I cannot remember the first time I watched an episode of The Twilight Zone, but I have been a fan of the TV show for years. I resonate with it because its creator, Rod Serling, took science fiction, cultural issues, suspense, horror, and psychology and created a show that was thought-provoking. The year 2020 was like an episode of The Twilight Zone, and each of us had a starring role.
In 2020, the rising tides, accompanied by hurricane-force winds, earthquakes, and a tsunami-sized wave crashed against humanity. The events of the year revealed that our lives are built on sand.
The novel coronavirus, which leads to the COVID-19 disease, descended on us. People got sick. Loved ones died. Unemployment skyrocketed. The American economy, along with the world’s economy, raced toward recession. Uncertainty became a blinding fog. Anxiety was around every corner. Some people were not sure where their next meal was coming from. At Transformation Church, where I serve as cofounder and lead elder pastor, we fed more than 400 families per week who had been impacted by the recession. We started Transformation Church during a recession and found ourselves in another one.
In addition to these economic waves, many white Americans also awoke to issues of systemic racism and racial injustice that have haunted our country since her inception after several high-profile incidents, like the killing of George Floyd, shook us from our slumber. The Band-Aid that has unsuccessfully covered up the racial trauma in America was removed, exposing the unhealed wound for what it is. We clearly saw that as Americans we stand divided, unsure of what tomorrow may bring. The borders that divide Americans are growing wider by the day.
I Do What I Do Not Want to Do
As we have realized the world around us is in desperate need of redemption, our behavior reminds us that the interior part of our lives is also in need of redemption. What is in us is, by far, worse than what is outside of us. Jesus said, “For from within, out of people’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, self-indulgence, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person” (Mark 7:21–23). No wonder the apostle Paul said, “For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate” (Rom. 7:15).
We do not love our neighbors as we are called to love.
We do not forgive people as we are called to forgive.
We do not serve people as we are called to serve.
We do not give generously as we are called to give.
Instead, we live in the prison of our past hurts, thus hurting people in the present. We are tormented by addictions. We are the problem that plagues our world.
What hope is there for us?
I believe we have a deliverer, a redeemer, a sin-defeater, a death-killer, who out of a heart of endless love, gave his life for us, to give his life to us, so he can live his overcoming life through us! With Paul, we cry out, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25 niv).
Building Our Lives on the Rock
Life is hard. There is so much to overcome. Many of us, perhaps instinctively, turn to God in these moments. We cry out in prayer.
And in the crucible when we are pressed from side-to-side and top- to-bottom, we ask:
“God, when I pray, do you hear me?”
“Jesus, are my prayers hitting the ceiling and crashing back to the floor?”
“Father, am I praying wrong?”
“I would pray more if I knew how to pray.”
“Are my prayers just empty words going into empty space?”
“Is anybody even there . . . ?”
As I write in my book on prayer God, Do You Hear Me?, I am a fellow traveler, in learning and living the prayer that God always answers.
The prayer that God always answers is what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–13). The Lord’s Prayer is the firm foundation that God builds our lives on the Rock.
Prayer is the secret place where we find God waiting for us.
Prayer is the door we enter to discover God’s heart of unending grace.
Prayer is the home we have always wanted, where we can crawl into our Father’s lap.
Prayer is a priceless gift. Sadly, many of us rarely spend time enjoying the gift. Thus, we miss enjoying Jesus.
Excerpted with permission from God, Do You Hear Me? by Dr. Derwin L. Gray. Copyright 2021, B&H Publishing Group.
Dr. Derwin L. Gray is a former NFL player, author of several books and the lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, South Carolina, just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.