Lord, if there is anything in me that is unlike You, please up root it!" I was praying. And, to be honest, I felt rather pleased about my spiritual progress. Just a few days ago on a busy Friday afternoon, the Devil failed twice to get me into emotional fireworks. First, a beautiful glass jug was cracked, and then a special black skirt was scorched. After praying over both misfortunes, I congratulated myself at knowing the difference between "just things" and matters of eternal value.
Today, however, the Devil caught me off guard with something bigger. Early this morning when I opened the bedroom door, I noticed that the garage door was open. My heart flew into my mouth.
"Dan!" I shouted to my sleeping husband, "Thieves have gotten into your car!"
We scrambled into the garage. The sight was so horrible I could hardly look. Every valuable object was gone from the car—tires, mirrors, headlights, battery, radio/tape player, and so on. What a wreck!
Bursting into tears, I cried, "Lord, how can You allow this?" That car was dedicated for Your service!" I rattled on and on in prayer until I thought of the perfect thing to do: put a curse on the thieves.
"Lord," I shouted at the top of my voice, "paralyze those thieves! Visit them right now and make them know we are Your servants. Paralyze them from head to foot!"
Upon further thought, I modified my request somewhat: "Paralyze all but their mouths, Lord, so they can confess the deed and we can recover every item of the cad"
Later that morning myhusband called the family together for prayer. In his usual serenity he committed the matter to the Lord. He said he wasn't going to dictate his own will to God, but only wanted to thank Him that His will would be done. He said a few more nice things as well.
Well, I didn't think his prayer was effective in getting through to God, so I chimed in with Pen tecos tal fervor to demand that He rain fire and brimstone upon the thieves. Hadn't God sent bears at Elisha's demand? Hadn't He sent fire when Elijah prayed? And hadn't He told us that if we asked anything, believing, He would answer? "You have to paralyze them," I begged. "Lord, You have to! Let the world know we are Your true servants."
I got up from my knees feeling satisfied that I had offered abetter prayer than my husband, one that the mighty Jesus couldn't help answering. My husband and I decided to fast and pray for the day.
We live at the mission house, with offices just downstairs. The compound soon was bustling as our fellow workers came up to express concern and sympathy. Their sentiments of love warmed my heart. Then, as my husband visited the police station to report the crime, I managed to dress the kids and send them off to school. Following worship downstairs with my colleagues. I was too numb to stay around the office, so I went back up to our living quarters.
Throughout the day I spent much time on my knees, wrestling with the Lord to mete out suitable punishment on the culprits. I even reminded God that He hadn't done anything last year when we were burglarized, even though I prayed that He would force the thieves to bring our things back. Surely this time He would act if I meant anything at all to Him.
Soft voice inside
I tried my best to ignore the soft voice inside me with its gentle urgings: "Hannah, love your enemies, pray for those who hurt you, and forgive the thieves." was sure God couldn't be asking that of me. Why God Himself knew this was our only means of transportation. My husband is the mission president, and we can't get around much without a car. The Lord surely understood why we hadn't been able to insure the car—the mission simply had no funds. So how could He permit such a thing to happen and then expect me to forgive the perpetrators!
Well, the Lord continued to reason with me all day long with that soft small voice. By late afternoon I was ready to listen. I recalled that when Christ came, He taught us to love our enemies. "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth... But I say unto you: Love your enemies— (Matt. 5:38, 44, NIV). "So, Hannah, forgive the thieves! Pray for them!
Suddenly the reality of my situation dawned on me. I was not justified in praying for God to paralyze the thieves, no matter how much the loss hurt. Anyway, as my little daughter pointed out, how could I expect the stolen items to be brought back if the thieves were paralyzed? So I started saying, "Lord, help me to forgive the thieves, and just give me peace."
In tune with grace
By the time the family met for sundown worship, I found myself completely in tune with my husband as he read from Romans 8:28-39. I testified to him and the children that I was no longer wishing for the thieves to become paralyzed. Instead I felt sorry for them that they let themselves be instruments in the hands of the enemy.
And that's where the story ends. The thieves were not caught, so the car is still crippled, and I have no idea how we will get it back into working order. However, the Lord has brought great good out of this tragedy by teaching me to forgive the unforgivable.
Thank you, Jesus.