I had an amazing day and through a series of coincidences, over a cup of coffee, I got chatting to a visitor, who told me his story.
The conversation started off by comparing notes on countries we’d been to, places we’d seen and then, next thing you know, he’s telling me about the worst thing that ever happened to him.
And before I knew it, I told him about the worst thing that ever happened to me.
Ever had one of those moments, where you know you’ve just met a kindred spirit? A fellow journey’er? It was *that* moment, but it was also more, because through all the loss he’d experienced, he told me his secret for survival.
Now, before you start thinking this will be a cliched, easy answer Bible moment, it isn’t. Matthew 11 tells the story of John the Baptist who is in prison, pretty much waiting to be executed.
He’d been the one who had prepared the world for the arrival of Jesus. He had lived an unusual life, surviving by eating ‘locusts and wild honey’ but ultimately, he’d sacrificed everything so that people would be ready when Jesus started his ministry.
But after serving God for so long, he was now in prison and the future was bleak. All of his dreams and desires and hopes in Jesus seem to have crumbled and he may have been asking himself, ‘Was I completely deluded about Jesus?‘
From his prison cell, John sends a message to Jesus, which roughly translated went, ‘Are you really who I think you are?’
And Jesus sends an incredible message back – a message that’s packed full of wisdom and hope and love, that says, ‘Yes, I AM…and here’s the proof; blind people are seeing, deaf people are hearing….dead people are being raised to life….it’s ALL true’.
But because John was trapped in his prison, perhaps he couldn’t see it.
Jesus ends his message with a little postscript; ‘Blessed is the one who does not stumble on account of me’.
My visitor said that verse changed his life. That when the Worst Thing happened to him, he had a choice between running off and doing his own thing or running back to God. The words Jesus spoke to John reminded him; ‘Yes, this utterly stinks I know, but don’t stumble, keep running to Me, DON’T give up, don’t fall at this hurdle’.
I love that thought so much; ‘Blessed are those who stick it out, who keep running even through the times when God feels far away. DON’T give up’.
What a thought…
We all go through hard times. Some suffer a great deal more than others, some wade their way through ill-health, stresses, relationship problems. Some, like John the Baptist, face death.
But whatever we’re facing, even if it feels like we’re trapped in a cold, friendless prison cell, Jesus can still be in the middle of it, holding us together, reminding us that even when the worst thing happens, there is still a way to get to the other side.