In seminary in the 1980s, I became really good friends with a man named Tom. Both of us had been in Southeast Asia during Vietnam. When he married, I was his best man. After we graduated, I went on to ministry in Wisconsin and Tom to ministry in Iowa. But then he started to go into very serious depression. I visited him in Iowa. He shared how painful his life was. He’d done all the right things, gone to the best hospitals he could. I didn’t know what to do. I was lost for words. I did the best I could, prayed with him, and then had to leave for home. Less than a week later, he committed suicide. When I heard about it, I said to God, “If you are God, you could have done something about this. If you can’t, you’re not God. I’ll go back to teaching. I want nothing to do with you.”
That started me on a long journey. I studied family systems therapy and forms of inner healing. It seemed like it made a difference, but there was always something missing: We are to be in a love relationship with God, but beyond head knowledge, how does that work? Somehow I ran across Immanuel Prayer, and I came. When I was receiving ministry, the Lord took me into a collage of different life events where I had felt alone and abandoned: when the perimeter of my base in Vietnam was infiltrated, when my dog died when I was a kid, etc. He showed me that in all of these things I was never alone. I was able to receive that, and it was good.
Then all of a sudden he brought Tom to mind. I hadn’t thought about him in a long time. He died 15 years ago. And the Lord said, “When Tom was dying, I was there.” That changed a lot of things. The Lord also implied that it was time for me to stop doing all this searching out of guilt and shame. It’s time to just connect with him and let him lead. I have driven myself for 15 years to find something so that I would never again be in a position of helplessness like I was with Tom. The Lord said, “Let go of that. I’m here.” That was profound for me. I’m having a hard time doing it because it was my identity for so long. But he’s showing me that if I let go of it, I’ll find that this kind of ministry – which I always did to avoid disappointing, abandoning, and failing others – is really for me. And until it’s fully for me, it can’t be fully for them. So that’s been my journey. It has set me free.