Reaching Out to God for Help

How do we pray when someone we love is in trouble? We turn with all our hearts to a loving, good, protecting, and healing God. We listen and we humbly follow and trust.

By Amy Sparkman

Categories: Guidance

A member of my family has just been diagnosed with cancer.

How do I deal with that information? How do I stop my heart from breaking or fear from flooding my mental house, room by room, until all the order and peace and safety I thought were firmly established are washed away? How do I begin to make sense of the world again? How do I feel joy when someone I love is in pain? And where do I find the answer to the persistent question: Why…what possible good does this situation serve?

Instinctively, I reach out to God for help – for a sign that He is present, with me, with my brother, even though he doesn't follow a particular faith. Is He there for him? Of course, He is – He must be! Because God doesn't know us according to our religion or our choice to believe or not to believe. He knows us as His image and likeness, as His beloved sons and daughters, whom He calls from the ends of the earth – from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south (see Isaiah 43:5-6). And He is right here with me, and way over there across the continent with my brother, because He is infinite and "whither shall I go from thy presence?" (Psalm 139:7). I think of the still small voice that fills Elisha with an abiding peace in the midst of the raging storm (I Kings 19:12), and of God's declaration, "I AM THAT I AM" when Moses felt utterly inadequate for the task at hand (Exodus 3:14). And I think of the Shunammite woman's quiet certainty that "[All] is well" (II Kings 4:26) though her son lay dead on her lap. She knew something, felt something, that I want to know and feel with the same deep, abiding conviction.

Unwittingly, inexorably, a stream of phrases pours into my consciousness, drawing me up short in the gentlest but most persistent way: "Gird up thy loincloth. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. Know the truth. Stand fast. Draw nigh. Thou shalt…thou shalt…thou shalt." There is work to be done! I can't waste time playing a "woe is me" victim or feeling anything except compassion for my brother. Each one of those phrases is a jumpstart to my thinking and acting. More flood in: "God is Love. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, thy hand leads me and thy right hand will hold me." I think of gentleness and meekness – both words that signify the greatest of inner strength to me. If you are gentle, you have the utmost control, and if you are meek, you have utter confidence that you are "cared for, watched over, beloved and protected" so that you can "walk thou with courage each step of the way (hymn 278 in the Christian Science Hymnal).

In a flash of insight, I realize that I can't guide myself, much less anyone else, through a crisis moment like this one. But God can…and does, without fail. As I grasp at every phrase that floats through my consciousness, holding tight to every word or verse that fills my heart, and striving diligently, humbly, in a way I never have before, to listen for His voice to guide my thoughts, to willingly, eagerly, obey the call to rise from the depths of despair and climb the heights of Truth until I see the light and feel the joy within, I realize that I can't wish this hadn't happened to my brother or will him not to hurt. I can't pray that this cross be removed from my experience, his experience, or try to strike a deal with God – I'll be ever more faithful if You'll just guarantee a healthy outcome! Those are empty prayers to an Unknown God.

Instead, I can cling steadfastly to all that I know of God, and strive diligently, persistently, unceasingly (in fulfillment of a bull's-eye admonition in I Thessalonians (5:17) to pray without ceasing – to keep my thought so filled with thoughts of God that there's no room for anything unlike His supremacy, goodness, and peace) to hold onto my clear concept of my brother as a beautiful child of God, a loved child of God, a worthy child of God, a whole child of God. There is nothing missing in his character, no flaw in his body, no cellular activity that's out of balance with his Maker. Knowing this grounds me in my love for God, for Christ Jesus who showed us how to love, and for my brother as he paves his way through this wilderness experience. He will see the light because it can't be missed. And we will all grow to appreciate a deeper richer and closer sense of God being with us, always.

If we could make this part of our everyday approach to life, just think of how our parenting skills and strategies would grow, and how our families would be strengthened!