When we decorated the tree this year, I saw this little ornament and it reminded me of a great, true Christmas story from 2005!
A little background… I have a dear friend whose husband walked closely with the Lord and was used by God in the lives of so many people through his passionate zeal for God. Somewhere around 1998, he decided he wasn’t so sure anymore and he decided to set his faith aside and wanted no more to do with it. My friend kept looking to the Lord and praying and waiting and hoping that God would bring her husband back to Himself.Fast forward then to 2005. By this time, it seems highly unlikely he will ever return to the Lord, from a human perspective. He’s a great guy, super nice, leading a good life, why does he need anything more? Our prayers continue. In the times of discouragement, the Lord continued to sustain and encourage my friend, and there were times where you just cling to the words of truth and hope found in Scripture and continue to believe God is able.
In April 2005, right after I had surrendered my life to the Lord more deeply, I was praying each day and asking the Lord what He would want me to do each day… someone to reach out to, something He wanted me to do. One day, I couldn’t get my friend’s husband off my mind. I felt like there was a book I should share with him and that I should encourage him that the Lord loved him and was seeking him still. But how? It seemed the right way was to call. He’d surely never read a letter.
I was nervous to call. I wanted a sign. I told the Lord that it would be great if a certain song would play on the radio, then I could know. It was a song that echoed the message of the book, but they weren’t playing it as much anymore on the radio. As I stood confessing to the Lord that I shouldn’t have to have a sign, I finished praying, and what song should start… yes, Much of You by Steven Curtis Chapman, the one I wanted to hear. As the song ended, the radio announcer came on, and they were having a pledge drive, and the voice said, “Make the call. Make the call.” How funny. They were referring to the call the radio station and pledge, but I took it to mean, “ok, here’s the song, I’ll make the call.”
I dialed their number, got the machine, nearly hung up, but held on and waited for the beep and started talking. I don’t even remember what I said, but I think it was mostly telling him that I knew God loved him and wanted him to return, that He was seeking him, and that there was a book I thought he would like. I mailed him the book, and that was the end of the story. No great turnaround, that was it.
So fast forward to Christmastime 2005. It’s been 8 months. I’ve never spoken to him since that message. It’s about December 23, and I called my friend at home. I was totally unprepared for when her husband answered the phone. It’s that brief moment of confusion when you hear a different voice and think “who did I call,” and then I realized who it was and thought “now what!?” She wasn’t home, but he was working from home. I was nervous that I was interrupting his work, so I hesitated to keep him on the phone, but I felt I should address the call in April. I did. I can’t remember the exact conversation, but he was nice, said it just didn’t work for him, that’s fine for me and he understood my calling if that’s what I believe. He is a really smart guy, and I just remember feeling like such a fool after he explained his way of thinking. I didn’t even reply much because I knew he was working and so that was it.
I hung up the phone and sobbed. Shamefully, part of my tears were out of embarrassment, but most of them were over the fact of how hard his heart seemed, and was there ANY hope that God would change this heart. I went to my bedroom and grabbed my prayer book (Face to Face) which I had not read that day. As soon as I opened it, the first verse was, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of salvation to all who believe.” I lay on my bedroom floor and cried and prayed for him.
I later heard something break. We had had our Christmas tree up for 2-3 weeks now, and my children knew not to touch and had not touched the ornaments! In fact, the tree had fallen on my daughter after she pulled it a year or two before, so she had proper respect for the tree and always kept her distance. But for some reason, she uncustomarily had touched a gold ball, and there it was broken on the floor.
As I was cleaning it up, I was on my hands and knees under the tree, and I looked up and my eyes caught this ornament right in front of me, hidden back in the tree, but now in my face. It’s just a little cross stitched ornament that I had never thought much of that someone made me years before. It says, “Joyful Spirit Jer. 33:11” — that’s the meaning of my name. As I looked at it, it puzzled me why someone would choose a verse from Jeremiah for “joyful spirit.” Aren’t there lots of psalms about joy?
Anyway, I went to my Bible to look up the verse. It said: “the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who will say, ‘Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever’ — and of those who will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause the captives of the land to return as at the first, says the LORD.”
When I read this, I knew it was about my friend’s husband! I almost felt it was the Lord saying not to fear, that He would cause this captive to return as at the first! I was later able to share with my friend the events of the day, finding this Scripture. To my amazement, she replied, “You have no way of knowing this, but that is the passage I’ve prayed for him (her husband) for the last 7 years!”
Well, the story continues, and there are many other amazing things that God did over the next 2 years to continue to encourage us that He was at work and would bring this man back. And yes, my friend’s husband DID return to the Lord in 2007, slowly at first, but now completely and with his full heart! It’s been remarkable to see what God has done in their lives since then.
I could blog story after story of what God did in this, but today I wanted to remember Christmas 2005 and the ornament, what God spoke through it. I’m thankful that God pursues His people, the great Shepherd who seeks his lost sheep. His timeline and ways are not the same as ours, but they are good and right. We should never lose heart.
Praise Your Name, Jesus. At this season of Christmas, we remember that You came to earth to save us, so that sin should no longer have a hold on us. You deliver Your people from bondage and set them free to love and know You. And You fill us with great joy! Your sacrifice for us has given us new and eternal life in You, and our sins are forgiven through faith in You.
Praise the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His mercy endures forever!