Joe at My Door—Part 2

July 5, 2014

by Maria Fontaine

Visit three

Joe came by for a third visit one afternoon. As we began to chat, it became obvious that he had been thinking deeply about what we’d talked about in our last conversation. He seemed more determined and confident to speak about things that were deep in his heart. He immediately came straight to the point.

He asked me, “If God cares so much about us, why does He allow all this evil, even to people who try to do the right thing? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t He make everything right and good and fair? If God cares so much, why does He allow so much terrible stuff? Why is there such awful poverty, violence, greed, killing and pain?”

This was a lengthy conversation, but here are a few points:

“Everything in this world isn’t going to be right and perfect, because God has given man free choice and some of his choices are going to be the wrong ones and will have consequences that he can learn from. But this life isn’t just a time to learn about what is wrong. It’s also a time to learn what love, unselfishness, caring, mercy, and forgiveness bring. Many things don’t seem fair in this life, and they’re not, but God who loves us is in charge. In the end, He’ll make certain that everything is rectified.”

During our first talk, Joe had said something a bit mysterious, but didn’t seem to want to elaborate on it at the time. When I had asked him what he thought about religion, he’d said, “I don’t really have any feelings about that. I shut down my feelings in this area because of those things that happened when I was growing up.”

He was clearly struggling with something that he seemed to want to say but appeared a little afraid to bring to the surface for some reason.

Then he began, “Where I grew up, poor people had to start working very young. When I was twelve I was working on a garbage truck. There was another boy my age working with me who was a bit mentally challenged and also suffered from epilepsy. He and his family needed food and other things, and he would ask people for them, but he was very pushy about it. He did things that he shouldn’t have done, but they weren’t malicious and sometimes he didn’t understand what was right and wrong behavior. I really don’t believe he would’ve done anything intentional to hurt anyone. He seemed so pure and honest that, in some strange way, I thought of him almost as an angel.

“I had decided to be his friend. He needed a friend, so I looked out for him. But one day while we were standing on the garbage truck working, he had a seizure, fell off the truck and under its wheels, and was killed instantly. I’ve never talked about this with anyone before. I blamed myself and felt that somehow I could have done something to prevent it. That, on top of everything else I’d been through, tormented me for the next five years, until it was more than I could bear and I shut down emotionally. But,” he hesitated, “I’ve never gotten over this.”

I believe Joe was opening up this very deep and painful part of his past, because he was hoping against hope that I could help him after all these years. I was silent for some moments, honoring his grief, and praying desperately that the Lord would give me the words to help him to understand and to comfort his broken heart.

I began, “Joe, this was a terrible thing that you had to go through, and I don’t wonder that you are still experiencing mental and emotional anguish over this. I’m so very sorry. It can’t be fixed easily and quickly, but maybe I could tell you something that might help to make it easier to bear.

“I think that at times God brings people into our lives who have a major impact on us; they’re like God’s angels—whether literally or figuratively—who seem to be sent to help us in some way. Sometimes they might even be a test to show how we will respond to them, how we will treat them. Sometimes they are people who are different, people who for some reason might be social outcasts, people who are poor or have some sort of handicap that requires us to decide whether or not to make an extra effort to help them or to stand up for them in some way. You responded with love and kindness and friendship. That was the right and loving thing to do.

“It’s very difficult to understand why someone comes into this life with these difficulties or afflictions. It’s something that we probably won’t be able to make sense of until we get to heaven, but I know that there is a reason for whatever the Lord allows. Your friend did suffer many things during his life, but I personally believe that whatever he suffered here on earth has been more than repaid by Jesus in the next life. I believe that the Lord in His mercy and love took your friend home to save him from what would be further pain and heartbreak.

“Terrible as the event was, I think your friend probably went without suffering. It’s still something that is hard to think about, but one thing that you don’t have to do anymore is to grieve over your friend’s death. Knowing the depths of the Lord’s compassion, I’m certain that when this situation happened, Jesus took this child into His loving arms and welcomed him into His home. You can be happy for your friend, who is now in a place where he can never be hurt again.”

Joe seemed deeply moved by this thought, and finally he broke into a beautiful smile, as if a heavy weight had been lifted from him.

