Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Broken Cisterns--3/22

In my last entry, I wrote about my church’s prayer list. Near the end of it, I said, We have noticed that the people in the “Physical need” section come and go from there, in general, much faster than they do in the “Spiritual need” section. Many more inhabit the “Physical need” section. I am pondering this fact, and I think I will have more to say about it soon. Today, I have some more to say about it.

I believe people are much more likely to notice that they have physical problems than spiritual ones. We would readily admit that we have chest pains or difficulty breathing or a broken leg and would get ourselves quickly to a doctor or even a hospital emergency room. We want to be fixed—as soon as possible. We can’t live with an open wound or hobble around on a sprained ankle or go around bleeding.

On the other hand, people do not want to tell anybody else that they feel miserable, angry, mistreated, guilty, or lonely. They figure they can deal with those things themselves. Many will suffer along for years and never ask for help or even sympathy from either their closest friends or God.

And then some people won’t admit to themselves that they actually have problems—too painful to look at them. It’s easy to limp along as an emotional cripple, hiding the pain of the moaning spirit. We think others won’t know if we don’t even acknowledge it to ourselves. But they can tell—those who love us and spend time around us.

In the “Spiritual need” section of our prayer list, hardly anyone is there because they asked us themselves for prayer. It’s the people who love them who ask us to pray for them. We call that section “For people who need special prayers and support.” We have about ten soldiers in Iraq listed and one person who was lost in the Philippines. Most of the others are there because somebody was concerned about their emotional pain and blockages of the spirit.

Many of us think our problems are too insignificant to put before God; he couldn’t possibly be concerned with such things because, after all, he has the entire universe to run. One of my friends told me, “I’ll go to him when I kind of get it all together. I’m too much of a mess now.”

But the truth is, he does care, and he wants us to come to him just the way we are, however messed up we may be. And he has cool, living water for our parched lips, salve for our burning souls. In the Old Testament, God mourned over the fact that people wouldn’t come to him for help: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Jesus suffered over people—how harassed and worried they were, “helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). In Matthew 11:28-30, he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Five or six people are on our list in that section because they actually asked us themselves to pray for them—that God will help them deal with their crisis or pain. When we finally find out how his healing can mend our poor broken hearts, we learn to run to him for every kind of need—not just the sprained ankle or headache, but every heartache.

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