Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Random Encounter by Paula Roten

I had a busy day planned. I had to squeeze my workout in first thing if it was going to get done. After all, the doctor had told me to do strengthening exercises in order to relieve the constant pain in my knee. So off to the gym I go, 3 times a week, just to walk without pain. In the workout room, a random stranger walked up to me and said,

- I'm noticing your t-shirt. (It was a Christian shirt.) Do you believe in prayer?

- Absolutely!

Then she proceeded to pour out her heart to me about someone she knew who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She ended by asking me to pray for this person.

I took her hand and asked if I could pray right then. She said yes. 

I prayed asking God for all the things we ask for in these crisis situations - healing, peace, His presence, comfort. And I ended it with a phrase I'm truly learning on a daily basis for all the things that happen in life that I don't understand or want - "But not our will, Lord, but Yours. May You be glorified in this."

She appreciated my prayer, thanked me, and went about working out herself. She finished before I did and came over to me to thank me again.

I thought about this odd encounter for the rest of the day. I always wonder what the Lord is up to with them. Here are some of my conclusions:

1. The Lord again interrupted my "schedule." You see, I am very schedule-oriented, rather than people-oriented. This particular day, I had exactly 2 hours (including driving time) to do the elliptical and get my upper and lower body strength-training in. No time to dilly-dally. But the Lord is always more concerned with people than with my schedule. I should be too.

2. Another thing that hit me was that I am dealing with my own problems when it comes to cancer. Does God really want me to pray for someone else when my own granddaughter is fighting this awful disease? The answer is yes. Who better to empathize and understand another's pain? (Praise be to the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

3.  Did I even tell the lady about my granddaughter and her cancer? No, I didn't. One thing I'm learning about comforting others is not to make it about me, especially by telling them my problems and concerns and experiences. It isn't about me at the moment. It's about them. And their pain. They're the ones hurting and needing some kind of encouragement. And about the only kind I can give (because, frankly, I'm drained myself) is to point them to the Lord. He's the source of their strength and the Great Physician. 

4.  And my final observation is about Christian t-shirts. I realized I better live up to the message on them. Because people notice. They are the first testimony someone might receive about Christianity, but the way I behave better back it up. That shirt might just be an open door to witness to someone who happens to really be open to the Gospel that day.

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