Focus – He’s been faithful

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by Amanda Reardon, Captain – 

I admit that sometimes I’m a little self-absorbed. What are miniscule problems in the grand scheme of things can seem like insurmountable obstacles when they’re my problems. I try to maintain perspective, but I’m not always successful. Recently, I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself and angry with God for not giving me what I “needed.” I guess God got sick of my whining, because he arranged for my path to collide with that of a man named Geoff Allan, who has impacted my life forever.

Geoff Allan is a Salvation Army officer in the Central Territory. He has a wife and five children. The youngest is 21-one-year-old Nicholas. Four years ago, Nicholas had surgery on his jaw. During the course of that surgery, Nicholas did not receive any oxygen for twelve minutes. As a result, Nicholas is severely handicapped, physically and mentally. He is wheelchair bound and requires full-time care. His communication skills are almost completely gone.

This story isn’t about me. But I can only tell it to you through my eyes. I can only tell you how it moved me.
Geoff and I were on a committee, the participants of which were all staying in the same hotel. He told us about his son the first day we met. I wanted desperately to talk to him, so the next morning I prayed that he’d appear in the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Only a few moments later, he approached my table. “Oh! Will you join me?” I asked. And he did.

We were pressed for time, so I broached my subject rather quickly. “May I ask you something very personal?” I asked. His face was open and warm. “Sure, I don’t mind.”

“With everything that happened to Nicholas, how did your faith survive? Weren’t you angry with God?”

Emotion flickered briefly across Geoff’s face, and then he collected himself. I knew then that I wasn’t going to receive a pat answer. He was going to speak from his soul. “Well, I did try to bargain with God,” he began. As he recalled the story of a deal he tried to make with God, he came to tears. I practically shook with emotion myself.

Geoff went on to tell me how his faith was strengthened by the way others ministered to him. Friends, family and strangers all over the world contacted him to let him know they were praying for Nicholas. A Christian radio station found out about Nicholas and encouraged others to pray for him.

Then Geoff said something that I found astounding. “When you read the prayers people prayed in the Bible, they never ask God to take their problems away. They just ask him to bring them through it. And he’s done that for us. God has been faithful.”

How could Geoff say that God had been faithful? God had turned a deaf ear to innumerable pleas for Nicholas’s recovery. How could Geoff say God had brought them through? The situation hadn’t changed, so how could he say he was through it? Wasn’t he still in the middle of it?

If Geoff said he’d come through it, I was certainly in no position to deny it. I began to understand what he meant. He had accepted his new reality. God had taken him and his wife through the initial horror, and they’d survived it. I pray I never forget what Geoff said next: “You play the hand you’re dealt.” Though the vernacular doesn’t resemble Scripture, that was some of the deepest spiritual advice I’d ever received.

In my mind, God had failed Geoff for not healing Nicholas. But Geoff has a different view of prayer. The point is to turn to God for strength, not necessarily resolution. Psalm 46 is an example of the same type of prayer:

God is our refuge and strength,
An ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging.
(vv. 1 – 3)
The psalmist says that God helps in troubled times, he doesn’t remove the troubles. He gives us reason to remain brave in the face of adversity. He doesn’t divert all manner of adversity before it crosses our path.

As I sat across the table from Geoff that Thursday morning, I saw who he really was: a great hero of the faith. And I saw what I didn’t want to see in myself: pettiness. I may have remained in my chair as far as Geoff could tell, but in my heart, I was on my knees. “You have been faithful to me,” I whispered to God. “Forgive my unfaithfulness.”

Kroc Centers: unprecedented challenge and opportunity

Kroc Centers: unprecedented challenge and opportunity

by Donald Bell, Lt

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