I said, “Joe, I know you have deep wounds that you have suffered for so long. But what you have gone through has given you tenderness for others and a desire to do all you can to help them. Did you know that in all the love that you showed to your friend, all the love that you’ve shown to all those you’ve come in contact with, you’ve been doing that for Jesus? You’ve been showing Him love. You’ve been serving Him in one of the greatest ways possible.” Then we read together Matthew 25:35–40:

‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’[1]

Joe responded to this by saying, “I can see that my life, as difficult as it’s been, has shaped me into the kind of person I am. I’ve developed an understanding of people and compassion for them because I know what it feels like to hurt and to suffer.”

I was excited that Joe was accepting how God was taking all those difficult things in his life and was using them for good. I showed him Romans 8:28 and we talked about how this is such an important principle. Putting what we face in life in this context replaces the hopelessness, guilt, anger, frustration, and the need for everything to be “fair” in the moment, with trust in Him and the confidence that in the end it will work for our good and the good of others. Joe had been experiencing the change in perspective that God brings in each of His followers’ lives as they learn to trust Him in all things.

As Joe looks back now on his life, he can do it with a different outlook. No matter how bad things had been, adversity builds character. All great men and women have had adversity in their lives, and he was in very good company.

I felt that Joe could use a little financial help, so I told him, “Joe, you’re not the only one that is benefiting from our talks together—I am very much enjoying them and learning a lot too. And I’m getting to know you, which is a rewarding experience for me.” (I handed him an envelope.) He curiously took it and opened it. Then realizing what it was, he protested, “I don’t want to take this. I wanted to come to talk with you, at first because you were so friendly and I was interested to hear what you’d have to say, but then it turned into a very important time for me. I’ve gotten so much out of these conversations, and I don’t want to take money for it. I can’t accept this.”

I responded, “Look at it this way, Joe. Everything we have comes from the Lord and He means for us to share it with others, so we want to share this with you. Look at it as God’s gift, which you can share with others! It’s ‘paying it forward.’ We each do what we can to fill another’s need, and that one who is helped in turn can help someone else.”

The idea seemed to inspire him, and so, with a smile and a promise to meet again soon, we parted.

Visit four

On our fourth visit, our conversation centered on the topic of prayer, and Joe shared something that was a confirmation of the Lord’s hand in this interaction we’d been having.

We were talking about how God often sets up situations in order to answer our prayers.

“I think that’s what He did when He had me meet you,” Joe stated enthusiastically. “You were so genuine and I felt right at home talking to you, so accepted. I could see you and your husband were good people and I wanted to know you better. Before meeting you, I had just about hit bottom with discouragement and hopelessness. I started taking long walks in nature every day. I would pour out everything in my heart. These weren’t formal or rote prayers, but like talking to God face to face. I was just so desperate and I felt so emotional. I told God all my questions and the things I needed answers to, and that I needed to understand what I was supposed to do with my life. And the amazing thing was that right after that, I met you. I believe you were the answer to my prayers.”

This led into talking about the different ways that God can speak to us: through God’s Word in the Bible; through someone else; through nature; through circumstances; through our thoughts, etc. At this point I explained to him about prophecy, the difference between the foretelling kind and the kind where God speaks directly to you with counsel and encouragement about things in your life at present. This seemed to be an entirely new concept for him. I explained that there are many people who have those “conversations with God” and that he could as well.

It was obvious that Joe had a connection with the Lord and was sensitive to His Spirit. I suggested that if he would intentionally ask God to communicate His guidance to him and then keep a record of what God showed him and act on it, that his ability to hear from heaven would be enhanced. “Ask and you will receive.”[2]

At the end of this visit, I presented Joe with a personal message from Jesus for him. Not only did I want to encourage Joe with this, but I also wanted to give him an example of how God can give direction and insight to His children. This prophecy was also a benefit to me since it confirmed how God was seeing Joe and gave an even deeper insight into his heart.

