One of the elders in my church is a quiet and steady example of obedience to God and dedication to serving the church body. I've heard him joke about being a "rent a husband" and actually thought at the time I needed to rent him for my to do list. He is a faithful and humble servant who loves using his skills to help others. He truly enjoys doing for others.
Last fall he was doing for others when he fell from a ladder and broke his back. Although he miraculously was not paralyzed, that day his life was changed completely and permanently. Weeks and weeks in the hospital. Months of therapy. I don't know all the depths of his struggle. I can't speak for the anguish his family endured. Indeed, his wife, children and grandchildren have all experienced change because of his fall.
I know he talked to his family after he was home. He told them he had been praying and asked God to show him how he would handle it, if something really bad happened. Then came the fall, not immediately after, but nevertheless, after his time of praying. He said he didn't mind God answering his prayer. But he was so sorry because he didn't realize how much his prayer would cost the family.
I've thought about his story and laid it along side some really difficult things I've gone through. I compared my prayers then and can see how God prepared me through them.
Months before cataclysmic events, He started the process. First, quickening my heart to feel the need come back to him. So I made my way back to church even though I had to go alone. Then, as I kept opening myself, he used a radio program - I think it was Dobson - to give me an understanding of things happening to people in my life. It was hard to hear and I needed time to process what I was learning. It seemed just as I had come to terms with his first revelation, he hit me again. Same program, same basic message, Except God took it to the next step, a deeper level. Maybe God was very patient, but what I really think is that he started working in my heart early enough that I would be completely ready when the day came to face the situation head on. Prayer was a big part of the process.
It was preparation of the deepest parts of my soul. A divine mix of understanding, a realization of my weakness and desperate need for him, while at the same time giving me an uncommon strength. One not my own. I learned what happens when I stay close to him in prayer and live in his presence. God prepared me for the moment I had to ask a most difficult question by already giving me the answer. God spent months getting me ready for that moment and the life changing events that would come.
Back to my church elder. Did God allow the accident as a response to his prayer? Did God listen to his prayers and sit down in heaven one afternoon and think, Hmm, what an idea. I think I will see how he reacts if something really bad happens. I'll cook up the scheme to have him fall off a ladder. Or, were his prayers a part of the preparation to face the accident God knew was coming?
Some might disagree, but I believe God knows everything that lies ahead. He loves us so much that he gets us ready for what life might throw at us. I believe it because I have experienced it.
Yes, I've had friends who have have terrible unexpected accidents rip their lives apart. I wish I could ask them as they look back on it now, if they can see the hand of God preparing them? Another friend asked God to teach her something and went through an unbelievably hurtful experience directly related to her prayer.
Does thinking about the possibility of these kind of answers make us afraid to pray? Should we be fearful that something bad might really happen?
I say it again, God knows everything. Bad things happen in every life. None of us are immune to tragedy and heartbreak. So many of us are facing things like this right now. I am. Again. We are looking into a very scary future and wonder what will happen. Where can God be in all of this?
As I look at the big, scary tomorrow, I remember yesterday and how he worked so carefully and patiently in my life. Most of the preparation was on the inside. Today, I know prayer shapes my soul. God shapes my prayers. God prepares.