God’s pres­ence, power and pro­vi­sion just a prayer away

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - METRO2 -

Watch­ing the suf­fer­ing of those af­fected by the re­cent hur­ri­canes and the tragedy in Las Ve­gas has made fresh for me the mem­o­ries of a ter­ri­ble storm in my own life. In 2006, when my sis­ter Missy re­ceived a fa­tal ALS di­ag­no­sis, I was in Florida with my hus­band and three boys for Christ­mas.

Devastated and shell- shocked, we re­turned home to Rich­mond the next day. I awoke early the next morn­ing, dropped the kids off at school in a haze and made my way east on In­ter­state 64, in what would be my first face- to­face visit with my sis­ter since her di­ag­no­sis, one of hun­dreds of trips I would make over the next three years. I was un­sure what to say to her. How do you en­cour­age some­one who has just been told some­thing so hor­ri­ble?

ALS is a pro­gres­sive, fa­tal neu­ro­log­i­cal disease and suf­fer­ers usu­ally live only three to five years from di­ag­no­sis.

Traf­fic was un­usu­ally light, but as I ap­proached Bot­toms Bridge, a dump truck far ahead sud­denly switched lanes. I was in the pass­ing lane, with an 18- wheeler on my right and an­other be­hind me. To avoid the fray, the truck on my right began pulling into my lane, not see­ing me.

I slammed the brakes hard to try to get be­hind him, look­ing in the rear- view mir­ror to gauge the dis­tance of the truck be­hind me. All I saw was the grill in my mir­ror — he was about to hit me as well. In that in­stant, I knew I was out of op­tions, I was about to be pushed off the bridge by not one, but two semis.

A split sec­ond stood be­tween me and dis­as­ter, and I only had time to scream one of the short­est and most desperate prayers of my life, “GOD! HELP!”

Im­me­di­ately, the truck to my right swerved back into his lane, hit­ting the car in front of him, but not in­jur­ing any­one. In the space he opened up, I was able to surge for­ward, nar­rowly avoid­ing be­ing rear- ended by the other truck.

It was truly a mir­a­cle, al­most as if ev­ery­thing were out of our hands for a brief mo­ment. Some­how, the un­avoid­able was averted, and my par­ents wouldn’t get two dev­as­tat­ing phone calls in one week.

Af­ter we sorted out the ac­ci­dent and I was back on the road, it oc­curred to me that God had just shown him­self. He didn’t “show up”— He was al­ways there. He just let me know he was there. That was his theme the next three years. He al­ways let my sis­ter and me know that he was with us. Over and over, he made clear that he heard us, loved us and was trust­wor­thy.

We prayed fer­vently for heal­ing for my sis­ter, ev­ery day, many times a day. Although my sis­ter was not healed phys­i­cally on Earth, she was healed in her spirit from the very be­gin­ning of the ill­ness.

She was healed from bit­ter­ness and anger, and rested in God’s arms like a trust­ing child

Sto­ries of faith

Do you have a per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with faith or ethics that you would like to write about? Sub­mit your “Faith & Val­ues” col­umn to Reed Wil­liams at rwilliams@ times­dis­patch.com. un­til the mo­ment he car­ried her home. At times, I wanted to be an­gry at God for not an­swer­ing our prayers the way I wanted them to be an­swered— but he showed up in other amaz­ing and mirac­u­lous ways, walk­ing with us through ev­ery mo­ment.

He gave her peace be­yond un­der­stand­ing, which was a strong wit­ness to God’s pres­ence in her life.

Through prayer, we re­ceived three things dur­ing those dif­fi­cult years: God’s pres­ence, God’s power and God’s pro­vi­sion. He was with us. He made that clear to me af­ter he saved me on Bot­toms Bridge, and he con­tin­ued to make his pres­ence known through­out the en­tire jour­ney by an­swer­ing thou­sands of prayers. He gave us his pow­er­ful spirit to bring peace, com­fort, joy, pa­tience, love and grat­i­tude that were be­yond un­der­stand­ing given the cir­cum­stances. And he pro­vided us with all that we needed through his peo­ple, for Missy’s needs and the needs of our fam­i­lies.

Ul­ti­mately, through this ter­ri­ble or­deal, I learned to trust. I learned that when I give up a prayer to God, I can trust him with it, no mat­ter what the an­swer is. I can trust him with my life and with the lives of those I love.

I learned to live Psalm 13: 5, “But I trust in your un­fail­ing love; my heart re­joices in your sal­va­tion.”

Ul­ti­mately, I was ex­tremely grate­ful that he saved my sis­ter and that he healed her body fully and gave her eter­nal life and a place in heaven, a gift we can all re­ceive. He never failed to show him­self, and that is where we found our peace.

“Em­manuel, God with us.” I hope this truth brings hope and com­fort to those whose lives have been so af­fected by the hur­ri­canes and vi­o­lence of these past few weeks.

KarenWade Hayes is a Rich­mond-area mom, writer, com­mu­nity vol­un­teer and mem­ber of Third Church. She can be reached at karen­wade­hayes@gmail.com.



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