An invisible being named sadness seems to stalk me. Sometimes it catches up with my fast gait and takes my soul at the most embarrassing moments. In those moments I weep in the most helpless way. Why does God allow this? I wonder out loud. He not only allows it, he seems to encourage it. There's no denial with God. He doesn't deny the reality of sin, pain, sorrow or suffering. It's real.
God is always doing more than meets the eye. He's doing something in us that is seldom motivated by the desire to simply make us happy. He's making me strong, healthy, whole and holy. He is teaching me to trust his invisible attributes and his eternal power. Other footsteps follow me, too. Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life. These invisible guardians of my soul are just as real as the sadness. They leap on sadness, and the violence is great, but amazingly they always win.
When the Lord is your shepherd, let me tell you how the invisible becomes obvious. Today I was addressing the mundane task of car repair. As I dropped my truck off for a front end alignment, a man with a gracious smile approached me. “Do you remember me?” he asked.
I replied, “Your face looks familiar.”
“My wife and I came to see you about our marriage a few years ago.”
Suddenly I remembered. His wife was a check-out clerk at a grocery store. One day she was checking another woman's groceries, and the woman asked her, “So how are you doing?”
It was as if a dam broke, as the clerk's grief gushed out in tears.
“What's wrong baby?” asked the concerned customer.
“I love the South. It's the only place I know where people aren't afraid to call a total stranger 'baby, honey and sweetie!'” The clerk then burst out, “My marriage is in trouble, and I don't know what to do.”
The woman left her cart and hugged the clerk and comforted her. Then--and at this point I want you to know I'm relating what the clerk later communicated with me--the woman took the clerk's hand and said, “Sweetie, I don't go to church there, but I hear the pastor at First Baptist North Mobile really loves his wife. I'd suggest you and your husband go talk to him. Maybe he could help your husband love you too.”
Through her tears the clerk responded, “I don't know if he'll go see a preacher.”
“Well, honey, he can't go if you don't ask him.”
I remember the couple coming into my office and nervously taking a seat on the couch. I asked why total strangers would want to see me. The wife tearfully told me the story of the meltdown at the check-out counter. “I want this man to love me like I hear you love your wife.”
I'm not trying to make this sound like a Billy Graham film, but before we were finished both the man and his wife prayed and trusted Christ as their savior and lord.
I went home that night and told Tammy about my day. I remember saying to her, “I never dreamed that loving you, which is so easy for me to do, would become an evangelism tool.”
The man at the auto garage gave me a lift back to the office, which gave me another opportunity to catch up on their spiritual journey and once again to encourage their growth in the Lord.
Sadness crawled on me early this morning, but my Good Shepherd sicced Goodness and Mercy on the sorry dog. Before it was over, another invisible friend named Joy showed up.
*Painting by William Holman Hunt