Jesus is all-powerful! Jesus can perform miracles! Jesus can fix your problems! (Unless, of course, he chooses not to.)
Our worship leader recently gave a very passionate sermon on the miracles of Jesus. He captivated the congregation.
“There is no problem he can’t fix!” he exclaimed. “There is no sickness he can’t heal. There is no life he can’t reach. There is no heart he can’t mend. He is awesome!”
The normally docile Saturday night crowd got fired up.
He gave example after example of miracles Jesus performed in the Bible. A woman who merely touched his garment and was instantly healed. The time Jesus rebuked the wind and waves in a storm and they were immediately quieted. When he raised a young man from the dead in the middle of his funeral procession.
“He has POWER over death! He can give life! He has power over sickness, he has power over the earth, and in three short years of his ministry Jesus demonstrated his power over and over again! He fed over 5,000 people with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread! He healed the blind! The crippled! The deaf! People with leprosy! He even walked on water! He cast out demons! He even cursed a fig tree! How much more does Jesus have to do to prove that He IS the Son of God?! HE IS the Son of God!”
The crowd erupted in cheers and applause.
But I wasn’t cheering. I was fighting back tears.
I was thinking of the miracles that I’ve been begging for in my own life. Problems that, despite decades of pleading in some cases, have not been favorably resolved. I was thinking of my loved ones who are suffering. I was thinking of years of losses and failures.
Earlier that day, I’d received news of yet another loss regarding a long-term struggle in my life, and it was like a fresh slap on a very old, tender wound.
My efforts to control my emotions caused my face to contort into an ugly grimace, and I was embarrassed. I tried to get hold of myself, but my bottom lip betrayed me and quivered uncontrollably. In my mind, I began to lash out at those cheering around me. “Don’t look at me! Mind your business!”
“If you would only come to Jesus…” the preacher said. “If you would only allow him to love you the way that he wants to love you… If you would only come to Jesus and just let him heal you the way he wants to heal you… if you would only cry out…”
Internally, I was more than crying out. Inside I was screaming, “You don’t have to convince me, Preacher Man! I’ve been a follower of Jesus since childhood! I KNOW he is powerful! I KNOW he could help me! I KNOW nothing is too difficult for him! HE JUST DOESN’T WANT TO, OKAY?!”
Then I began to fight with Jesus. “Here I am Jesus! I’ve BEEN crying out! I’m right here! I’ve been BEGGING, BEGGING, BEGGING you!!” Those words resounded painfully in my head… “Begging!… Begging!…”
“But say the word and my servant will be healed,” the centurion said to Jesus.
“Yeah, Jesus! Just say the word! Just one word! That’s all it would take for you to profoundly change my world! It would be nothing for you! But it would mean everything to me! Just say the word!”
When the crowd applauded, I stood there with my arms folded. “I’m not clapping,” I told Jesus.
After the service, I just wanted to get out to my car without talking to anyone. My burning eyes were so swollen with unreleased tears, I felt they might burst.
Eventually, however, my tantrum ended. I blew my nose, mopped up my face and apologized to Jesus for my immature behavior.
I realized that I’d been holding him to agreements I made that he never signed off on. That he doesn’t owe me anything. I came back to the same foundational understanding that I always come back to: that he loves me and is working things out in the way that is best.
“I do believe; Help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) That to me is the most profound prayer in the Bible. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to a place of such spiritual maturity that I no longer find myself periodically making that same request.
I DO trust you! Help me with my lack of trust.
I DO know that you’re working all things out for good. Help me to believe there is a “good” behind this pain.
I DO know that your ways are higher than my ways. Help me to concede to that.
I DO want your will, not mine to be done. Help me to really mean that.
I AM your servant. Help me to stop treating you like mine.
And at the end of the day he does help me. I am reminded of all that he has blessed me with, all the times he’s been faithful in the past, all the things he’s brought me through that made be better, stronger, and more compassionate. When I can’t make sense of a problem in the present, I can often see purpose in it in hindsight.
If I hadn’t been kicking and screaming during the sermon, I might have found comfort in the way that he concluded it.
“But when he says ‘no’ or ‘not now’, we struggle don’t we? Well, it’s in those moments when the answer is no or not now where we need to say, Jesus, I keep asking, but nothing’s happening. If the answer is no, or if the answer is not right now, Jesus, I ask for peace. I ask for peace and strength to make it through. Give me that peace… that rest in my soul, that no matter the outcome, I will be at peace. I will have peace.”
You’re right, Preacher Man. You’re right.
He is good to me. Always has been. And not just in some spiritual “suffering builds character” kind of way, but in a very practical, tangible “he’s got my back” kind of way.
He has proven his goodness to me time and again. He has provided for me, protected me, comforted me, warned me, instructed me, opened doors for me, blessed me abundantly, and has done the same for my family and friends.
He loves me. He’s in control of my circumstances. He’s working out his plan for me and in me, and it will ultimately be for my good. For my real and practical, true and sincere “good.” He is for me and not against me. He knows what he’s doing with my life and I will trust him.
I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.