Doesn’t this Scripture seem simple enough? I have been meditating on this Scripture for about a week now and have discovered so many different areas of restlessness in my heart. The Holy Spirit has been more than generous to bring into the light the areas of my life when I am impatient and need salvation.
Do you have an area in your life that wants to keep you from moving forward because it is screaming to be nursed or healed?
If you just answered, “Yes!” like I did, you understand that it feels like we are in a rut sometimes – unable to get our footing and maybe even terrified to move forward. It is like we are stuck in a cave blinded by the darkness and afraid to step into the light.
This morning a priest-colleague of mine shared that he was asked to give a retreat for a community of religious sisters. They asked him to preach on the book of Tobit (One of my favorites!). He shared with me his two favorite verses that he preached on – one related to Tobias and the other to Sarah. Here is the set-up.
Tobit prays for death due to the offenses of his family, forefathers and even believes his wife has stolen a kid goat. To top it off, the village believes he is unclean and has violated the laws of the Lord by burying the dead at an inappropriate time. He says:
And now deal with me according to thy pleasure; command my spirit to be taken up, that I may depart and become dust. For it is better for me to die than to live, because I have heard false reproaches, and great is the sorrow within me. Command that I now be released from my distress to go to the eternal abode; do not turn thy face away from me” (Tobit 2:6).
And then there is Sarah. You know, the young woman who, on her wedding night, the demon Asmodeus strangled her seven previous husbands. Sarah, after being reproached by the maid and accused of causing the death of her seven husbands, reacted this way according to Sacred Scripture:
When she heard these things she was deeply grieved, even to the thought of hanging herself. But she said, “I am the only child of my father; if I do this, it will be a disgrace to him, and I shall bring his old age down in sorrow to the grave…Already seven husbands of mine are dead. Why should I live (Tobit 3:10, 15c)?
Sounds like a great retreat, doesn’t it? Well, here is the punchline…
In these two moments of desolation, which Scripture indicates happened at about the same time in different locations, Tobit and Sarah get up and push forward with their daily responsibilities and duties. No great announcements or fanfare. They just continued on with daily life. And then it happened!
Sacred Scripture says:
The prayer of both was heard in the presence of the glory of the great God. And Raphael was sent to heal the two of them: to scale away the white films of Tobit’s eyes; to give Sarah the daughter of Raguel in marriage to Tobias the son of Tobit, and to bind Asmodeus the evil demon, because Tobias was entitled to possess her. At that very moment Tobit returned and entered his house and Sarah the daughter of Raguel came down from her upper room (Tobit 3:16-17).
After their prayer, they continued their lives completely unaware that the Lord heard their prayer and sent his Archangel Raphael to heal them both – immediately. They were completely unaware of the answer, but their faith and prayer captured the Lord’s heart, the Lord who always wants our wholeness and holiness.
I think many times we think that if the Lord does not answer our prayers immediately and visibly, our prayer is ineffective. I do not even necessarily mean that mountains are moved and valleys raised. I mean that our feelings do not seem to change, our mood does not improve, and we do not receive that “feel good” from the Lord on high that says something is now different. It bothers us and we get stuck in a rut.
The truth of the matter is that He always hears our prayers (Psalm 66:19 and 1 John 5:14) and sends His angels to minister (Daniel 6:22) to our needs (Psalm 91:12). We are encouraged to “wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”
The prayer of desolation is a preparation for growth. It tills the soil of our hearts and prepares it for the work of the Lord. Most importantly, Tobias and Sarah teach us that we must confidently wait upon the Lord even when we feel as if we have been left for dead. We are made in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27) and He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We are His children (1 John 3:1) and He wants to provide for us (Luke 11:11) — even the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4-5).
To love a Gospel life requires us to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) which means pushing forward, giving thanks in all things (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and embracing with joy what the Lord is placing before us, allowing his joy to be our strength (Psalm 28:7). And when God brings us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), it takes some time for our eyes to adjust. But in the light is where we belong (1 Thessalonians 5:5). So, in all this, wait quietly and hope in the Lord, who is our strength and salvation.