My kind and caring son, Joe,

Life has been a great challenge for you, but I’ve watched over you every moment. I know you love Me as your God who you can turn to in times of struggle and loss, knowing that I will be there to answer your cry and to ultimately work everything for your good. Even when the suffering, poverty, loss and pain of the present mask the good and blessings that will eventually come from them, that trust and faith in Me has shaped your gentle heart in the likeness of My own heart: compassionate, merciful, serving, and being always touched by the loss and suffering of others.

You have shared willingly, even when you had little. You haven’t allowed what you lacked to crush your spirit or harden your heart. These things are part of walking through this life as I did, giving, and not drawing back when you see the needs of those around you. Know that I’ve watched with admiration and joy each time you allowed your heart to break so that My love could be felt by others who desperately needed to feel My touch through you.

You faced what seemed like unjust and unfair experiences, and in the context of this life alone, they were unjust and unfair. But you found many beautiful treasures of the heart and spirit there, and in the context of heaven and eternity, the many wonderful things that I have prepared for you will far more than make up for these things.

It’s time to take the next step. Your humility causes you to withdraw because you don’t feel worthy, but now it’s time to reach out with faith and to step even closer to Me, trusting that I am a part of your life and that I want to commune with you as a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

I want you to believe that I not only want to come to your aid when things are desperate, but I want to be there all the time, speaking in your heart, experiencing your life, your feelings, your joys. I want to actively guide you, step by step, not in a formal or remote or detached way, but in a close, personal way.

You’ve sought My help and trusted Me through many things; now trust Me that I can be right there for you continually, speaking clearly to your heart and in your thoughts. I’ll guide you in your decisions and help you discover the good I have for you in each experience.

You need My power and Spirit to walk through this life with the strength and faith that can change lives, just like I needed the power and guidance and Spirit of My Father to walk through My life on earth. This close connection with Me is not something you can earn by being good enough. I’ve already given it to you as a gift because you’ve reached out to Me.

As you touch the lives of others around you, let them know that I love them and care about each of them personally. When they see your love and kindness, it will help them to find Mine.

In the course of our conversations during this visit, we also talked about the ministry of angelic helpers and departed spirits, and Joe was eager to contribute his own thoughts on the subject. His grandmother, who loved God very much, had died just after he was born. Through the years, he’d sensed that she was helping him by sharing her wisdom with him, since he’d always seemed to be able to understand people and situations more deeply than most. (All this was said very humbly.) I believe that he expressed this to see how I would react to it. I was enthusiastic and told him that I too believed that his grandmother had probably communicated it to him from the spirit realm.

I felt led to share with Joe what God had shown me about our times together.

I explained, “Joe, when Jesus brought you to my door and said I should get to know you, I had no idea of why you, in particular, except that He just told me it was important to do it. But after spending time with you, I’m so excited at your potential! I believe you really can do great things to help others. You can connect with them because you don’t judge them. You have a tender, sensitive heart and you’re willing to sacrifice in order to help another. You’ve gone through a lot yourself—‘suffered more than most,’ as you put it, but you haven’t become bitter about it. You’re young and still have most of your life ahead in which to carry out your mission. You’re a man of conviction. You have values and you live them.”

Joe’s time here seemed to be drawing to a close and he was expecting to be able to tie things up any day, so I had prepared some materials that the Lord had shown me would help him continue to build his connection and walk with Him. These included Bible Basics, the book The Shack, and some other devotional materials that I thought would be interesting to him and helpful. Among these was a set of quotes from Mother Teresa.[3] When he saw it, he excitedly exclaimed, “When I was eight or nine years old, I heard about Mother Teresa for the first time. I heard about what she was doing and the love she had for the lepers and the poor and the homeless and the dying. It made a huge impact on my life. I decided that I wanted to be like that, that I was going to love people and be kind to them and do all I could to help them.”

I thought that this might be the last time I would see this young disciple as he ventured out to find the path the Lord was so definitely guiding him along. But as experience has taught me, sometimes we may think we’re finished, but while man proposes, God disposes. We were to find that Jesus still had some more truths for me to share with Joe. God hadn’t quite completed this phase of Joe’s discipleship course.

