david herndon


hospital

I awoke suddenly to the incessant beeping of the IV machine, letting the entire hall know that it was time to change the bag. Luckily the patient did not wake up since by now I knew how to work the buttons better than the PM nurse.  I settled back into the plastic covered recliner that was my bed and tried to go back to sleep, knowing that in 90 minutes I would be up again, helping take vitals with the nurse.  I was exhausted, but sleep did not come easy.

I was worried.  I was anxious.

This was my life for most of last week.  My son woke up one morning with a stomach ache.  A doctor’s visit, a hospital stay, and then a transfer to another hospital.  It could be appendicitis.  I could be colitis.  It could be a parasite.  “We’ll have to run tests to be sure.”  Tests meant drawing blood, among other things.  Lots of pricking and prodding tended to weary the patience of the strongest 6 year old I know.  Doctors, nurses, needles, oh my.  He was scared.  So was I.  My son was sick and I didn’t know what was wrong or how to fix it.

So in the early hours of the morning I sat in my plastic recliner and prayed.  Then God reminded me of this scripture:

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:6).”

I get it.  I’ve heard like a million Christian talks on how “worry is the opposite of faith,” and how “worry is a sign that we are trying to control God,” and blah, blah, blah.  I know that I shouldn’t worry about making a good impression on the new neighbors.  I know that I shouldn’t worry about that red light when I’m already running late.  I shouldn’t worry about affording to pay for one more Disney trip.  That’s first world problems.  That’s the small stuff.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the big stuff.  What if I can’t afford to pay for all three of my children to go to college?  What if my daughter gets pregnant as teen?  What if one of my sons gets a girl pregnant?  What if one of my children becomes a drug addict?  What if I get cancer?  What if one of my children gets cancer?  What if my wife gets cancer?  What if its not appendicitis or a stomach bug?  What if its something worse?

When you love someone as much as a parent loves a child or a husband loves a wife… how do you not worry?

When tragedy strikes and your whole world turns upside down… how are you supposed to be thankful?

Abraham worried about fulfilling God’s call so he had a child with a woman who wasn’t his wife.  Noah worried about finding land after the flood, so he kept sending birds to their deaths as they flew across endless water.  Gideon worried about battle so he often tested and challenged God.  Paul writes in Philippians 4 the famous “do not worry” passage, but just 2 chapters before he talks about his own anxiety concerning one of his disciples, Epaphroditus.  And even Jesus, the night before his death, sweated blood as he prayed, “If there is another way, let this cup pass from me.”  The bible doesn’t really give instructions on how not to worry.

I hashed this out with God, the beeping IV machine, and the plastic recliner all night.  As I watched my son sleep I couldn’t help but think that my love for him is but a fraction of God’s love for us.  “I would give my life for his health,” I said.  “So would I,” God replied, “and so I did.”

In John 16:33 Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

This next sentence is difficult to write and perhaps more difficult to read.

God is not as concerned about our health and well-being and general comfort in life as we are.  I’m not saying that He’s not concerned.  Its just that the things we value most are not as valuable to Him.  On the cross, Jesus could have died so that we would never experience illness or disease. He could have died so that we would never experience poverty or hunger.  He could have died so that we would never experience injustice or hate.

But he didn’t die for those things.

Jesus died so that we would never have to experience separation from God.

God is most concerned with our relationship to Him.  The only thing that ever threatened our relationship with God, and thus our eternity, is sin.  Through the cross, Jesus took care of that problem.  So we don’t have to worry about it anymore.  We’re cured… if we want to be.

The truth is that any anxiety I feel is evidence of being more concerned with this life than the life to come.

I may or may not be able to afford three college educations.  My children may or may not become drug addicts.  My son may or may not have a parasite that makes his stomach hurt.  God does not require us to have a college education in order to understand His love.  God does not require us to be clean and sober in order to receive His grace.  God does not require us to be healthy in order to live in His ways.  God does not value us based on our checking account, our car title, or the title on our office door.

In the end none of that really matters because none of these things determine my relationship with God.  None of these things determine my eternity.

I still worry, especially about my family.  I probably always will.  I don’t understand how to prevent anxiety anymore now than I did last week in the hospital.  But I take great comfort in the fact that my eternity has nothing to do with my abilities (or lack thereof) or my wealth (or lack thereof) or my success (or lack thereof) or my health (or lack thereof).

