and he would need emergency surgery the next morning.

I gave him a sponge bath in the hospital that night, hours before the operation. His body was unscarred, but it was failing. His tiny fingernails were already turning blue. My tiny infant was suffocating. My tears mixed with the small tub of bath water that late night as Donald rubbed my back. We said very little. Just the usual cooing and sweet words for Austin’s sake.

He didn’t cry. It was as if he knew help was on the way.

The next day we handed Austin over to a surgical team – one of the best in the nation. An infant doesn’t leave for surgery on a gurney. We literally passed him straight to the hands of the surgeon. We were all crying.

“I need to be clear,” the surgeon told us. “He has a less than fifty percent chance of surviving surgery. He will be on a heart-lung machine and will likely need a blood transfusion during the operation.” The man paused. “If he survives, he will likely be small and sickly.”

I flashed back to the time when we found out I was expecting this precious child. I had always believed in my heart that the baby would be a boy, and that he would be a blond, blue-eyed look-alike of my husband. I just knew it. When they placed him in my arms at birth, he was that child exactly. But now he was about to suffer through an arduous surgery, and the truth was – I might not ever hold him again.

Before I released him, I whispered, “Austin, baby, come back to me. Please, God, let him come back to me.”

Over the next five hours we prayed. When we weren’t praying, we had phone calls with family who lived out of state, family members who were just as shocked by this sudden turn of events as we were. One call was with my sister, Trish. She was in tears as soon as she heard my voice. “He can’t be having surgery. I haven’t even met him!”

And with a calm that could have only come from Jesus, I said, “You will get to meet him one day. As long as you have Jesus as your Savior, you will get to meet him. Either here or there.”

I remember thinking during that surgery how I could relate with the disciples in one particular scene at the end of John 6. Jesus had been speaking things that were difficult for some of his followers to accept. In Verse 66, it says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”

Jesus looks at his remaining followers, his original twelve disciples, and he asks if they want to leave, too. Peter – my favorite – then says in vs. 68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

As we waited for a report from the surgical team, that’s how I felt. No, we didn’t want our infant son to have a heart defect, and of course we hadn’t planned on the tragedy of his health condition. But we had just one option. The same option Andi chose as she settled in at the dinner table with her biological family and asked if she could pray.

We turned toward God. Not away from Him.

Five hours after surgery began, the surgeon came to find us. Austin had survived the surgery and was doing well. He’d been transfused twice. The coming weeks would be touch-and-go at times, but we kept turning to God. Over and over and over again.

Austin lived through that wild and scary time and today he is very healthy. Oh, and he’s 6-foot-5. Hardly the sickly child the surgeon expected him to be. Because the final word will always belong to the Lord.

In the midst of whatever you are going through, remember to long for the presence of Jesus. Spend time with Him. Trust Him. For He alone holds the words of eternal life. And He will always have the last word in any situation.

For Discussion: 

  • What does God’s presence mean to you?

  • What is prayer to you? Have you ever prayed?

  • God asks us to walk in step with His Spirit. And He says the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of those things do you need more of in your life?

  • Where do you feel closest to God? Why do you think that is?

I Can Do That:

  • Set a timer for 10 minutes. In that time, journal everything you are thankful for in your life. Set it again for another 10 minutes. This time write a prayer of gratitude to God, explaining how you feel about all you are thankful for and why. After the 20 minutes are over, take a minute or two and write how you feel, having spent that time in gratitude.

  • Write a letter to someone from your past, thanking them for their role in your life, or for some kind thing you remember them doing. As you send it, ask yourself if you feel better about your own situation as a result.

  • Take a walk outside. Along the way, thank God for the things you see – the sky, the trees, the specific flowers, the design of the homes. When you return back after your walk, take a minute to analyze how being in the presence of God made you feel. Did that experience help relieve the pain of whatever situation you are facing?

  • Find a quiet spot. Set a timer for 10 minutes or longer. If you’re using your phone as a timer, set it and leave it in the next room. Then, in the time you’ve chosen, do nothing except be in the presence of God. Talk to Him. Listen for His voice. Breathe deeply and allow the Spirit of God to work in your life.

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