“The thought of Christ’s intercession has taken on a new preciousness these last days. I was reading how God had given a wonderful gift of prayer to two friends. They would fight through together till His answer came over in showers. And the thought came – oh that we had someone among us here able to pray like that. Then with the vividness of an audible voice almost, the thought came: ‘Is not Jesus enough?’ Since then the sense of praying with Him alongside has been so beautiful.” 23 March 1904
Oh, that I had someone… How many times, through my childhood and youth (adulthood!) has this thought passed through my mind. Someone who completely understands me (translated: “agrees with me”)… someone immediately accessible to respond, at my whim, to my each and every mood. Perhaps this “perfect-friend-seed” was planted during my childhood obsession with the Anne of Green Gables books and her search for and conquest of a “kindred spirit.”
Truth is, with increased life experience one comes to understand that one can not – should not – look to any one person – parent, spouse, child, friend – to meet all one’s needs. It is a false expectation. It just isn’t possible. So one tries to patch together a support system to carry us through the roller coaster of emotions from the tedium of every day routines to the joyous ecstasy of occasional highs, seeking to balance relational supports with the constructs and activities which uplift and sustain the spirit.
But sometimes we hit a brick wall. It could be situational: a move, a new baby, change in vocation. It could be trauma: death, disaster, divorce. It could be an acute but temporary crisis: faced and fixed. Or it could be a chronic on-going situation without any real end in sight. And with such challenges comes an overwhelming sense of despair. Even surrounded with people we feel an inner isolation. Loneliness. Who can I trust? To whom can I turn? Is there “a safe place?” Vulnerable to “fill the void” we turn to a quick fix which, in the end, serves as salt to an unquenchable thirst.
While much of Lilias’ writing focuses on God-affirming, life-affirming observations, sometimes weariness and isolation seep into her journals: references to a heavy heart, sleepless nights, skies of brass blocking her prayers. As indicated in the above diary entry, she longed for a friend who would partner alongside her in the “wonderful gift of prayer.” Someone who fully understood her mission. Someone who could be counted on to call forth the very gates of heaven on behalf of her vision. Then, into the stillness spoke a thought almost audible in its clarity – and affirmation: “Is not Jesus enough?”
There have been times in my life when my carefully constructed emotional/spiritual scaffolding has failed me. My support system has not been equal to my need: a childhood move. . . a college breakup. . . crisis in ministry. . . a block in parenting. . . a relational disappointment. . . hidden health concern. . . a major life transition . . . At such times I’m overcome with an acute sense of aloneness – even hopelessness. What do I do? Where do I turn? And the question is apt: “Is not Jesus enough?”
As long as my support systems worked I was content to lean on them. It was only when they didn’t – yes, I confess, as last resort – I turned solely to Jesus and sought from Him what He offered all along: to be my sufficiency.
Richard Foster, in his small volume, Sanctuary of the Soul, relates a particular crisis in his life that led to self-pity and frustration. “My walking took me into a nearby woods and, as I walked along by the light of the moon, my complaining prayers began to diminish and I became more and more quiet. Finally, I fell into total silence. A still listening silence. It was then that God spoke, spoke out of the stillness and into my frustration… ‘You are frustrated and sorry for yourself,’ God seemed to be saying. ‘Sorry for yourself because you do not have all your desires satisfied. But if you will be with me you do not have to have all your desires satisfied. With me is ultimate and complete satisfaction. If you are genuinely with me you are in the best place possible.'”
He acknowledged that while nothing outwardly changed at the moment – nor was there any assurances of the same – he changed. “The voice of the true Shepherd was altogether sufficient.”
“Is not Jesus enough?” At the end of the day, He is the only sure thing. He has promised: “My grace is sufficient for all your needs.” He promises. Can we appropriate the same?
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire, or seek, but Thee.”
Painting: from 1899 Diary