My eternity has everything to do with Jesus’ victory over sin in His death and resurrection.  I can be thankful for that.  No matter what happens (or doesn’t happen) today, my sins are forgiven and my eternity is secure in Jesus Christ.  Come illness, come trouble, come injustice, come hardship… nothing can take that away.

I can be thankful for that.

And that is one less thing to worry about.

Happy Easter.

 

 

 

 



how god answers prayers

Its been a busy summer for me (i.e. I haven’t posted in a few months), but I’m thankful for the busy-ness and a little sad that things are about to slow down.  I’ve had the privilege to do a lot of really fun things with a lot of really fun people in the name of ministry.  Not a bad gig at all.

It hasn’t been all fun though.  The truth is, I have had to do a good bit of hard work.  Our youth group took on two fairly large mission projects this summer.  Right here at home we helped repaint two inner city churches.  We fought heat, humidity, wildfire smoke, and orange thieves the whole time.  Yes – one day someone on the street stole a bag of oranges right out of my hands.  His exact words were, “Gimme ‘dem oranges.”  I guess vitamin C is a hot commodity on the street.  Despite the citrus set back, we were able to do for these churches what they could not afford to do on their own financially or physically.

We also traveled to McDowell County, West Virginia.  McDowell, in the height of the coal mining boom, was the richest county in West Virginia.  Now it is one of the most impoverished in all of the United States.  We repaired a couple of homes, but the real work was hosting a Kids’ Club each day for local children.  Our skits were not the most entertaining, our songs were not the prettiest, and our crafts didn’t always look like they should have; but we loved on some kids who seldom feel, see, or hear love.

At the end of both projects I heard something amazing that has forever changed the way I view prayer and Christianity.  Pastor Newberry, whose church we repainted, said that he had been praying for 8 years that God would send someone to help him restore his building.  Being a Pastor is not his full time job. In fact, it doesn’t pay at all.  So repainting the building has never been an option for him.  So for almost a decade he has prayed everyday that God would send someone to help.  As he told our students, “I had no idea that God would send a bunch of teenagers to help me!”  We laughed at that remark and then he made a profound statement:

“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”

In West Virginia we were lead by Experience Mission and our Kids’ Club coordinator, Melisa.  Melisa shared that the previous weeks had been a little tough, that the groups didn’t seem to be focused on the kids and that the love just wasn’t there.  As a result they had more discipline problems, lack of interest, and lack of participation.  Before we arrived she asked her prayer team to pray for a team that would love the kids and be excited about ministry.  She shared all of this with our students (who did a very good job) at the end of the week, and let us know that we were the answer to her prayer.

“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”

I’m not sharing all of this to pat myself or my group on the back. In fact, when I hear these kind of statements I am extremely humbled.  I even want to run away from it.  Me?  An answer to prayer?  Impossible.  I didn’t really do anything. It wasn’t even that hard or that grandiose.  How could someone like me be an answer to prayer?

I am learning very quickly, however, that we have the power and ability everyday in every situation to increase or decrease the faith of others.  We have the ability to be an answer to prayer.  We may have to do things that are uncomfortable and put ourselves in situations that are less than desirable.  We may have to look downright foolish.  We will definitely have to put our own desires and needs aside and place others above ourselves.  But if we are willing to be used, we could be the answer to someone’s prayer.

I’m learning that prayer is answered, not necessarily in earth-shattering miracles or in divine displays of heavenly authority, but in community.  Pastor Newberry’s prayer for his building was answered.  Melisa’s prayer for a good team was answered.  The children of Gary, WV pray for love and they received it.  The real kicker is that I asked God to teach me about prayer this summer and He has flat out blown my mind on the subject.  It didn’t happen in any other way than by living in community, loving each other and serving each other.

“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”

So look around you.  Who are the people around you?  What is happening around you?  Where can you go into action answering prayers?

That simple conversation I shared with Pastor Newberry and the look of relief and joy on Melisa’s face will always be with me.  God used me to answer someone else’s prayer.  God could snap His fingers and take care of everything, but yet He chooses to use us to serve each other and love each other.  He uses us as miracles and answers in each others’ lives.  He uses us to increase one anothers’ faith!

The real joy is that once we realize this truth and live in it, our faith grows exponentially!  I hope that you will strive to be the answer to someone’s prayer today, that someone might even say, “Because of you, my faith is stronger.”

 




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