God is SO good! His ways never cease to amaze me! Do you remember my testimony around last Christmas about the woman I met in the Walmart parking lot? If you've heard the story, I hope you will take the time to read it again. You can never hear about the Goodness of God too many times. Here's a quick synopsis....
As Mark and I approached the exit of a crowded Walmart at Christmastime, there was a woman ahead of me, obviously in
pain, and moving very slowly. Although we were ready to get out of the
rush, I got a clear prompting from the Holy Spirit ... "You are not
going to walk past this woman." We waited for her to clear the
final door, and once in the parking lot, I approached her and asked if
she was having trouble walking because of knee pain. She told us that
her right knee was swollen because she'd recently had that hip replaced.
She was supposed to have the left hip replaced, too, but Hurricane
Harvey caused a delay, and now she is displaced, waiting for her house
to be repaired so she can move back in. I asked her if we could pray
for her knee pain, and she was enthusiastic in her approval, "Yes! I
would love that!"
Mark asked her why she felt God was so far away, and she replied that
she was the one who had pulled away. So we held her hands and prayed
that her relationship with Jesus would be restored and she would know
how much He loves her and desires to rekindle the fire that once invaded
her heart. We asked her if she had received the Baptism of the Holy
Spirit, and she said she had; that she had received the gift of tongues,
but had lost it. We asked if she wanted it back, and she said, "Oh,
God, yes!" So Mark prayed over her, calling for more of the Holy Spirit,
and she prayed along with us, but nothing happened. We reassured her
that if she wanted it, all she had to do was keep on asking for it. It
is the Father's desire to restore her to fullness. She said, "I know
this, y'all! I know this! My daddy was a Pentecostal preacher and I
should know this!"
We asked what happened to her that she had abandoned her faith.
She struggled for an answer, finally saying that things had just
happened in her life. We asked who she needed to forgive, and the
answer finally came out ... herself. So we led her in a prayer asking
Jesus to help her forgive herself, as He has forgiven her.
That woman's name was Tracy and I have often thought about her, prayed for her, and shared her story as part of my testimony of how God can use us to reach others for His Kingdom. She has never been far from my heart. And then just this past Sunday, Mark and I were exiting that same Walmart and there she was! Only this time she wasn't just limping in pain. She was unable to walk because of severe pain and was riding in a cart. Mark recognized her first and then she realized who we were. She was surprised that I remembered her name, and proceeded to tell us that she and her husband were still displaced from their home and she still needed the hip replacement surgery.
I will tell you that it was evident that she is of an economic class that will probably never recover from that devastating hurricane, and will find it difficult to get established anywhere so she can qualify for that second hip replacement. But she was just as enthusiastic for prayer as when we first met her! But this time, she asked if we would pray for her husband who has been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, and his medications are not stabilizing him. She led us to their car and we laid hands on him and prayed. They were the most precious couple who just needed to know that God is still near, even though the outward signs were telling them otherwise.
We explained that we did more than minister for physical pain, but worked with Jesus to heal emotional and spiritual pain, too. Then Mark turned to Tracy and said, "We all carry things around in a spiritual backpack; those things that we keep tucked away, hoping that no one sees them, and by keeping them out of sight, praying that we can control how they affect us. What is the one thing that weighs the heaviest in your backpack"? Tracy blinked a couple of times, and you could see something crossing her face. She stammered around, and finally Mark asked her, ""Is it a molestation as a child"? Her eyes opened wide and she just shook her head, "Yes".
We explained that this is a recurring sin perpetrated against those who show up at our ministry table. And we emphasized that it both saddened and angered the Lord. I truly believe this is the impetus for Jesus's statement in Matthew 18:6, But if anyone abuses [scandalizes, puts a stumbling block, offends, or causes to sin] these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to
have a heavy boulder tied around his neck and be hurled into the deepest
sea than to face the punishment he deserves!
But we invited her and her husband to come see us and let us minister to their spiritual and physical needs/healing. And as we prayed for her to be set free from the memories of the past and her current physical infirmities, I saw Jesus [in my spirit] whispering to tell her that the fact that we ran into her a second time was proof of how important she was to Him -- that He had never taken His eyes off her and never would! It was a powerful affirmation that He had neither abandoned her nor forgotten about her. And He has the same message for each one of us!
I don't know the end of Tracy's story, or even if she will find the way to come to us for ministry. But I do know this... we are each precious in His sight, and the words of Psalm 139 make that very clear: Lord, You know everything there is to know about me ... It's impossible to disappear from You ... Every single moment, You are thinking of me!
I have a feeling that our paths are going to continue to cross with Tracy's until she is able to step into His embrace. And it would be our humble honor to be the ones He uses to bring her back home. This story isn't over!
Psalm 139:24 "See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, and lead me back to Your glorious, everlasting ways—the path that brings me back to You".