Visit five

It wasn’t until some days later that Joe called to ask if he could drop by. He looked crestfallen as he walked up the steps to greet me. He’d been excited about all the things he’d learned and at the expectation that he was heading home to his wife and job and plans for helping others, but there had been yet another delay in his business being finished. As the Bible says, hope deferred makes the heart sick.[4]

“I don’t understand,” he lamented. “I’ve tried to be patient and I’ve tried to learn what God brought me here for. Why is there another delay? Do you think I’ve done something wrong?”

I had already lined up some things to talk about. However, seeing the struggle Joe was having in facing these disappointments, I felt the Lord leading me to switch gears. Interestingly enough, I had been reminded of a poem a few days earlier that I’m sure was the Lord preparing me for this.

It’s a poem that I memorized as a teen and had written inside the cover of my Bible:

Disappointment, His Appointment
Change one letter, and I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God's better plan for me.

His appointment yields great blessing,
Though it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

After sharing this poem with Joe, we began to discuss what was happening. “Joe,” I suggested, “perhaps Jesus is wanting you to trust Him that He has your best interests at heart, whether it looks like that to you or not. Maybe He wants you to look for the good that can come out of this delay.

“When I’m facing a big disappointment, where all my plans have collapsed, do you know what I’ve found really helps me?” I paused for a couple of moments, giving him time to think about it. “It’s praise, which has great power! When we praise God, it shows our faith in Him that He knows what is best and can indeed bring good from the situation. So whether the results are instant, miraculous changes, or the peace and strength and patience to trust and wait for His perfect time for what we want or need, both are wonderful victories.”

I prayed with him that God would either literally shorten the time before his departure or give him the peace and faith to wait graciously and praisefully. This seemed to restore his joy and trust to wait for God’s outcome.

I gave him a prayer to pray when he got home, as follows: “Dear Jesus, I know You love me and want me to be happy. The Bible says You are the ‘Prince of Peace.’ I need You right now to give me Your peace in my heart and thoughts. Please help me feel calm and tranquil, whatever my circumstances or situation. Come to me and give me peace. Help me to be relaxed and not to worry. I also ask that from now on, Your Holy Spirit will live inside me and help me to grow in love and confidence.”

We’d had opportunity to talk about many important spiritual principles, at least mentioning them briefly. During our times together we’d bounced back and forth from salvation to the Holy Spirit to witnessing, to prayer and reading the Word, to heaven and the boundless love of God. We had discussed God’s law versus man’s traditions, the spiritual warfare, and many other topics as they came up naturally in our conversations.

I knew that Joe was a thinker, and that he took time to absorb, digest, and meditate on the deeper issues of life. He had told me that He had always taken time every night, before he went to sleep, to reflect on the day that was ending and plan for the day that was to come. He had said, “Otherwise, I couldn’t survive.”

My heart is full of gratitude to the Lord when I look at all the things that He has done for Joe, placing him in a situation where he was blessed with the time to look at his life and to reach out for answers. Then to bless me with the chance to help Joe by bringing him directly to me when I had not been able to go out and find him. I’m grateful too for the specific instruction that Jesus gave me in His words of prophecy.

The Lord in His compassion saw Joe’s spiritual need, his sincere questions, deep heartaches, and how Joe was doing his best to think of others’ needs and to love and care for them. The Lord orchestrated things down to the tiniest details for Joe’s sake, and also for mine. He knows how much I love to be His ambassador. It’s such a privilege to give what the Lord has given us to someone so hungry and potential as Joe.

If this encounter with Joe has reinforced anything in my life, it’s the fact that, if we pray to be a blessing to others, the Lord will answer our prayers, no matter what our situation. If we are praying to bless someone’s life, He’ll match us with a seeker who is desiring to know Him better and who is reaching out to Him for answers. If your passion is to teamwork with Jesus in seeing a precious life transformed, and you are willing to do whatever it takes, just speak the word and look for the opportunity. It will come!

You can be assured that there are many “Joes” out there. There’s a “Joe” within your reach—or a Juan, a Mohamed, a Fatima, a Suraj, a Sophia, a Hiroto, an Emma, a Jing, an Amit, a Tariq, a Luca, an Ivan, or a João—who is at the door of your life and who is desperate for the answers that the Lord wants to give him or her through you.

[1] ESV.

[2] Matthew 7:7.

[4] Proverbs 13:12.