Life Notes—May 5, 2011
“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, I pray, save my life!’” Psalm 116:1-4
This is my first-hand account of a modern-day miracle. It was my first encounter with my creator that I could not explain away as something earthly. I had smoked cigarettes for about 15 years and was desperately addicted. I tried many ways and many times to quit, but never managed more than a few hours, maybe a day or two, before lighting up again. I hated the fact that I smoked. I was imprisoned by a nasty habit and I really, really, really wanted to be free of it.
One stark, cold evening in February I was alone in my bachelor-pad, sitting in front of the wood stove, smoking, and sort of spontaneously cried out, “Oh God, I want to be free from cigarettes, but I cannot do it on my own.” I sat quietly for a few minutes and felt a very real presence embrace me. Something was removed from me, like a filthy sheet of ethereal film the size and shape of my body. It floated up and was gone. I knew a couple of things in that moment. First, I knew I had just been cleansed. Second, I knew I would never smoke again. To do so would be an unthinkable insult to the mysterious gift of grace I was given that night. In spite of still suffering the normal withdrawal symptoms and cravings and dreams of smoking long after my final cigarette, there was no doubt that chapter of my life had closed. I also knew the power to make it happen did not come from me. I had called on the Lord for assistance and was granted a miracle.
I empathize with the sentiment of the Psalmist, “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” That is exactly how I felt before I was set free on that mysterious night. The Lord heard my voice and my supplications and answered my prayer. So what of unanswered prayer? I wrestle with that question mightily, along with many of you. If I kept score of my prayer requests that have been granted thus far, God would be losing by a landslide. Why was I granted this particular prayer request and not others? I do not know, and I doubt I will know this side of the grave. But I do know miracles happen. I do know there is a God who answers prayer, who looks with mercy on our suffering, and who bestows gifts of grace in mysterious and miraculous ways. And with that knowledge I can look to the future with confidence and faith that my Redeemer lives and will be with me all the days of my life.
This Sunday Tom is downtown and Mitch will be at the west campus. Life worship is at 9:40 in Brady Hall, and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary. Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday.
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator