We travel all over the country, and even to other countries quite often, preaching in a huge variety of settings. Occasionally we are in large, cathedral-type churches, but most often find ourselves in settings that are a little less traditional. This past weekend began with students at SWO, then we hit the road on Saturday night so we could be in a church in South Carolina on Sunday morning. Something interesting happened in the church we were in on Sunday morning. As the worship team was leading, a lady became very distraught and began to cry out loud as she staggered down the aisle to the front of the church. She fell down and began to thrash around and cry out in loud, gargled, unintelligible speech.
This happened early in the service and just before I was to stand up and preach. The commotion was very attention-grabbing and pretty much took everyone in the large building by surprise. It was as if time stopped. People fidgeted, some looked away, some stared. I mean this lady was WAILING. It was loud and disturbing.
Little, my wife, and some godly ladies from the church were very sensitive to this dear, hurting lady, and basically picked her up and carried her out. They ministered to her and learned that she is a woman much like the women Christ often ministered to. She has suffered a life of sexual abuse, substance abuse, broken relationships, and darkness.
I think of the woman at the well in John 4, and of Mary Magdalene, who had been completely controlled by demons when Christ entered her world, setting her free from a most tainted and abusive past. So many people are hurting, and the church should be the place they can come to find answers and freedom. But when they get here, we have to point them to Jesus. The Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation, and it alone can break the kind of chains that this poor, hurting woman is bound by.
As Little and the ladies at that church shared Christ with this lady, she heard the ONE message that alone can heal her, save her, and set her free from a past of being abused, abusing, and darkness. They spent an hour with her, sharing and praying. By then, the worship service was over so Little walked her home and prayed with her one more time. She has been heavy in my mind today. I wondered how she will respond to the ONLY thing that can save her. I wonder what she will do with the Gospel.
The long drive home was filled with reflective silence, interspersed with conversation about all that had taken place. It is impossible to look that far into darkness and pain and not be shaken.
Christ was once interrupted while he preached in a synagogue. He silenced demons and demanded they release the man they controlled. We get nervous when people start to talk about the spiritual realm, but we need only an encounter like this to realize that for so many people, the reality of darkness is far more normal than the reality of light. Christ is the only hope for them. He is the only hope for us. We need to find them and give them that hope.