Friday, March 30, 2007

When is the last possible moment?

I intended to write a post today titled "Does God Write Westerns?"

Basically, I would point out that in old western movies, the Cavalry always arrived to save the day at the last possible moment. As writers, we understand why the movies work that way. If the characters had only started to sense that they MIGHT be in danger or they MIGHT run out of water in a few weeks, we wouldn't be terribly worried about them, would we? The Cavalry could walk their horses into the fort at a leisurely pace, and we movie-goers would yawn and go for a refill on our popcorn.

That's the movies. That's books. But doesn't God often work the same way? How many stories have you heard where God intervenes or saves the day at the last possible moment? I've heard testimonies from people who didn't have a dime to pay their rent, and just when they were about to be evicted, God provided the money so they could pay off their debts.

That's what I was preparing to write about today--those kinds of stories.

Then I received a phone call from a dear friend that made me think even harder. This friend is going through a very rough time, and she has one of those situations in which God really, really needs to intervene. It seems to us that he needs to do something RIGHT NOW! Of course, it's seemed that way for over a year, but because of finances, this does appear to be the last possible moment. And sure enough, we thought God was getting ready to make his Cavalry charge and save the day. Then, just a little while ago, everything fell through.

So has she reached that last possible moment? Did the Cavalry not show up? Or does she need to keep waiting on the Lord to act, keep praying and working toward her goal?

I remember the story of Lazarus and Jesus in the Scriptures. Everyone, of course, remembers the part where Jesus raises the dead man. ("Lazarus, come forth!" Talk about drama!) But how about the part before that? Jesus receives a message from Mary and Martha that their brother is gravely ill, and they want Jesus to come immediately and heal him. What does Jesus do? He delays the trip. ON PURPOSE. This is how it reads in the New American Standard Bible: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was" (John 11:5-6). Jesus knows exactly what he's doing. (That goes without saying, doesn't it?) He tells the disciples quite clearly that Lazarus has died, then says, "and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him" (v. 15).

Clearly, God often delays for our benefit. Just like the writers of western movies, he has to get our attention. How would we ever know how much he does for us if we never see that we need him? That we can't hang on for another second without him.

The question is, how do we recognize that last moment? How do we know when to throw in the towel, and maybe let God show us a whole new course? And how do we know when to keep praying and holding on?

I certainly don't have all the answers. But I do know that God has always, somehow, shown me what to do. I know he'll help my friend with this decision, as well. But waiting on him--especially waiting with your friends and family--can be really hard, can't it?