Imagine walking on a frozen river. The ice starts cracking all around. Our footing is unsure. Add to this physical exhaustion and an emotional meltdown. In the midst of this, we might question, “Can God use us in our bad times?”
May 2010, I was diagnosed with cancer. I had good days and not so good days. In my good days I was positive and energetic and productive and thought, “God can use me because it’s a good day”. In the not-so-good days I tended to withdraw into my own little cocoon so no one would see me, thinking God wouldn’t use me like this.
One weekend, not too long after I started chemotherapy, and before all my hair had fallen out, I found myself in the observation unit of the hospital in pretty weak state. Once I was stabilized, I thought, “Lord, how in the world can you use me here…like this?”
In the middle of the quiet unit, the night shift nurse was making her rounds. As she took my blood pressure, temperature, and changed my IV bag, I asked her why she became a nurse. She told me she realized if she did not make a change in her life; her children would not have a stable home or have the opportunity to go to college.
She said she made a choice to pull herself up from the memories of a bad childhood, two failed marriages, a poor financial situation, and went back to school and got her nursing degree. At the time, she had two very young children. Now, she is employed at a very reputable hospital, has a home of her own and is “in a good place”. Her story was remarkable and she was and should be very proud of her accomplishments.
As I listened to her, however, I noticed a tough, uncompassionate edge to her. She said she did not have a lot of sympathy for some people because if she could do it anyone could. I asked her if she had anyone supporting her during this difficult time in her life. She quickly mentioned two people who supported her financially and emotionally and helped with the children.
That was my “opening”. “The Lord really sent the right people to help didn’t He,” I said. She looked at me strangely, thought for a moment and said, “Yes, He did.” Then she lovingly patted me on the foot and said, “You need to rest. Say your prayers and go to sleep”. I laid there in such peace, realizing God had, for a brief moment, brought her to a place where she acknowledged Him as being present in her life. I did say a prayer and fell asleep.
The next day, they wheeled me into another room to wait for another test, I was watching the news. They wheeled an elderly woman in to sit beside me to wait for hers. She had such a sad countenance. I asked her if she wanted to watch something else and she said she did not really care. I switched it to the weather channel (Who doesn’t like the weather channel?). We had been watching for a few minutes and she made the comment that we had been lucky in the area because we had not experienced any major weather affects.
I asked her how long she had lived in the area. “Since 1959,” she said. I said she probably knew of our little church and she said yes. She said she had attended another church a long time ago. She was quiet for a moment, then told me how, when her grandchildren were very little, she took them to church. One would come up from downstairs in the middle of worship and stand in the hall and yell, “Grandma, I love you!” She smiled and said, “I think he just wanted to make sure I was still there.” Her whole countenance changed. Again, I watched the Lord bring her back to a place where He was part of her life – even for a moment.
That weekend the Lord sent two other staff members who shared their stories and how the outcome worked out far better than they had ever imagined. All I injected into the conversation was, “Wasn’t the Lord good to you?” or “The Lord really orchestrated things didn’t He?” All they said in return to those comments was, “Yes, He was.” or “Yes, He sure did.”
This gave me a new insight for what it means to “spread the Good News of Jesus Christ”. We do not need to take a course in “Evangelism 101” or go to seminary or be a perfect person in a perfect situation. There was not a time while in the hospital when I felt good enough to be perky. Most of the time, I was either laying down or sitting in a wheel chair. I was in a gray hospital gown, my hair was flat and I did not have any makeup on. (I could not wait to get home and take a shower, wash my hair and get in my own bed.)
Back to the question: “Can God use us in our bad times?” The Lord showed me very strongly during the hospital stay that He could use any situation to bring people back to Him if I was willing to be used in an imperfect, unlikely situation.
We do not know where people are spiritually. Only God knows. So, let Him direct the conversation. Maybe they do not know the Lord. On the other hand, maybe they have just gone through so much they have forgotten and become hard or crusty. Maybe they just need to be reminded that the Lord is still in their lives, especially when they are going through difficult times.
The morning after I got home, I sat and prayed about it all. The Lord showed me 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5. Paul wrote this to congregation in Corinth, and to believers all over Achaia province. Therefore, it is for us.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows (NIV).
Another way to say it:
“ God comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too”. (Eugene Peterson, The Message)
The obvious answer to our question is, “Yes!”. Yes, indeed, God can use us anywhere, anytime, under any circumstance. Simply be available. Let God do the rest.