The room was all wall-to-ceiling bookcases, decked with myriads of exotic trinkets in carved jade and carved ivory, inlaid wood and porcelain. There were hanging tassels and shaded lamps, embroidered cushions on an oversized couch, wingback chairs, marble steps, small stools — and wall to wall young adults. It was Tuesday night Bible study in Jerusalem, and the topic of our discussion was money: how to trust God for it, and what to do when He doesn’t immediately answer.
The example at hand: Paul the apostle, who had learned to be content in every shade of wealth and poverty. Such a realization could be possible only, we realized, by actually being in each of those conditions!
Then Tim raised the question: If it’s so hard to trust God now, what about the burdens of family life? A more than slightly daunting thought to a mostly single crowd.
That’s where the stories came in.
By American standards, our family was never affluent. Not with eight children, and not with my dad’s salary. But we were rich in experience instead: We prayed; God provided. When I was 12, it was a new suit for my dad. When I was a teen, it was a couple minor operations for my baby brothers — not to mention healing from a herniated disk, from pneumonia, and from dozens of other everyday ailments. In my 20s, it was a trip (times 10) to Israel. It was “give us this day our daily bread” — and dentist visits, doctor’s bills and textbooks, snow boots and play clothes and gas for the van.
Oftentimes, we played tag team with our faith. When my parents were discouraged (“We already prayed about that”), one of the smallest children might pipe up, “Well, pray again!” And when we kids were discouraged, well, my parents had plenty of stories of their own. The burden was not all on one person: We were, most truly, a team. We all prayed; we all saw God answer.
And my parents told me something, without ever saying the words. Even though the unmarried are specially positioned for undistracted devotion, the married are not exempt. Not from taking up the cross, forsaking self, and making Jesus the mainspring of life. And not from the work of God, which (said Jesus) is believing in Him!
The Bible tells me more. Even on their wedding day, a bride or groom is still on call for the highest call: seeking (and seeing!) the kingdom, and the power, and the glory of God. The apostle Peter, himself a husband, seemed to think that the prayer life of two wedded heirs of grace was well worth great care in preserving. After all, if the two-become-one are two agreed in prayer, won’t their home be a powerhouse of faith?
And a training-ground for the faith of their children.
“You have such a peaceful spirit,” Tim told me at the conclusion of that Bible study.
Well yes. I’ve learned, in those conditions, to be content.
There are new conditions for me now: seeking God’s path for my life. Trusting that not a day of singleness has ever gone to waste. Stewarding my opportunities in the midst of uncertainty. Somehow creating something out of nothing. And in the stuck spots of life, deflecting my focus from impossibilities to my Savior’s face.
I’m finding great contentment and confidence in God’s purposes for me as an individual, but I’m not my father. Though I rest on the rock-like fact that he is daily carrying me to the throne of grace, my prayer life is not like his.
I’m not my grandfather. Energetic, inquisitive, intelligent, and yes, even a bit zany, he was also a man of prayer. Married late in life, he would regularly escape a busy household and pace back and forth by a nearby stream, turning over a whole list of concerns before his Lord. His five children knew that if they needed Daddy, they had only to honk the car horn, and he would come right back home.
I’m not my grandmother. Sheltered, reserved, but a steady truster in God, she chose to marry that whirlwind man, who was 10 years her senior. Just two decades later, she came home from the hospital without him, gathered their five children to give thanks for the short time they’d had together, and finished raising them herself.
I’m definitely not George Müller, who took on the task of supporting more than 2,000 orphans — by prayer alone — because he wanted to give God more glory.”The first and primary object of the work was, (and still is:) — that God might be magnified by the fact, that the orphans under my care are provided with all they need, only by prayer and faith, without any one being asked by me or my fellow-laborers, whereby it may be seen, that God is FAITHFUL STILL, and HEARS PRAYER STILL.” George Mueller, A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealing with George Muller. Written by himself. First part. (London: J. Nisbet and Co., 1860), 146.
Sometimes God immerses us in impossibilities. Other times, I think He merely beckons: Would you like to trust Me here? Perhaps in forced encounters with the impossible, we grow the spiritual muscle necessary for more audacious requests. A boldness of faith that dares — when He dares you — even to take on new obligations and new responsibility, willing to show that in this condition, too, my God is enough — and more.
But who would voluntarily put themselves in such a place? Who hears the call to constant out-on-a-limb reliance on God and says, “Sign me up!”
“With men this is impossible,” says Jesus.
“But all things are possible with God.”
* * *
Chrissy didn’t have to be in this predicament.
When her water broke at only 20 weeks gestation, doctors saw only one patient — the mother — and guaranteed she’d have a life-threatening infection unless they aborted. But Chrissy and her husband Kevin weren’t ready to lose their fifth son. Instead, they relied on prayer. The infection did not materialize, and after another three crucial and miraculous weeks, Isaiah was born. Alive.
Almost 20 years ago, Pam faced the same possibility of life-threatening infection, and made the same choice.
Trusting like Job that “The Lord gives and He takes away,” she put her life in God’s hands.
The following night heavy contractions set in. The antibiotic was not working. The hospital staff wheeled her into the Labor and Delivery room and asked if she wanted pain medication to help speed up the delivery. She declined it, saying that if God was going to take this child that she wasn’t going to fight it, but that she would not get in the way of Him doing a miracle if He chose to save the baby’s life.
As the mother rested, waiting for what seemed to be the inevitable, word spread rapidly for others to pray. With two close friends present in the delivery room, and 500 Christians across the United States and in Israel praying for a miracle, the stage was set to demonstrate the power of prayer.
The rest of the story? The contractions stopped. Pam went home. Six months later, Abby was born, and nineteen years later, she wrote her own story: this story.
And what about Kevin and Chrissy? It’s hard to believe that an ordinary mother and father could memorize the feel of thumbprint-sized feet so longingly, and still engage in the vital, minute-by-minute task of relying on God, come life — or come death. That 10 rollercoaster days in the NICU could hold so much joy. That Isaiah Michael Maxwell could live a life so big it drew nearly 300 people for a memorial service crammed full of —
But that’s the rest of Isaiah’s story.
* * *
I’m with Tim: as much as I long for a family of my own, I’m overwhelmed by the implications.
Now that I’ve watched my siblings grow from infancy to adulthood, I can guess at the sweeping cost my parents paid to raise us. And I know that on my own, I simply do not have that kind of love, self-sacrifice, wisdom, and faith.
With men and women, these things are impossible.
But whether it’s finances, faith, or matters of life and death, all things are possible with God.
When Peter saw Jesus walking on the water, he longed to join in the impossible. “Lord, if it is you,” he cried, “Command me to come to you on the water.”
And when Jesus said “Come” — he could.
So if a call comes for me: Will you take this trip? Will you accept this task? Will you raise this family? Or even: Are you willing to risk your life?
I take a deep breath. I ask: Is it You, Lord?
And joyfully, confidently, prayerfully, I walk into the impossible.
Copyright 2010 Elisabeth Adams. All rights reserved.