Our house is so disorganized. Our lives feel disorganized. And I feel so overwhelmed.
So this morning when I woke up at about 2AM and I couldn't sleep because my mind was reeling with all these to-dos, I laid there for a while stewing and thinking... trying to pray. But all I could think about was how I was so overwhelmed. And I felt a stirring in my soul to be connected to God in his Word. But I didn't know what to read. I have not been doing a good job lately of being disciplined about reading the Bible (which is probably directly related to my feelings of overwhelm... but that's a topic for another day.)
I sat down with my Bible and my computer before me and I went to Biblegateway.com and searched on the term "overwhelmed." I got 19 hits back. And it was interesting reading through the list of them because there were definitely two kinds of overwhelmed. The bad kind and the good kind.
The bad kind of overwhelmed has to do with guilt and sin and death and shame and fear. Our sin overwhelms us. Our shame/guilt overwhelms us. The psalmist speaks of fear that overwhelms us. Jesus says in the garden about how "his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death."
But then there's the good kind of overwhelmed too. These (largely) were related to experiences people had when they encountered Jesus and saw an exhibition of his power. I thought back to times when I've been overwhelmed in the good way and they were pretty much all times when I'd experienced the family of Christ reaching out to us and being a demonstration of Jesus' power. Like the time when Josiah was in the hospital for heart surgery and my family and church family rallied around us with money and childcare and food and help of all kinds. When we were getting ready to move down here and our family and church family rallied around us to help us with all kinds of support-- getting our house redone to get it on the market, helping us move, watching our kids while we were out trying to raise support, supporting us financially. All of these outpourings of love inspired by the love of Christ. As I remembered these things, I remembered that I knew the feeling of being the good kind of overwhelmed.
And as I went through the list of passages on my screen, this verse popped out at me:
As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him. --Mark 9:15
I clicked on to read that verse in context and found this story. It's 15 verses long-- I implore you to read the whole thing.
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”***
Now, there's A LOT in that story that I love. This story has had an impact on my life in many different ways over the years and I could write for a long time about a lot of different aspects of this story. But here's the two specific things that stuck out to me today.
First, the verse I mentioned earlier. There was a bit of a disagreement going on that had drawn a crowd and then Jesus comes on the scene. It says that when the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder. They are in this place of argument and then Jesus walks in and it stops. Instead of continuing to argue, they stopped what they were doing and ran to greet him. Is that our attitude about Jesus? When we encounter Jesus, do we just stop what we're doing and run to greet him? Do we desire to make him feel welcome amongst us? That stepped on my toes a bit because I am guilty of not engaging in the wonder of Jesus. (Especially if I am in an argument. ;)
But the second thing that stuck out to me was the actual story. This is the story of a parent who has a sick child. And I find it interesting because the child exhibited physical symptoms--namely violent seizures--but it becomes very clear by the end of the story that his is a spiritual illness. And it seems that the father in this story had tried different things to try to help his son and nothing worked. He'd asked the disciples to cast out the spirit-- but they could not.
Jesus has the boy brought to him and heals him. Later when the disciples ask why Jesus could cast out the demon but they (the disciples) could not Jesus says, "This kind can come out only by prayer."
Hmmm. From the very beginning of the passage where it was titled (admittedly by the person who translated the NIV version-- not God) "Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed By an Impure Spirit," my mind raced to my son, Yves. I've danced around the issue a lot but never specifically mentioned his name. It is Yves that is causing us a lot of heartache lately. He's a boy who is very ill. Whether his illness is mental, physical, spiritual, emotional-- I don't know. But he needs help. And we've been trying everything we know how to do-- we've been working with a psychologist, we've hired more staff to shadow him 24/7, we've tried so many different things-- and we will continue to try different things. But so far, nothing has worked and we (Nick and I) are SO TIRED from all this striving. You could say we are overwhelmed.
We are currently looking for another rental property that can be a location to house him separate from our house. We are also looking for a trade school/apprenticeship for him as we've been advised that he should not be around young children and so he cannot return to school. (Side note: I am NOT saying that Yves will no longer be a part of our family or that we are giving up on him-- that is far from the truth. I will never give up on Yves. We are just needing more separation, at least for a period of time, for the safety of all involved.)
But back to the story at hand-- what stuck out to me was that from what was described in this passage, it would seem that this was purely a physical ailment. Epilepsy comes to mind. But by the end of the passage when Jesus rebukes the spirit that was controlling this boy, it becomes clear that it was a spiritual sickness. And it could only come out by prayer.
I have been guilty of not praying enough for Yves. In fact, the ugly truth is that when it comes to this situation, I have prayed more for ME than I have for him. I have prayed for the strength to love him. I have prayed for the patience to deal with his issues. I have prayed for the safety and protection of those around him. But I am guilty of doing little praying FOR him. I've looked at this situation as purely an emotional stronghold (ie RAD) as a result of being orphaned at a young age, and being abused when he lived on the street. It didn't really cross my mind (well, not for long anyway) that this could be a spiritual stronghold. I've done much striving without leaning on the source of strength with the most power for healing-- Jesus.
So-- here's the ask...
Would you PLEASE join me in praying for Yves? Would you write him down on your calendar in specific intervals for the next month (daily, every other day, weekly-- whatever works for you)? Would you pray that whatever the cause of this harmful stronghold, that he would encounter JESUS' healing? Would you pray for a renewed mind? Would you pray for freedom from the memories that haunt him? Would you pray for freedom from the baggage of the past? Would you consider doing this together with your spouse or your family?
There is so much of me that doubts. There is so much of me that is filled with unbelief. I know what the statistics say about kids who've been abused/abandoned like Yves has. I know what his therapist/IBESR (Haitian Social Services) are telling me about him and situations like his. But deep down in my soul, I believe that Jesus is stronger. (It's REALLY deep down right now.) So please, join with me in praying for Yves, because maybe this kind can come out only by prayer.
Thank you, friends.
PS-- If you do pray for Yves and you have an extra minute, will you drop me an email to let me know you're praying? (firstname.lastname@example.org) It doesn't need to be elaborate. Just include your name and that you're praying for Yves. I want to verbally agree with each one of your prayers.