I’m thankful that these prayer clinics can continue  – because I know from first-hand experience how precious it is when we intentionally come into the presence of Jesus, and we invite him to meet us right where we are.   It is in His presence that healing comes.

I want to tell you a little of my story, and then I’ll share a scripture with you.

I am a person who values peace – I’m happiest when everyone around me is happy and all is right with the world.  Peace is one of the wonderful gifts Jesus gives us.   But it is not the only gift he has to offer.

I had an unexpected diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer last August, and I have to say that I experienced God’s peace and his presence in amazing ways.  He was so near and dear to me all through the surgery and radiation treatments – I felt very tangibly His promise – “I am with you”.

After my radiation treatments ended, I had to make a decision about whether or not to start taking a longer-term preventative medication, and to me it was a big decision.  It felt like a huge responsibility rested on my shoulders – Do I risk taking something with all those potential side effects?  If I don’t take it, do I risk the cancer coming back?    The doctor said it really was up to me – since the cancer had been caught very early there was no clear medical imperative.

As I wrestled over the course of a few weeks with ‘should I or shouldn’t I?’  – listing pros and cons, asking the Lord to speak, listening, and not getting any specific answers, I felt like I was literally being pressed on all sides with a heavy weight.   My body was tense, my mind was preoccupied and anxious, my spirit was restless, and I sensed that there was more going on here than making a difficult decision.  Why was I so anxious?

Have you been in a place like that?  A place where you feel an extreme pressure for whatever reason?   We could call it a crucible.  Let me tell you, it is not a place of peace.  But a crucible can be a gift from a loving Heavenly Father. The dictionary describes a crucible as “a situation of severe trial, in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.”

Well, I needed the help of others in prayer – and God so graciously provided that through a series of prayer appointments over the course of several weeks. We came into His presence, and simply asked Jesus what He wanted to do, and each time he ever-so-gently brought things to my conscious mind.  They seemed so random!  The root of an old pattern, an inner vow that I had made as a teenager, a childhood memory that had been covered in shame.

It was as though God had put me in this pressure cooker just so He could bring these things to the surface and one by one, tenderly deal with them. He knew where to begin and He knew what I needed.

Eventually I was able to make the decision about the medication, but that was not the most important thing that happened.  I am definitely seeing the fruit of what He did during that time – in a sense squeezing that gunk out of me.  It’s hard to describe, but I have a new lightness, a new freedom.

I love Isaiah 43 verse 1, because to me it gives a glimpse of the God who takes us through the crucibles of life all because of His deep and tender and profound love for us.

But now, thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob;  

he who formed you, O Israel:  Fear not, for I have redeemed you.

I have called you by name, you are mine.       Isaiah 43:1

Each of us is unique and beloved in the way we are made.  God created us.

And then it also says he forms us.  Yes, we are shaped through our experiences, our relationships, our life circumstances, but God takes all these things and forms us.

I have this image of a pair of hands forming, PRESSING us into what he intends for us.

That pressure is not easy, or comfortable, or peaceful, but it is good.  Because it comes from the hands of a God who knows us – who calls us by name.  That means he knows what makes you uniquely you.  He knows what you need from Him, and when, and how, in order to be all he created you to be.  He knows your character, your personality and he treats you accordingly.  He is not a one-size-fits-all kind of God.

Fear not!  He says. I have redeemed you.  I take what is in you and make it good.   Because you belong to me and you are precious. Don’t be afraid of the process of being formed by my loving hands.

Fear not!   The antidote for Fear is TRUST.  Trust God in the crucible.  He knows what you need – he knows what each of us needs – and he gives it to you from His strong and loving heart.