I hung up the phone and turned back to my friend sitting across the table. “Every time I talk to or see Douglas I need to take a moment to catch my breath and then worship my God of the impossible,” I whispered, awestruck, once again.
If you have read my book, Sparks of Redemptive Grace, you know the story: years and years of countless tears and desperate prayers for our son who was drowning in the bipolar disorder that consumed his life and hijacked ours. For 12 years no amount of pleading, bribing or attempts at intervention could get him to accept the treatment he needed so desperately. Much of that time he lived in an alternate reality, isolated and tormented. All of that time we studied this mental health disorder, cleaned up the messes after bouts of mania and constantly prayed.
In the Scriptures there are many, many accounts of impossible situations that God made possible: Moses blocked by the Red Sea, Daniel locked in the lion’s den, Ruth destitute in a foreign land, Lazareth dead in the tomb, the blind man, the 10 lepers.
My favorite is the story of barren Hannah at the temple praying, yet again, for a child. In her impossible situation she pours out her heart in such impassioned prayer that the priest first presumes she is drunk. After she explains her distress, Eli responds with these words: “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him” (1 Samuel 1:17 ESV). I am told that this sentence could be rendered: “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him over and over and over—that prayer you have nearly given up on.” The God of the impossible miraculously answered Hannah’s prayers and generously fulfilled Eli’s blessing. Her little boy, Samuel, became a great prophet and her emptied heart became a reservoir of joy.
My son Douglas is also a miracle. His life was resurrected when he was 33, broken by mental illness, exploited by evil people and imprisoned by street drugs. Although we had prayed without ceasing for over a decade, it was just weeks after an evening of focused prayer by a handful of dedicated intercessors that Douglas came home, went for treatment, joined a support group and began down the heroic path of recovery. Two years later, with the help of his new wife, the right medication, a counselor, his growing support network, and, yes, prayer, Douglas works hard to manage the mental illness that once mastered him … and basks in the delight of his first child.
We will never understand why that was God’s appointed time nor will we ever untangle the confluence of circumstances He used to restore Douglas to life. At the same time, we will NEVER stop thanking Him for taking our impossible situation and miraculously making healing possible. Daily my reservoir of joy bubbles over with gratitude that God, in His timing and ways, graciously answered our prayers—those prayers that we had “nearly given up on.”
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