Green Pastures in the Middle of the Desert
Here’s the truth …
“your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8 NLT).
I was walking through the quiet hallways of my church recently on my way to the bookstore where I serve one day a week to get it ready for Sunday morning when I became overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude at God's provision. We have only become members of this church recently, but it feels just like home, a true sanctuary in our year filled with wounds from God's people, as Anne Graham Lotz calls them. In fact, when we first started attending this church, we were at a picnic on the expansive lawn outside of it, seeing the verse from Psalm 23 come to life for us: "He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the quiet waters, He refreshes my soul" (Psalm 23:2-3 NIV). And that He did.
God is in the provision business. He provides strength for the weary, comfort for the brokenhearted, sustenance for the hungry, and on and on I could go.
In my thankful state, He brought to my mind something that He did just this week to put an exclamation mark on His provision. This time, it was for someone else, but He used me to make it happen.
We had been supporting missionaries to China for many years. They rescued children who would otherwise be raised in an orphanage and provided a loving home for them as they prepared them for the adoption process. These missionaries were led back to the States after their selfless years of service, and we continued to support them in their transition. We received word this week that their fund had been all paid up, so our money could be directed elsewhere for God's Kingdom now. I said a quick prayer, asking God for direction, and I heard a voice in my head say, "Give it to Kathy." I wriggled my face in confusion, somehow knowing instinctively that God was giving me an answer, then and there, and that He wasn't talking about my couple of older relatives named Kathy but about someone I didn’t know out there somewhere. I pictured in my head a small child. I stored all of that in my brain for later.
When my husband came home from work, I said nothing about my directive but asked him to pray for direction for this freed-up money while he went on a bike ride.
I inquired later, quite nonchalantly, if He had any revelation about where to give the money. I braced myself, because I knew if he said anything about a child, I had confirmation from the Lord that He, indeed, wanted me to find a child named Kathy. Well, David said that he thought we should take on an additional child from Compassion International. We have seen such positive fruit come from our other Compassion relationships, so that seemed like a great idea to him. I came clean to him that if that was the case, we specifically needed to find a child named Kathy. The only problem: Could there possibly be a little girl with such an American name among those needing sponsored in Africa or Central America? David was pretty skeptical.
Not deterred, I went to Compassion's website and left all other options open except for the name. Lo and behold, four little girls named Kathy appeared on my screen! Four! I was taken aback, because now I had to choose. How in the world would I narrow it down? Then out of the corner of my eye, a number that was meaningful to me jumped off the screen. One girl’s birthdate was also the date of my wedding anniversary. That settled it! Little Kathy from Honduras became ours moments later. God knew exactly how I would choose so that His Kathy would become our Kathy, too.
It got me thinking on that grateful morning in my quiet church that God not only cared for us this year by providing just the right people and activities for my entire family at this new church at just the right time when we needed to be enveloped with love, but He was able to use someone thousands of miles away from three-year-old Kathy to provide for her. It certainly made the verse, “the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid” (Luke 12:7 NLT), much more meaningful for me than ever before.
Anne Graham Lotz, in her book Wounded by God’s People, gives countless examples of God’s provision for those who have been wounded, cast aside, or placed in a situation of great need. She reminds us of the well that appeared out of nowhere in the desert for Hagar and Ishmael after they were exiled from Abraham and Sarah’s camp: “When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. ‘I don’t want to watch the boy die,’ she said, as she burst into tears” (Genesis 21:15-16 NLT). It was then that God made the promise to her through an angel that not only would Ishmael not die, he would one day have his own nation of descendants.
The immediate provision came when, right then, Hagar “saw a well full of water” (Genesis 21:19 NLT). Right there in the middle of the desert, God provided refreshment. Graham Lotz’s thread throughout her text of God’s concern for Hagar and Ishmael while also obviously caring about Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac resonated most with me. His heart is that big!
You might think that you don't matter to God but you would be so wrong. Not only did He send His Son to this earth just for you, He walks by your side daily. If you aren't aware that He is there, simply ask Him to show Himself to you. And, boy, will He ever!
I needed reminding of those clear examples of His provision. But the reality is: “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8 NLT). If He can provide refreshment for people like Kathy and Hagar and Ishmael and me, then you, too, are in the palm of God's very capable hands.
… and that’s the truth as I know it!