In early November, my colleague Kasey Leander and I were asked to speak at a youth retreat at the Moody Center hosted by a Christian academy in the area.
The administration asked me to end the retreat with a talk on suffering; two weeks prior to the retreat, one of the younger students from the school passed away abruptly, and his death shattered everyone immensely. The students were grappling with how to reconcile the idea of a loving God who allows suffering.
As I stood to give my talk and looked into the eyes of this group of hurting young students, I felt the weight of this topic like never before. I prayed that God would somehow use my words to show them that He cared and that He wasn’t distant.
Directly after the talk, I could see that one of the students, Cole (his name has been changed to protect his privacy), wanted to speak with me. This alone was nothing short of God’s grace because Cole had been aloof and indifferent the entire retreat. But after this particular talk, he came up to me and timidly asked to speak to me. We walked over to a quiet corner of the room and sat down.
His eyes were watery, his breath short, and he was shaking. He had a hard time getting out the words he wanted to say. Finally, he said, “I have been in a Christian environment my whole life, but I always just sat back…. But I don’t want to anymore. I know that God exists. And I want to know Him.” As he said this, tears streamed down his face. He asked me, “What do I do?”
At this point I couldn’t help but cry with him in this state of utter vulnerability. God had swiftly and delicately begun to change his heart, and I knew the Holy Spirit was mightily working in this young student. I told him, “Christ already did the work; you just have to accept the free gift.”
I then asked him if he would like to pray, repent, and ask the Lord to help him. In a sigh of relief, he said “Yes,” as if that’s what he had been waiting for me to ask.
As I led him in prayer, we came to a point where I prayed, “I submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.” Cole paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and said, “I submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
It was evident that he understood the depth and severity of his words. This was not an emotional decision, but a decision that he had weighed out and understood.
Once we finished praying, Cole was smiling like never before since the retreat began. He then asked me some questions about where he should start reading in the Bible and what books I would recommend. The most fulfilling aspect of this whole experience is that it wasn’t the subject of my talk that brought Cole to Christ. Rather, God, in his relentless pursuit of a lost son, had melted Cole’s heart and met him when Cole least expected it. Nothing is more assuring to me as a speaker than to see someone impacted in a way that was clearly the work of the Holy Spirit. To God alone be the glory forever and ever, amen.
Itinerant Speaker at RZIM