Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.
Thursday morning, I stopped by a friend’s office. He was preparing for an important meeting on institutional finances in less than two hours.
The times are stressful. The stacks of spreadsheets and financial statements on his desk tell the story of a community with entrenched, high unemployment. By nightfall the State of California, financially insolvent and in legislative paralysis, will cut off payments to our physicians and hospital for caring for state-insured patients. The specter of cut-backs, lay-offs and reorganization lurk in the muddy, roiling waters of uncertainty. My friend was visibly tense and frustrated with competing demands for data and information while preparing books for an annual audit.
I went on my way to another appointment, but my heart stayed with my friend in silent prayer. The Holy Spirit brought to my mind the opening stanza of my Grandmother Jenny’s favorite hymn:
Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known.
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
— William Walford, 1845
I text-paged those lines to my friend with this message: “You don’t have an hour, but take a minute. Close your door. Look out the window and breathe. He will receive it as a prayer and extend grace and mercy.”
In a few minutes, I received this text page in response. “Dear Friend: Opened blinds & did just that! What a delight and encouragement.”
Later sitting in the client’s finance meeting, I received an angry, whining rant of an email message from a colleague that twisted my gut into knots and left me struggling for composure as I answered questions in the conference room about contracts and regulatory compliance. My set jaw and glowering visage did not escape notice as I was repeatedly asked, “Are you OK?” and told, “You look tired.”
What could I say? As Solomon wisely noted, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Pr 14:10).
The problems continued to mount into the afternoon. The interpersonal strife of others splattered its acid and presentations that were expected to move initiatives forward bogged down in negative speculation and obsessive “bean-counting.” Disputes over employment and controversies over professional conduct and even faith and doctrine surged to high tide by the time that I started home after 8:00 p.m..
Each Friday morning, I send out a Scripture by page to about 40 people. I choose the Scriptures well in advance. The text this week was Psalm 108:12-13 from The Message: “Give us help for the hard task; human help is worthless. In God we’ll do our very best; He’ll flatten the opposition for good.”
But the pressure did not relent as calls started early and kept coming in with allegations of crimes, breaches of integrity, disappointing, heart-sickening sexual harassment and legislative setbacks. I denied the tension, but did not relieve it, by pressing forward with my schedule. Discouragement corroded my spirit.
I picked up the phone to dial a client about a contract, but I set the receiver back in its cradle and put my head in my hands. “Lord, have mercy,” I prayed. “I know that you are present and that you know the issues, but could you please humor me by giving me some sign that you’re with me in this? I am in need of some encouragement here. Thank you.” I went on and made the call.
What I could not know then, was at that very moment, 25 miles away, my friend, to whom I had text-paged the words to the hymn and the suggestion to breathe a prayer, was on his knees about the same concerns that had a vise-grip on my soul. I learned later that his prayer went like this, “Father, you know how tired and stressed that we are. I know that what man means for evil, you, Father, can turn into good. You know that these things aren’t right and we need you to do something about them. But I know that you are good and faithful and will do what needs to be done. Amen”
My phone call was to a favorite client, Nancy, a Christ-follower who directs a non-profit community clinic serving the poor. We talked through the contract solution and offered some mutual words of encouragement giving praise to the Lord for his continuing provision and guidance.
After that call, I went on to another more difficult one. My pager buzzed on my waist and I pulled it out of the holster to read these words from Nancy: “I can never thank you enough for all you do for us. I love you so much my dear brother. Have a blessed weekend with your family.”
Nancy’s words were like that little gust of cool breeze that comes in the heat of the day to tell you the weather is changing and the long dry spell will soon be over. It answered my prayer for encouragement. The Father sends his messages of love through his children.
By late Friday afternoon, the tide of bad reports had ebbed. The Lord relieved a number of situations and sent help from unexpected places. Even when matters weren’t resolved, there was positive guidance for next steps. Phone calls, pages and emails of thanksgiving were exchanged among us.
It is possible to write about things like this and wander off into the dismal swamps explaining the miraculous and the fortunate. I avoid reading books and articles attempting such explanations because God chooses to respond to human requests in different ways and to different degrees. He is the Creator and we are the creatures and he knows what each of us needs, when we need it, and why. I am long past believing that God has “one-size-fits-all” solutions for us beyond eternity itself.
I am very mindful that there are thousands of persons who will read this message in the coming weeks. Some of you are staggering under burdens of illness, conflict, alienation and sin that make what I’ve related here no more than a child’s playground scratch. There is always the thought, “Well, it is all fine and good that God gave you friends and encouragement when you needed them, but why am I alone in my mess? Why do my prayers only bounce off of the ceiling?”
It would be lying to you if I said I knew why. All I know comes out of my understanding of God’s Word and my personal experience. This may be very hard to understand, but after paying the tuition of irretrievable losses of precious people and things and enduring heartbreaks and disappointments that I was powerless to prevent or heal, my trust in God has strengthened against the “things” that can happen. I have learned to take the long view of the eternal love that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, [and] never ends” (1 Cor 13:7-8a).
That love is unsparing of itself, wrote the Apostle Paul. It has a name, “Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who was at the right hand of God, who intercedes for us.” The harshest circumstances, deepest distress, or cruelest death will not separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:31-39).
But here is grace for us, the extraordinary power of that love belongs to God alone but it is personified in the living face of Jesus shining out of the hearts of imperfect, ordinary believers like you and me. That’s why “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible” in us (2 Cor 4:6-10).
That’s what those text-pages, emails, calls and prayers add up to–the love of Jesus made visible and real in the lives of men and women who put their faith in him. All the Scripture one can memorize, the Bible prophecy one can chart and the theology one can read and argue are just noise without that love (1 Cor 13:1-3). It is that love that converted me on the day that I realized that I could not “go it alone.” I am blessed and grateful to share in it and tell you that it is possible.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him.” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,
Kent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.
Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.
Kent and his beloved Patricia are enjoying their 31st year of marriage. They are the proud parents of Andrew, a college student.