“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
Rachel’s world was changing faster than she could keep up. Everything seemed to be falling apart – her family, her finances, and as a result, now even her faith.
Where was God when she needed Him most?
Facing a sink full of dirty dishes, she rinsed bowls on automatic pilot, loading the dishwasher and spraying colorful circles of soggy cereal down the disposal.
Her rent was due tomorrow and there wasn’t enough money to pay it. She’d only paid half of the electric bill, and the store-brand generic cereal had been their dinner.
In the living room, her daughters argued over which library DVD to watch. She didn’t have the energy to intervene. Voices escalated until her oldest decreed, “Let’s watch mine now and save yours best for last.”
Little sister was fooled by the clever tact. If only Jake were here, he’d calm the girls with chocolate milkshakes. And rub her aching shoulders.
Rachel coughed, cringing at the thought of getting sick on top of everything else. A headache bloomed. Massaging her forehead, she poured a glass of water, grabbed Advil from a cabinet, and took two.
“Lord, help me.” Her whispered prayer was more automatic than heartfelt.
Watching from heaven, Grandma Kate harrumphed. “You’d best pray harder than that.”
Beside her, Jesus chuckled. “You’re one to talk, Katie.”
“Now let’s not even go there.” Kate side-eyed her Savior.
He seemed to find that uproariously funny. Given Kate’s pre-heaven history, she had every earthly idea why.
Rachel furrowed her brow, and looked up at the ceiling. “Oh, Lord, truly, please help me. I’ve lost Jake, forever this time, and the bills are piling up. I’m out of work, the girls are out of school and grating on raw nerves, and now—” she coughed again for good measure. “Not to be paranoid or anything, but I’m afraid I’m coming down with something.”
She retreated down the hall and thumped onto the side of the bed. Eyes closed, her mind whirred.
Pray harder than that.
The words came from nowhere, yet as clear as if her grandmother’s ghost stood by the bed.
Rachel fell to her knees, head bowed on her grandmother's handmade quilt. “Lord, help me.”
Not knowing what else to say, the words held meaning this time. She threw her head back, looked up at the vintage chandelier she’d refurbished herself. Tiny flecks of dust covered the rustic, chipped white paint. Yet the glass teardrops glittered in waning sunlight. Rainbow prisms reflected on the shiplap ceiling.
“God, do you hear me? Do you see me? I know you’re up there. Do you care?”
Read my word. Then you’ll know.
Truth stabbed her heart. Sure, she heard scripture in church. But she was usually preoccupied with feeling sorry for herself and smoothing her thrift store clothes.
Worrying over whether the girls would behave in Sunday School. Watching for the superintendent to motion for her to come downstairs and rescue their teacher.
How long had it been since she’d opened the Bible and read it for herself?
She wanted to say she was sorry. But the words wouldn’t come. Her worn-out mind had nothing. Said nothing. Thought nothing.
Exhaustion completely depleted her.
Her heart, her soul, even her tears had dried up.
She reached for her Bible on the nightstand, carried to church on Sunday but left unattended the rest of the week – for weeks on end. Maybe months.
She ran a hand over the fine leather. Touched her name engraved on the cover in gold letters. Rachel James. Her parents had given her the Bible for a graduation gift.
Back when she’d planned to attend college – to be a horticulturist or an interior designer or an architect.
Back when she’d been full of dreams and ideas for her future.
Back before she’d met Jake and fallen in love and gotten pregnant. And then gotten married.
Despite how their marriage turned out, she’d loved him. And he’d loved her. And they’d been blessed with two beautiful baby girls.
He was in heaven now. She was sure of it.
Her fingers found the gilt-edged pages.
She touched the pretty bookmark with her favorite verse.
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
She thought through the list. God was all these things. She needed to focus on Him.
True – God was in control.
Honorable – God kept His promises.
Right – God protected her.
Pure – God loved her.
Lovely – God blessed her with a loving family.
Admirable – God forgave her.
Excellent – God created a beautiful world.
Worthy of Praise – God cared about her. He truly did.
The bookmark had been tucked into the book of Isaiah. When she’d last read, she had highlighted a verse in yellow.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3
Ironic how both verses focused on her thoughts.
She rested in that.
“Thank you, Lord.” The prayer lifted toward heaven from the depth of her soul.
The living room remained quiet, but for the sing-song drone of a children’s movie.
Rachel climbed onto the bed and rested her head on a pillow. Her Bible lay open across her belly. She laid her hands over the dry pages, letting their message seep into her skin.
Her life hadn’t changed in those few moments. But her thoughts had.
He was in control, He protected her, and He kept His promises.
He loved her.
She believed Him and trusted Him. And she had peace.
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” Jesus – John 14:27
My prayers are with you all, my dear friends, as well as our nation, our leaders, and our world. God has His people in the palms of His almighty, loving hands.
How do you find peace during these turbulent times? Please share your positive encouragement for others. Go in peace.
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To read Rachel's story, find Roses for Rachel, and Dianne's other stories, HERE.