Quote on prayer from Max Lucado on a picture with a candle.

What do we do when our loved one has barricaded themselves from God? When, despite our desperate prayers and all the times and ways we’ve tried to reach out, they slip further from Him and into greater deception, greater sin, and greater emotional and spiritual slavery? In those situations, when decades pass with no hint of progress, it’s easy to give up. To conclude the person is simply too hard-hearted.

Have you been there? I have. With that friend who’s so quick to downplay and discount the miraculous. With the relative who, during times of crisis, seemed so open to spiritual conversations, only to numb themselves with Netflix and social media once their difficulties pass. That individual that had been so clearly touched by God, was being drawn by Him, then turned the other way.

When that happens, our fervent and steadfast prayers can turn rote. Then silent.

At least, that tends to be my progression. But then God reminds me, no matter how dark the human heart or how bleak things appear, His arm is never too short, His hearing and His heart never too dull, to save.

May we all exhibit the courage of the Canaanite woman who pushed her way into a house filled with religious students, and Jewish ones at that, for the sake of her child. You can read her full story in Matthew 15. To paraphrase, Scripture tells us Jesus and His disciples traveled 30-40 miles into Gentile country where they found a place to stay.

I imagine this made the disciples quite uncomfortable—to be in Gentile territory, in a Gentile home, most likely eating off of Gentile dishes. According to 19th century theologian Charles Ellicott, “The strict Jew would not enter a Gentile’s house, nor sit on the same couch, nor eat or drink out of the same vessel.” To them, “the very dust of a heathen city was defiling.”

But there was Jesus, intentionally taking His disciples into Tyre, a port city known for its idolatry, corrupt merchants, and sexual immorality. This would’ve been the equivalent to the mega-church pastor and his staff sleeping at the local crack house.

The disciples must have felt on edge from the moment they crossed over ancient Israel’s borders. But before they’d even had a chance to settle in, a Gentile woman barged into the house.

A woman with a demon possessed daughter.

To the Jewish mind, I’m not sure this situation could’ve been any more “unclean.”

The more devout would’ve seen this intruding woman as a threat. Rather than a desperate mother pleading for the life of her child, the girl she’d once nursed and swaddled and sang to sleep. The daughter she’d watched take her first steps and speak her first words, ravished and enslaved.

How did the disciples respond to this woman’s anguished pleas? In essence, “She’s a nuisance. Get her out of here.”

And I have to wonder, who’s my Canaanite? That person I’m tempted to categorize by their sin rather than their humanity? The one I’ve deemed hopeless, beyond God’s love and grace? The person who, if I’m honest, disgusts me?

And who is fervently praying for that person I’m so quick to cast aside, as I am for my loved one and this anguished mother was for her child: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David!”

In this simple yet profound address, the woman displayed more faith than the “righteous” Pharisees who’d gotten all worked up over some dirty dishes in the passage prior. More faith, perhaps, than the disciples acting so contemptuous before her. She knew Jesus was her daughter’s only hope and so she boldly came. She refused to leave until she received what she came for—her daughter made whole.

That was precisely what Christ provided.

Jesus said to her, “‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment” (Matthew 15:28, NIV).

Here’s what I find most inspiring. The woman’s daughter wasn’t going to come to Jesus on her own. In fact, had she encountered Him, I imagine she would’ve cussed Him out or mocked Him. She was about as far from Christ as a person could get. A hopeless case, from a human perspective.

But her mom wasn’t dissuaded by human logic, the disciple’s scorn, nor Jesus’s delayed response. Her love for her daughter was simply too strong.

I want that same kind of determined, persevering faith, whether I must pray for a day, a week, or years.   

We all have “Canaanites” in our circle, maybe even in our families. Those people we fear might be too far from God. Those loved ones we’ve prayed for for decades, only to see them slip further from Christ. But even now, God’s arm is not too short to save.

Our prayers matter.

Who have you been desperately praying for? How does this woman from Tyre encourage you to persist? Share your thoughts, and your prayer requests, with us in the comments below, and let’s encourage and pray for and with one another!

For those following our chronological reading through the New Testament, can you believe we’re on week 26?! Here’s this week’s reading, beginning with the account of this faith-filled Canaanite woman:

Week 26 New Testament Chronological Reading Plan Daily Readings

And, fun news! Wholly Loved Unshakable Unbreakable Joy Bible study is now available for FREE! Grab your copy HERE.

