Finishing the last page of Graham Cooke’s book “Crafted Prayers”, I quickly packed my bright orange beach bag with a bible, notebook, pen and water bottle and headed to my office (the tree on Old Airport Beach who’s shade I’ve come to rely on). I was on a mission to listen to God. Following Graham’s advice, I was going to ask God how to pray (scripture says Jesus and Holy Spirit intercede for us; instead of just praying out of our emotion or assumptions, we can ask Him to reveal His will in the situation and pray alongside them) for my daughter and the children of several friends; over the years I have been blessed to have compassionate people come alongside as I vulnerably shared our struggle with mental health, many of them facing similar mountains. We’ve naturally come to connect our prayers for our children, holding up each other’s arms like Moses’s brother and friend did during a battle.
The unusual amount of traffic on my normally seven-minute drive gave me a head start as I poured out my heart to God. By the time I arrived, I felt quiet and ready to listen. I barely finished unfolding my beat up beach chair before I spotted a whale blow. Then another. Then a young humpback began to throw herself way up into the air, spinning and showing off her belly. Then she did it again. And again. I was delighted and in tears at this point; I have no idea why seeing these creatures thrills me so much, but I am addicted to surveying the ocean all winter long in hopes for a bit of spray or the flash of a fluke. I started thanking God for his goodness to me and exclaiming as the little whale and her momma took turns breaching. For over ten minutes I watched them aerial dancing, full body breaches, thirteen in all.
My heart flooded with joy when I realized Father, Son and Holy Spirit were right there with me, enjoying my delight. Then the little duo began to lobtail (slap their tails). After the third slap my mind was led to the story in 2 Kings chapter 13 when Elisha told the king to strike the ground with his arrows. The king struck three times and then quit. Elisha disappointedly scolded the king for not striking the ground five or six times, because his victory was tied the amount of strikes (it appears the king did not know this at the time). Due to his lack of earnestness, he was only going to defeat his enemy three times instead of complete destruction and final victory. While pondering the personal application of this story, the humpbacks continued to slap 4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 times!! I was undone. I definitely should have not worn mascara.
Not only did God answer me clearly, he did it in such a sweet, personal way- using something I dearly loved to speak to my spirit. “Contend, daughter. Contend. And after everything is done, contend. This contending is not a form of manipulation or convincing or negotiation or fear or formula or begging or panic or earning or cleverness- it is the presenting of your needs and requests to your Daddy who is present and loving and listening. My goodness is the foundation of your faith.”
I don’t know what is going to happen, and I don’t claim to know the complete mind and will of God. Life is hard sometimes. Bad things happen, people get sick, some die young. Way too young. With age I’ve grown less confident of pat answers and spiritual formulas. In fact, there is very little I am certain of. But of this I am absolutely convinced; God is good, He is with us, He is for us and He will never leave us. This is not in any way meant to diminish the reality of the pain and anguish many suffer; I’m just sharing that I have found a solid place in the arms of the Father, knowing that whatever life may throw my way, He is with me. In the end, I find that is enough.
I’ve witnessed many hurting people, who on top of their trauma suffer from bad theology that blames them or makes them feel forsaken and doubt the goodness of God. Either they didn’t pray enough, or correctly or try hard enough or see the signs or break the chains or read the right translation or do the right therapy or make the right decisions or or or. Let’s call that what it is. BS. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not even our worst mistakes. Not even our greatest doubts. He is good no matter what. And this is why we can continue to contend with confidence. I’m not contending for God to do it my way (well, sometimes I am!) but I am agreeing with the truth of His faithfulness, goodness, presence and redemptive will to work in my life and the lives of those around me.
This is for my single mom friend, carrying the burden of a child with a progressive degenerative disease AND a precious granddaughter born with cancer, beginning her second year of life with her second year of chemotherapy. He loves those girls even more than you do. He will never leave them.
This is for my sister in law, going to bed alone and waking to the new reality of being a widow at a very young age. He will never leave you.
This is for my daughter, fighting depression and anxiety that has become debilitating after eleven years of undergoing every kind of therapy, prayer sessions, difficult diets, supplements, medications and all their nasty side effects with no relief. Yes, He is still good.
This is for my friends (sadly, there are far too many) grieving the loss of children to the ravages of depression, cancer and accidents . He is our redeemer.
This is for my friends aching for a spouse or a baby or a breakthrough. Waiting. Waiting. He is holding you.
This is for all my fellow parents on their knees, contending for children, growing weary, losing sight of hope. He is faithful.
This is for anyone who needs something true and solid to hold onto. God is good. And even better- He LOVES YOU. He holds you. Always has, always will. The only say you have in the matter is if you will turn to Him and hold on back.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28
Exodus 34:6-7a “The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:9
For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Psalm 86:5
O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
1 Chronicles 16:34
Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 106:1
Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:17
O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him. Nahum 1:7
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Psalm 27:13
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:20
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[a] against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[b] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39