Guest post by Langton Place Campus Pastor, Pete Drake
“Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez saying, ‘I gave birth to him in pain.’ Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.’ And God granted his request.” 1 Chronicles 4: 9-10
This PHS Biblical Framework passage from 1 Chronicles is one of the most intriguing two-verse life-stories in all of scripture. The name “Jabez” literally means “pain,” or “he will cause pain.” At the time of his prayer, all he could see and feel was pain.
Reflecting on this passage takes me back just a couple of years ago, to a transition time in my life when, like Jabez, all I could see was pain. The Lord had clearly led my wife and I to step down from the senior pastorate of our beloved and healthy church that we had served for nearly 20 years. The next step was nowhere in sight. I had no income, and I was grappling with a very painful health condition. All I could see and feel was pain, inside and out.
One particular day, I was sitting in a coffee shop, waiting to pick my wife up from the airport. I was silently thinking and praying, asking God to give me strength, to take my life and make of it something useful to Him. As I sipped my coffee, a haggard-looking teenager walked up to me and asked to use my cell phone. At first I was wary of his motives – but it seemed that God was prompting me to open my heart. I asked the young man to sit on the bench beside me.
As he began to open his heart to me, I realized that I was hearing the painful story of a hurting young man. The bruises on his face only told half the story. His parents sent him from out of state to Minnesota to receive inpatient treatment for drug addiction. Although he had graduated from the program, he wasn’t living clean and had been evicted from his half-way house and was now homeless. He shared that he was beaten and robbed the night before and that he was now looking for a place to stay. I wondered if the kind of friends he was contacting with my phone would simply lead him back into addiction.
I began explaining to this broken young man how Jesus came to save people and set them free. I told him that I knew God led me to that coffee shop to help him. I knew he was in danger, not only from the sense that God seemed to be giving me, but from reading his messages on my phone I knew that he had arranged to stay with a friend and use drugs that very night.
God opened his heart. That day I took that young man back to the treatment center he had left. We called his parents, who flew up and took him home. Several days later his mother called to tell me that the friend that he had arranged to stay with died of a drug overdose the very same night I had met him. If God hadn’t intervened, my young friend may have used the same drugs and died that night also.
Today my young friend is drug free and living for God. He is serving at a Christian drug rehab ministry and back in college. He has God in his life and he is looking with hope and joy into his future. Most importantly, he is no longer living in pain.
That day in the coffee shop God was answering my prayer. What if I hadn’t been open? I didn’t like where my life was at – but I now believe that I was exactly where God had arranged for me to be. How encouraging!
Every day at Presbyterian Homes I meet people who are facing different transition points. I continue to be inspired by many who use their pain to minister to others. I see residents supporting one another through grief or volunteering their time to knit prayer shawls for those recovering in transitional care. They are doing God’s work. God is waiting for each one of us, like Jabez, or my young friend, to give our unclear futures and honest pain to Him. God will make a beautiful mosaic out of our broken pieces. We simply need to give it to Him and trust Him in the midst of pain and difficulty.
If He answered Jabez’s painfully honest cry, He will answer yours too!
Please join me in prayer for all those serving in the ministry of Presbyterian Homes & Services:
Lord, please expand my opportunities and my impact in such a way that I touch more lives for Your honor. Shape the next part of my destiny. Put me where you want me to be. Let me do more for You! Amen.