FROM THE HEART OF
DR. REXELLA VAN IMPE
"I Almost Missed the Blessing!"
"I Almost Missed the Blessing!"
He was standing near the exit of a department store in the shopping mall - a quiet, unassuming man, neatly dressed in casual clothes. As I walked past him on my way out of the store, he glanced in my direction - then quickly looked again, obviously recognizing me.
"Mrs. Van Impe?"
"Yes, I'm Rexella Van Impe."
"It's so nice to see you in person. I feel like I've known you and your husband for many years - I used to attend your crusade services. Could you spare just a moment? I have a little story to share with you."
"Of course," I replied, stepping out of the doorway and to the side of the corridor. I felt perfectly comfortable and at ease with this "old friend" I'd never met before - he was no longer a stranger. "I'd love to hear your story."
The man stretched out his right arm and pulled back the sleeve of his coat. His arm was atrophied and shorter than normal, with an extremely deformed hand. "I was born this way - with a right arm and hand that were shriveled and useless. As I grew up, I became more and more aware of my deformity. I felt that I was 'damaged' and worthless. I became as handicapped emotionally and mentally as I was physically.
"As a little boy, I started praying, 'Oh, God, heal my hand and arm. Help me and give me a normal life.' In my mind, I felt the only way my prayer could be answered would be to get a whole new arm and hand.
"Over the years, doctors performed three major operations on me - very involved, complicated reconstructive surgeries. The operations were successful in that they enabled me to gain much use of my right arm and hand. I learned to do lots of things - almost anything I wanted - with my repaired hand."
As he spoke, the man demonstrated how he could move his arm freely and deftly use his still-twisted hand to pick up and manipulate various objects with obvious strength and dexterity.
With a wry smile, he continued his account. "But the surgeries didn't help my mind and my feelings. They continued to be 'deformed' because my arm was still short and my hand was still twisted - not totally whole in appearance. Instead of being thankful for the tremendous improvement, I found myself thinking, 'Why didn't God answer my prayer and heal me? I still don't have a right arm and hand that match my left side.' And I went on feeling frustrated and limited for years.
"Then one day during my personal devotional time, I finished my Bible reading and was meditating. I again began to wonder why God hadn't answered my boyhood prayers. Suddenly I became intensely aware of God's presence, and He seemed to speak to me."
"'I answered your prayer!' the Lord said. 'You are whole. You can do just about anything with your right arm that you can do with your left. You have a good marriage and beautiful children. You have a profitable business. I have blessed you and met your needs. Why do you feel that your prayers were not answered?'"
"I was astonished at those words, Rexella. I jumped to my feet and shouted, 'Thank You, Lord, for opening my eyes. You did answer my prayer. You have made me whole! But I almost missed the blessing!'"
Isn't that a remarkable experience? Hearing our friend's tremendous story stirred my heart and started me thinking. How many times do we risk missing out on God's blessings because they may not arrive in the exact package we're expecting? How should we act, what should we do while we're waiting on the Lord to answer prayer?
I love the way The Living Bible instructs and encourages us with Psalm 27:14 - "Don't be impatient. Wait for the Lord, and he will come and save you! Be brave, stouthearted and courageous. Yes, wait and he will help you."
Are you waiting for God to answer the cry of your heart and meet some special need for you or a loved one? Here are some suggestions for you.
Wait in prayer.
First of all, I believe that when we're waiting on the Lord, we should wait in prayer and allow ourselves to be comforted by the Holy Spirit. Too often we allow ourselves to be anxious and apprehensive after we've prayed and are waiting. By not allowing the comfort of the Holy Spirit to overwhelm us, we make ourselves vulnerable to the ravages of doubt and fear.
One of the first times I remember hearing "Wait, Rexella" was when I was just a little girl, maybe four years old. My mother had left me with my grandmother for the day. For a while I watched as she worked in the kitchen preparing to bake a pie.
When I grew restless, my grandmother said, "Rexella, as soon as I finish baking this pie, we'll go down and get an ice cream banana split. But for now I want you to sit here on the counter and wait."
A few minutes later I asked, "Are you almost done, Grandma?"
"No, honey, you have to wait."
"Yes, but I want to go get my banana split now!"
"No, I'm not finished here. You must wait a little longer."
