A (Re)Gathering of Faith

oldfamily

At a time when I should have been praying about petty fights with friends or asking God for a pony, I was interceding for my dad’s life.

As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember pre-cancer days. I have scattered memories of short-lived remission days. Mostly, though, I remember the days of cancer. Lymphoma was an integral part of my childhood vocabulary, along with chemotherapy, radiation and phrases like “two months to live.”

And oh, the prayers.

Maybe there was a night here and there when I didn’t pray for healing and health for my dad, but I don’t remember those carefree nights. In the forefront of my mind are the nights of pleading and begging, with a voice or in a whisper, with dry sleepy eyes or with the tears of a child.

There are so many stories to tell of those nights. Stories of angels in my room or the closeness I felt to my comforter. Stories of loneliness and fear, intermingled with stories of faith and hope.

But the story in my heart today is the story of the after. The story of a prayer unanswered and a father buried along with the faith of his daughter.

 

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My brother became the pastor of the church when Dad died. A revival had been scheduled before his death and it was decided to move forward with the special guest speaker. Evangelist S. was a friend of my father, of our family and of our church. My guess is that in the midst of church-wide grief, the leadership was desperate for healing and hope. So he came. And this 16-year-old was there.

It was surreal walking into those church doors those first few months. I saw Dad everywhere. The church building was my preferred context in which to place my dad (beats a hospital any day) and the building of that church had been his life’s work. Yet, in I walked, sitting as though I hadn’t been shaken to my core.

That minister preached a masterpiece of a sermon. He remains the most captivating storyteller I have ever heard. As was customary for this particular minister, he began to pray for people after his sermon. I am Pentecostal, and it is not uncommon for Pentecostal preachers to call someone out for prayer in front of the congregation. He asked if anyone was sick and began laying hands on people to pray for them.

I don’t quite know how to describe how I felt in those moments. Just try to imagine with me….

*16 years old
*Father was just buried
*9 year battle with cancer
*Thousands of prayers for healing
*Sitting in father’s church
*Minister praying for the sick

A flood of grief enveloped me. A cloud of sadness rested on me. An anger burned inside me.

And then it happened. A kid from our youth group had raised his hand, saying he was sick with a cold and had a terrible sore throat. Evangelist S. called my name, staring me down with penetrating eyes. Our conversation went a little something like this:

S: Rachael, stand up.
(I stood, tears already flowing)
S. Rachael, do you believe God is a healer?
(My world is shaking under my feet. I don’t know what I know. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know. I want to scream. I want to run. I sob)
Rachael: (through broken sobs) Yes.
S: Rachael, do you believe God can heal Alex RIGHT NOW?
Rachael: Yes.
S: Rachael, I want you to step out of your seat, lay your hands on Alex and pray for healing.

I know what some of you are thinking. I have thought it myself. What Evangelist S. did could have been considered cruel. He could have inflicted further damage on an already broken girl.

And yet….

I stepped out, laid my hands on Alex and prayed. I prayed for healing and Alex said his pain vanished immediately.

Evangelist S. is one of my heroes. Yes, what he did that night could have been cruel. But that is where the HOLY SPIRIT comes into play.  Imagine with me for a moment what he must have felt in that moment, when the Holy Spirit led him to call me out, a girl he knew and loved in a deep ocean of fresh grief.  Imagine what faith and trust he must have had in God to obey in that moment.

The reality is that I was at a crossroads that night. I was on the verge of losing faith. My father died and I felt something had died in me. My father was buried and I felt my former life had been buried with him.

But hear me now….

My father had been resurrected to be with Jesus and I had to experience a resurrection.  I was confronted with the most basic and yet the most important of all questions….

Do you believe God is who he says he is?

The question was posed and I answered from the deepest, truest place of my being.

Yes, God is healer.  Yes, I believe.

My journey didn’t end that night.  I continued to deal with overwhelming grief and still have days when grief overcomes me.  But from that night forward, I knew what I knew.

