12/06/2020

More Than Conquerors

“When we give thanks, we enter the presence of God. We start to see our circumstances through God’s eyes. We defeat Satan’s efforts to control our interpretation of reality. We have a chance to link our situation with the promises of God. We start to see ourselves and others from God’s perspective. All of our human relationships become healthier because they are now shaped by faith.”

2020 has been a year. For some, it has brought unbearable hardship and loss. Giving God thanks—especially in 2020—is not easy when walking through a dark time. It would be far easier to be like Job’s wife who suggested to Job to just “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

But when someone chooses to give thanks, not for all things, but “in all things,” it’s very likely that they believe in the God who took the worst thing—the death of His only son—to accomplish the best thing. And they know without a doubt, because of what God did for them at the cross, that God is good. His heart is for them.

I know a few of these folks. Every day since June, I look forward to a daily update on Caring Bridge written by Mike or Cathy Naranjo. It chronicles the ups and downs of their beautiful, effervescent 24-year-old daughter, Margo Naranjo, who received devastating injuries when hit by someone traveling through a red light at 60 miles an hour.

Margo should have died then. She sustained severe injuries to her body and her brain. Many people would have given up all hope and certainly allowed bitterness toward God to enter in.

But instead, her family, her fiance, and a huge network of close friends (joined by others who do not even know her) lead a nightly prayer live on Facebook. I put it in my phone calendar reminders. I meant to type, “‘Margo’s Prayer Time Live Stream” but it more accurately shows up as “Margo’s Prayer Time Love Stream.”

I met Margo’s mom, Cathy, when I was her high school Young Life leader. She was an affable, laid-back, happy kid. Cathy met with me her senior year to do a more in-depth Bible Study along with one other student. Of the two, Cath is not the one I predicted would go on to “make me proud” and walk in her Christian faith for the long haul. But that’s exactly what she did. Thankfully, she chose a like-minded, fun-loving, positive young man of solid faith, Mike.

Cath taking the wheel on our Wakefield HS Sailing Beyond adventure summer of 1982

There’s something to be said for positive temperament and outlook. Some are born with it—my older son, JB, certainly was. And no doubt, Cathy and Mike were, too. But when disastrous, long-term, ongoing circumstances are thrust upon positive people, temperament alone cannot carry them through. Positivity cannot hold them up like Cathy and Mike have been upheld.

Mike and Cathy’s daily report on Caring Bridge has inspired thousands.

They don’t know what the future has in store for Margo. But they will never give up on her—or on God. They faithfully pray for a miracle and daily see God’s grace; appropriately Grace is Margo’s middle name.

Their choice to involve God in their circumstances and not hold against Him what has happened to Margo is inspiring. Here is one of Mike’s first Caring Bridge entries:

“We have no idea the plan or the outcome but until we have no choice we believe she will be healed and no matter what, we believe in the grace God has shown us through each of you.

And here are Cathy’s wise words:

BE KIND: Everyone has a story. Maybe that disheveled middle aged lady is 3 hours late to pick up groceries for her family because her daughter lies in a coma.
BE PATIENT: Maybe that same disheveled lady is driving too slow because her daughter was hit at a red light and is fighting for her life.
PAY ATTENTION: In honor of Margo, let’s all try not to be distracted while driving. No texting, no reaching for things on the floor or in the back seat, no speeding thru a stop sign, crosswalk, traffic light.
BE AT PEACE with those you love. Don’t let another day go by if there is a relationship you need to repair!

Here is the prayer that Margo’s family, a multitude of her friends, and even complete strangers offer to lead each night on Facebook:

Heavenly Father, we come to You now in the name of Your son, Jesus. We lift up the life of Margo to You, and we thank You that she, like all of us, is being held by You. Father, You know Margo, and You know exactly where she is right now, and we ask that Your presence would come into her room. Jesus, we know that You perform miracles and that You died for the sins of the world, and shed Your blood for the healing and restoration of anyone who calls upon Your name. We call upon Your name now, Jesus, and we ask that You heal Margo. We ask for supernatural healing and restoration over her body, mind, nervous system, intestines, and brain. We ask for You to touch the hands of the doctors, nurses, therapists, and techs that are working with her; that you would give them wisdom and supernatural care. I pray for there to be a miracle in the life of Margo, and that as a testimony of Your goodness and greatness, she would be healed. I thank You that You hear us. I thank You, Holy Spirit, that even now You are with her and ministering to her. And I thank You in advance for Your report, Lord. We pray this in the name of Jesus, amen.

May the Lord bless The Naranjos—and anyone whose body, mind or spirit has been hurt in 2020—with new, or renewed, or strengthened faith in the One who truly loves them—and went to the cross to prove it.


Listen to this song for when life makes no sense: Starting Now by David Dunn

Watch how Frank Shankwitz’s painful childhood became a catalyst to make a difference. Wish Man – worth renting OR free on Netflix

Search on Spotify for this publicly accessible playlist—”A Playlist for The Naranjos”—compiled by me for anyone else in need of encouragement.

Rooted In Truth Scriptures: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35, 37-39 “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12: 1b-3 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:3 “…encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else. Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:14b-18

Growing In Love Practical Application: Repeating Cathy’s own words here: BE KIND: Everyone has a story. Maybe that disheveled middle-aged lady is 3 hours late to pick up groceries for her family because her daughter lies in a coma. BE PATIENT: Maybe that same disheveled lady is driving too slow because her daughter was hit at a red light and is fighting for her life. PAY ATTENTION: In honor of Margo, let’s all try not to be distracted while driving. No texting, no reaching for things on the floor or in the back seat, no speeding thru a stop sign, crosswalk, traffic light. BE AT PEACE with those you love. Don’t let another day go by if there is a relationship you need to repair!

Go to their blog on Caring Bridge to read the myriad of ways they are encouraged daily by many who choose to share their time, treasure, talents, and tips on navigating ongoing healthcare/insurance hurdles. Not to mention the home-cooked meals others have shared, along with how their lives intersected with Margo’s. (Any parent knows how much we love to hear about our kids from their friends!) Some have shared with the Naranjos just how Margo’s story is inspiring them to a new or renewed faith in God. Actions are awesome; set up a meal schedule sign-up on Take Them A Meal—it’s really easy to navigate. AND kind words are a sweet balm to the soul. Get out a pen and paper; find that email or text address; send a note to someone who is hurting. Just knowing you are thinking and praying can be a help. (Personally, as one who is deeply touched by beautiful melody and lyrics—if I am ever in need, I’d like my friends to compile a playlist of music that feeds their souls and share it with me via Spotify to be on autoplay in my hospital or rehab room.)

#WAKEUPMARGO – pray for a miracle

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4: 7-9, 14-18