Finding a friend in Jesus
by Glen Doss, Major –
“What if all the Bible-thumpers are correct? There’s no one left to turn to except this God in whom so many seem to believe. It would be foolish to give up, to die, without exploring the possibility!” With this thought in mind, 21 years ago I turned to God as an alternative to giving in to suicidal compulsions.
After my dramatic first encounter with him that August evening at age 39, I set out to talk with God a second time, sensing that an ongoing dialogue with him was absolutely necessary. However, I hadn’t a clue how to proceed. I hadn’t knelt in prayer for three decades but finally, through a forceful act of willpower, I flung myself out of bed, and, kneeling awkwardly, pondered: “Now what do I do?”
As long moments passed, nothing seemed to happen. For 10, 15, 30 minutes I knelt there, intermittently perusing verses from the Gospel of John, finally resigning myself to the fact I was not going to succeed this evening.
Over the following days I continued to read Scripture and try to pray, still without success. Two weeks after my initial encounter with the Lord, I broached the subject in a phone conversation with my mother. “Mama, I accepted Christ,” I told her.
She gasped, “You have? Praise God! Son, do you have any idea how long our church has been praying for you? God has finally answered our prayers!”
Images of these faithful country folk flashed through my mind, and I was very grateful.
“Mama, how do you pray? “ I asked. “I’ve been trying for days, and nothing seems to work.”
She laughed. “Why, you just talk to God the way you do to a friend. Just open your mouth and speak with him, or do it silently—either way. It’s very simple.”
I was startled. “Okay,” I replied. “You’ve been helpful.”
As I left the phone booth, my mother’s words kept running through my mind: “You just talk to God the way you do to a friend.” This sounded very odd. I pondered: This is the Creator of the universe of whom we’re speaking! I am the creature; he is the Creator. Does the Creator condescend to befriend his own creation? God creates life! Does he really befriend the very life he creates?”
I tried to make sense of the concept. Suddenly I recalled words of Christ I had recently read: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NIV). As if ice water were splashed into my face, I got the point: God took on human form; he tasted death for all mankind; he took the punishment due us upon himself—the Creator died for his own creation! He did lay down his life for his friends. He considers me his friend! The grandeur of the epiphany froze me in my tracks: Christ died for me—yes, even me—because he considers me his friend!
I was humbled by this insight, because for decades I had been anything but a friend to Jesus. The enormity of the revelation took me off guard. Moments later, kneeling again by my cot, the passage from John 15 open before me, I reread the words. Suddenly I sensed God’s presence in the room and trembled at the realization! Giddy from the sensation, I prayed aloud, extemporaneously speaking with my new friend: “Dear God, here’s my situation. I know you know it already, but I want to talk about it with my friend.”
Baring my soul from the very core of my being, I gradually felt the tension in my body subside and the burning burden of my heart melt away. As God accepted my burden, I laughed aloud from the pure joy of the experience! “So this is what it means to ‘turn it over’!” I thought. “Thank you, God!” I cried aloud.
As air gushes from a balloon, the remaining pressure left me. Exiting the building, I dashed down the street, my face into the wind. Skipping, leaping, I felt nine feet off the ground, walking on air! “Thank you, God!” I shouted again. People on the pavement turned and stared, but I cared little what they thought—I was alive with Christ! I had learned how to talk with my new friend! My wonderful, divine friend!