“Lord, why didn’t You do something to stop him? After all
these years trying to be good Christian parents, we’ve failed miserably.” The
morning after our son left home, I sobbed and prayed alone in the family room
as a new day began. Upstairs my husband Steve slept fitfully. He’d arrived home
in the wee hours after driving seventeen-year-old Bob to live with relatives
eight hours away. Confrontations with Bob had regularly charged the air at home.
I’d begun to dread the moment he came in the door after school. Now he was
gone. The house felt like a morgue.
We were accustomed to mourning. Two years earlier, our
daughter Amy suffered a severe breakdown and was hospitalized with her first
bipolar episode, a mental health condition that had plagued my father all his
life. Why hadn’t God prevented it? Amy was a sweetheart, a strong Christian, and
a prayer warrior. The night Bob left, she and I prayed urgently on our knees
for Bob and his dad to resolve things. Now this.
Was God even listening?
Daily I begged God to restore peace at home and heal
our children’s multiple health problems. In the previous year, our three teens
were diagnosed with chronic illnesses ranging from Bob’s seizure disorder, to Amy’s
mental illness, to David’s heart problem. Soon after she was married and
graduated from college, our oldest daughter was diagnosed with lupus. Steve and
I felt helpless and broken; our once strong spiritual ground now threatened to
God is near, especially when we don’t
As the early morning light inched across the
carpet, I opened an old devotional, finding the story of the Shunnamite woman in 2 Kings 4. I read her familiar story slowly. God’s
gift to her arrived as an answer to Elisha’s prayer, a baby boy whose smiles
and laughter filled their home. He was all they’d ever wanted, everything
they’d once thought impossible. If only the story ended there. But that’s not
what happened. Just when the boy was old enough to play in the fields while his
father worked the farm, God brought calamity when their dream child died in his
have felt that God let her down, too. Her speechless grief was mine. We
were kin now. I stopped reading to find a tissue, blow my nose, and dry my
Taking a deep breath, I returned to the story and
found this grief stricken woman carrying her dead child up the stairs to Elisha’s
room, where she laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door and went
minute! She went out? Something inside me screamed. How did she do that? Just lay down her dead son, walk out, and shut
the door? What kind of mother does
that, just walks out?
A godly one.
“Perhaps, Virelle,” God whispered, “this godly mother knew what you need to
know. There is no better place for those we love and can’t fix than alone with
Me.” Hm-m. Elisha’s room was the closest place she knew to His presence. I was
beginning to see. Was God calling me to do the same? But how?
“Through prayer,” God said. “Leave them with Me.”
Could I do that, too?
What the Shunnamite woman taught me by example changed
me forever and opened a secret place of prayer, release, and peace I never knew
A place of miracles
Opening to a new page in my journal, I wrote, “The
Keeping Room,” then entered the names of each child I loved whose problems I
couldn’t fix. Laying them at Jesus’ feet, I prayed, “Here’s my child, Lord, and
my broken dreams for them. Keep them in Your care. Let your perfect will be
done in their lives.” Tears flowed as more loved ones came to mind, and I added
them to my list with the same prayer.
Now what do I do?
knew. In prayer, I walked out, and closed the door. For a brief moment, it felt wildly
irresponsible. Just hand them over to
God this fully? And not do anything? Did
I trust Him this much?
Yes, I did,
but it took every mustard seed I had.
I didn’t expect the immediate relief that came. Even
breathing was easier. My loved ones were now God’s responsibility entirely. Steve
and I had done all we could to help them, to guide them. They were nearly
adults now. Why did I ever think the whole job was ours? How foolish!
God-sized outcomes are in His hands alone. Living this truth out was unfamiliar ground,
just as it would be living without our son at home. Hope surfaced again that
God would do something amazing in Bob’s life, in all our children’s lives.
As days melted into weeks and weeks into months,
however, it got harder to wait on the quiet side of the door. Not much happened
except an astronomical phone bill with calls from our son downloading his
anger, asking for money, and occasionally just needing to talk. I wondered, Maybe God can’t handle him either? I
wanted to peek in the keyhole of the Keeping Room and see what Jesus was doing
in there, knock on the door and ask, “How's it going in there? Need any help?” But
I knew He didn’t.
Knowing how to pray during this waiting time was hard.
I didn’t want to pray according to all the old anxieties that threatened to
undo my trust. So what should I pray?
I sensed God wanted me to thank Him by faith, as I had
done earlier while waiting for my unbelieving husband to come to faith. I tried
praising God for His above-all-we-can-ask-or-think answers that were surely on
the way. Many times I cried out in prayer, “Lord, help me thank You for what I
cannot see! Help my weak faith to praise You now!” And He did, one fearful
moment at a time.
became fresh for me: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence
of things not seen.” Learning to thank God ahead of time for answered prayer seeded
a quiet assurance of His pleasure.
Eventually I got busy serving God in new ways. It was natural
to relate to other hurting moms, to offer prayer like a gift of cold water to
those exhausted from discouragement. God had fitted me well for a ministry of
prayer. I’ve become a magnet for broken people.
God does His best work in secret.
many years since then. Within a year, our son was restored to faith through a
close friend, Theresa. He came home briefly, and then returned to western New York to finish high
school with her. Shortly after college, they were married. Our older son’s
heart problem healed miraculously when he was twenty-two. Lauren and Amy, our
two older daughters, have grown in grace and strength as they’ve learned to manage
their individual chronic illnesses. I’m proud of the adults each one has become;
they are our very best friends.
I’m learning God does His best work in secret when we commit
our loved ones into His care alone. Sometimes that will mean keeping our hands
off and our
mouths silent, or harder yet, serving in love, expecting nothing in return.
Always it means thanking Him ahead of time for His answers, His perfect will
being formed in the lives of those we love. “The Keeping Room” is not a prayer gimmick, but a real place where stories emerge that are all about what God does – not what we do. As Abraham laid his son Isaac on the altar, and as the Shunnamite laid her dead son on Elisha’s bed, we lay our loved ones at Jesus’ feet and leave them with Him. Surrendering our lives to Christ is second only to yielding our dearest and our best to Him. It’s the highest form of worship this side of heaven.