In another moment or two, I was asking again, "Are you through yet?" So my grandmother decided to use the waiting time to teach me something new. Spreading some flour across the counter, she taught me how to form the letters and spell the word B-A-N-A-N-A. I was so delighted at my new accomplishment that I momentarily forgot my impatience.
I believe that God sometimes has lessons to teach us as we wait. There can be great value to be gained just by waiting, although it's hard for people in today's age of instant gratification to appreciate this truth.
We've all heard the old joke about doctors telling patients to "take an aspirin and call me in the morning." Well, current medical research suggests that maybe these medics weren't just ignoring their patient's needs. The truth is that God has put a miraculous healing force within our bodies that, with just a little time, will begin to heal a high percentage of maladies.
It's also true that time is a great healer in incidents of loss and grief. What seems unbearable and inconsolable today will become less painful and easier to bear as time goes by. As the Psalmist David expressed so beautifully, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).
Don't misunderstand me - I'm not saying that we should pray about something, then just wait until we get over it naturally. We've all experienced those wondrous times when God came upon the scene and moved in our behalf almost instantly. In fact, there are times, God says, "Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).
If we need an instant answer, God will not forsake us or fail. But there are times when we need to wait - not impatiently, but bravely, stoutheartedly, and with courage. In those times the Holy Spirit will come to us ... and teach us ... and help us. Don't miss what God wants to do for you!
Wait in faith.
When you pray, wait in faith. Be confident in God. Believe in His love and goodness. Trust the Lord to keep His Word. Jesus said, "If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:14). Let your confidence be based on the knowledge that He will answer your prayer - God will take care of you.
Perhaps you're saying, "But Rexella, sometimes that kind of faith is a little bit hard to come by." I understand exactly what you mean.
I heard an illustration about a woman whose view from her kitchen window was blocked by an ugly old mountain that she often wished was gone. One day she read that if she had faith as big as a grain of mustard seed, she could pray for the mountain to be removed and it would go. So she decided to try it.
"Oh, God, if you love me, remove that mountain. I have faith that You can do this, so tonight I'm asking you to take it away."
The next morning the woman got up, walked into her kitchen, and looked out the window. "There's that mountain," she said, "just as I expected!"
Do you expect God to answer when you pray? Do you have faith that He will hear and respond to your prayers according to His will? Has God answered your prayers in the past? Do you know others whose prayers have been answered? Yes, of course!
When you know who God is and what He is like, you can have faith in Him. I believe that real faith is not something you try to believe - it is something you cannot doubt! You must reach a place in your Christian experience where you discover the bedrock truths that require no convincing. And on that Rock you take your stand.
Getting to that place may require you to do some waiting - in prayer ... and in faith. Be willing to do it! Don't miss the blessing!
My third suggestion for learning to wait on the Lord is to be patient - not murmuring, not saying, "Why is this happening to me?", not rebelling. For forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, missing out on the blessing of going into the Promised Land.
As a matter of necessity, the road out of Egypt's slavery led through the desert. But the Israelites did not go through the desert patiently. They griped, complained, doubted, and rebelled! The more they murmured and rebelled, the longer they had to wait.
The land God had promised was out there, just an eleven-day march away (see Deuteronomy 1:2). It was wonderful country - almost literally "flowing with milk and honey." But most of the Israelites died in the desert, wandering around and around in the wilderness until they missed out on the blessing. It was real! God had intended for them to have it! But their lack of prayer, lack of faith, and lack of patience ultimately destroyed them.
Forty years later, when the doubters and murmurers were dead, Joshua led the new generation - and a handful of faithful old-timers - into the land of Canaan.
Oh, my dear friend, there have been times in my life when I was tempted to focus on the problem and not on the solution God was going to give me. In those moments, I was becoming part of the problem! Have you had that experience?
Isn't it wonderful that God is faithful? He keeps on reminding us to pray ... to wait in faith ... to be patient and not to give up or rebel. And as we wait, the Spirit of God comes to us, teaches us, helps us, and meets our need!
When it happens - when the darkness falls away and the power of God breaks through the limitations of our lives and sets us free - how we rejoice! We gratefully discover that - in the words of Solomon and David, "The Lord is our salvation, our refuge, and our strong tower!" (See 2 Samuel 22:3; Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 61:3).
"Thank You, God," we exclaim. "We almost missed the blessing!"
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Lisa Kelly and David Downes