Whatever it takes. This, I have come to realize, is one of the most profound prayers that one can pray for himself or for others. It is so common to want the easy road - to expect that suffering will never haunt you. And it is also common to try to avoid it and to try to help others avoid it, too. Thus, we try to be the ultimate savior - for ourselves and for others - all the while interfering with the only One who truly is.
If there is one lesson I wish I could've learned sooner in life, it is this: coming to the end of ourselves often leads us through suffering; yet, in the end, it can lead us to the beginning of God. He is found in the loneliness of the desert of life, in the hush of the longing soul. If lives can be so transformed for the better by the hidden touch of pain and adversity, why do we fear it so much? Why do we run from the very thing that is God's instrument to redemption? We cannot avoid, or save others, from the hardships that come with poor decisions, the consequences that come from bad mistakes, or the surprise of meeting unexpected pain. It finds all of us anyway. And the more we try to fight it, the worse it gets.
Whatever it takes. I have begun to pray this - first for myself, and now for several others. It is a radical prayer. One that is breathed in daring faith and proof that God is powerful enough to meet every one of us at our point of brokenness. We cannot be everywhere at all times to rescue everyone from the evils of life. We cannot spare them the harshness of a sinful world, much less escape it ourselves. That is something that only God can achieve. The redemption of mankind can only be found at the foot of the cross of the One who died for them. This same God not only has the ability to forgive but also to restore, to make whole. To repair. All-present, He sees every single hurting soul that exists and stands ready to come and touch their brokenness. We lack such an ability, although we often like to think that we possess it. We are unable to keep each other from falling, from failing. Only God can do such a thing.
Whatever it takes. Removed from anger and malice, such a prayer can be revolutionary: God, do whatever it takes to bring us to the end of ourselves; to make us bow the knee and surrender; to allow us to invite You into the pain that has wounded us so deeply; to hear You searching for us and to come rather than run and hide. Do whatever it takes to cause us to lessen our confidence in ourselves and to increase it in You. Do whatever it takes. Whatever. Anything. And, if we suffer, if we hurt, if we must bear our own self-inflicted misery, so be it. Just allow us to find You. End the striving. Stop the thrashing about. Make us be still - even if it means that You pin us in a corner. If it means You knock us down and strike us blind on a dusty road...or leave us stranded on a lonely island with one, tattered shirt to wear; if it means You put us behind the confining bars of a prison cell, or in a hospital bed facing our own mortality. Regardless of what You choose, do whatever it takes! Even if it requires everything. Being left with nothing isn't such a bad thing. Place our sins - even the secret ones - before the light of Your face (Psalm 90:8). Make us transparent. Reveal everything because, in so doing, we are set free.
Whatever it takes. I pray it over the troubled soldiers as they sleep tonight; I pray it over an angry relative who needs to experience God's peace; I pray it over dear friends whose family has been shattered by bitterness and pain; I pray it over a young man as he sits in a federal jail, facing 26 years of solitariness and removal from loved ones...Every unforgiving thought, every crime, every moment of shame in your life...God can break through it all. God can bring life from death, hope from despair. It is what He does. No one is too broken!
Whatever it takes. This prayer has changed my life, and I know it has the power to change yours.