Dealing with Toxic People, with Gary Thomas – Ep. 83 Faith Over Fear

Dealing with Toxic People, with Gary Thomas – Ep. 84 We can’t force someone to love us or treat us well, but we can guard our peace and joy. In fact, to live the fruit bearing and gospel-sharing lives that Christ created us for, we must learn when to walk beside and when to walk away. In this episode, prolific writer Gary Thomas, author of When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People, shares insights he learned when studying Christ’s interactions with the various people He encountered. Find Gary Thomas at: https://www.garythomas.com https://www.facebook.com/authorgarythomas https://www.instagram.com/garythomasbooks/ Resource mentioned: When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People: https://amzn.to/3dsPRYR Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails: https://bit.ly/31y43gt Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. Did anything Gary said cause you to reevaluate your thoughts on some relational encounters? 3. How would you describe the difference between difficult people and toxic people? 4. Consider your relationships. Are there people in your life who steal your peace and joy? 5. Why is it important to guard your peace and joy? 6. Consider a challenging relationship. In what ways do your interactions with that individual make it difficult to love others well? 7. In what ways do your interactions with that individual make it challenging to live out your calling? 8. What might it look like to leave an interaction mentally? 9. How can you show love and compassion while protecting yourself? Episode Image Credit: Syuzanna Guseynova
  1. Dealing with Toxic People, with Gary Thomas – Ep. 83
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  3. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  4. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  5. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79

Quote on sitting with those who are hurting

(Today’s devotion comes from this week’s first day’s Bible reading passage. See plan below.)

My pride, insecurity, and fierce hold on my comfort level challenge my ability to love others well. I give of my time and my money, my energy … but only so much.  To love deeper, I need to sit. Sit with my Savior, the One who floods my soul with everything good and right and lovely. And I need to sit in other people’s pain so that it becomes my own.

Years ago, I watched a profound video that halted my thoughts and convicted my soul. In it, a man was advocating for orphans he’d encountered personally while visiting a developing country. Seeing them face-to-face as they scrounged through garbage cans, those children, once statistics easily forgotten, became real. And in that moment, God asked him how he’d respond if the child digging through trash were his child. Then God told him the child was His—God’s.

I have to pause there. I know I can’t take on every wrong, but I can speak love and hope to those God brings near. Through grace and truth-filled actions, I can introduce them to my Savior. Even if that means actively tearing through the barriers that keep them from Him.

I can follow the example of the men who carried a paralytic—perhaps a friend or family member—to Christ. Scripture doesn’t tell us how far they’d traveled, whether a mile or ten. During this time many considered paralytics cursed by God. As a result, these individuals often experienced ongoing rejection. I imagine the loneliness hurt most. But the men in John 12 stood by their friend. Even if that meant pushing through a throng of desperate people, embracing the stigma of that of that time of associating with a paralytic, and potentially angering the religious elite—those with the power to expel people from their faith community. (John 12:42.)

The Bible says everyone “gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door …” (Mark 2:2, NIV).

Pause to envision these men standing on the outskirts, surveying the crowd. Place yourself in that position for a moment, needing to push through with someone our culture stigmatized.

Who is that person for you? The one our society keeps on the fringe, ignores, and even disdains?

If you were those men, would you have hung back, telling yourself all the reasons Jesus didn’t have time for your friend?

That’s not how these men responded. Verses 2-5 tells us,  “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.”

That’d be the equivalent of someone removing your window to crawl inside your house. Polite, civilized people just don’t do that sort of thing.

Those desperate to see their loved ones encounter Christ do.

The result? Verse 5 states, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

When Jesus saw their faith.

Their faith propelled these men into action. They knew their friend needed Jesus and faith propels lovecouldn’t reach Him on his own, so they bridged the gap. They broke through the barriers keeping the paralytic from life, and received what they longed for and more.

Reading this, I wonder—who does God want me to step into the gap for? What “roof” might I need to unhinge or “crowd” might I need to push through? More importantly, will I? Or will I stand on the fringe, waiting for an easy opening, one that fits my schedule, my comfort level?

What about you? Who might God be asking you to bring to Him? Will you?

For those following our chronological New Testament Bible reading plan:

Bible reading plan week 10

Speaking of loving one another well, let’s start with one of our most precious relationships. Join me and my Wholly Loved team for our upcoming mother-daughter conference, Beautiful Mess.

Find out more HERE.