I know God loves.  I know God heals.  I know God is worthy of my trust.  I know God is who he says he is.  I know it today.  I have never forgotten.

Evangelist S., I thank you for listening and responding to the Holy Spirit.  I thank you because it was a pivotal moment in my life and I took a step in the direction of faith and have never looked back.  I thank God for his abundant love, reaching out to me at my point of desperation…. posing the most difficult yet most essential question of my life.  My answer was, is and will continue to be a resounding “YES!”

me&dad

Me, with my Dad, not long before his death.

Much Love,

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Comments

  1. Belinda says

    That brought tears to my eyes and memories to my heart of my own prayers for my 14 yr old cousin who was like a sister to me. She had leukemia. I believed and prayed and fasted never wavering as die all of my family for her healing. Even after the second round of chemo when it came back we were still believing that she would come home from MD Anderson hospital. We held christmas that year wanting to wait for her. She even bought a sound track accompaniment tape to sing at church when she got helped….didnt happen…she passed away and that song was sung at her funeral. I have never been more shaken in my own faith.

    My main issue that I’ve struggled with since then is the same..,do you believe God can heal? Of course, there is nothing He can’t do. My issue isn’t can He, it has always been will He. It never ceases to amaze me how God in his infinite wisdom decides to do what only He can do. Over here, cancer, over there tumor, over there severe cold or congestion…etc,etc but you can line all the cancers and tumors and colds up together and just because He does it for some doesn’t mean they all are healed.

    Our pastor is very big on our church being open to all the gifts of the spirit and the fact that as we learn how to operate in them, the church needs to be a practice field in a nonjudgmental way so that we can go out into the world…one of the gifts he has talked about is the gift of healing. That we should not feel intimidated in praying for someone who needs or asks for it because the results are not up to us they are up to God. Which should make me feel better and take the pressure off but to me this makes it more confusing knowing that God doesn’t choose to always heal just because we pray.

    Because of what I went through with Regina, I always want to give a disclaimer of sorts when praying for someone. “I feel like I have alot of faith and I know God can do anything but sometimes He chooses not to so please don’t be too discouraged if nothing happens when I pray for you ok?” Sounds funny to say it out loud like that but that is how I feel sometimes. :)

    The thing that struck me after reading your post was how gentle God must be to keep perusing us even when we have such massive holes in our hearts and faiths and how much He loves us to help us heal along the way. I can’t say I’ve gotten over my issues with this but I’ve come along way.

    • Rachael says

      Thanks for sharing your story, Belinda. So often when we are faced with unanswered prayers, it results in a crisis of faith. I’m so thankful that so many people I know have come out on the other side trusting in God even more than they did before their trial. I know that was the case for me and it sounds like your faith is strong.

  2. Meghan says

    This must have been very difficult for you to write, let alone share. Even though I have never had to deal with the death of a father, I have had to deal with much grief. I will leave it at that. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that God cares about broken hearts. He sees every tear, and is right there to comfort before we even start to ask.

    • Rachael says

      Meghan, thanks for being transparent as well. It always hurts so much to have a broken heart, yet when I look back on those times of my life, I see how much I grew in my relationship with God. I’m thankful he is everything I need at all times. Love you.

  3. Linda says

    Loved you post, I admired your strenght and faith that has not faltered through all the difficult times in your life.

    • Rachael says

      Thanks, Linda. It is the prayers, love and support of people like you who have helped me along the way.

  4. Diana says

    You are a real inspiration! I remember in a lady’s group someone wanted to request prayer for a friend who had cancer and the lady’s all paused… Since your dad died of cancer … how could we ask God to heal cancer? One of the lady’s felt that and said because God is healer we need to remove our doubt. It was one of the hardest things to do. But when you put all the “stuff” into God’s hands it makes it so much easier. Thank you so much for sharing. I am so proud of you and your testimony!

    • Rachael says

      Thank you so much for your comment! I thought of your family when I wrote this post, since it was your Alex in the story :) He probably doesn’t even remember that night, but I will never forget it. Love and miss you!

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