You’ve heard about the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine, but I bet you’ve never heard about the night this miracle occurred in reverse.
Holiday cheer was in full swing on the evening of December 19, 2008. The radio in our SUV blasted joyful carols as my husband and I traveled along a street that had been transformed into a kaleidoscope of flashing multi-colored lights. We were on our way to meet friends for dinner. It was the Christmas season: a happy time for most, a sad time for some.
Each year I paste on a brave face, but the sights and sounds of the Christmas season always trigger deep feelings of loss for me. On this particular night, the struggle to maintain the façade was especially difficult.
I was excited by the prospect of dining with friends that we rarely have a chance to see but also conflicted. Why did our dinner with them have to be tonight?
Our friends didn’t realize when they suggested reconnecting over dinner that the only date we all had available to get together marked the five-year anniversary of my son’s death. For the past four years I had reserved this day to quietly celebrate Stephen’s life, so an evening out with friends didn’t fit into my plans for that day.
Also, they wanted to meet at an Italian restaurant, and I feared that wine would likely accompany the meal in this environment. Since alcohol and drugs were factors in the deaths of both my brother and my son, I’ve developed a strong aversion to both. Neither has ever added one positive thing to my life, but they’ve cost me plenty. I couldn’t imagine enjoying a meal, even with friends I love, if alcohol was on the table directly in front of me—especially not on this night.
The invitation presented me with a dilemma. What to do?
If we declined the invitation, we’d miss out on spending time with our friends. If we accepted, and I asked our friends not to order wine, I’d feel that I was leveraging their sympathy to impose my convictions on them. Our friends would have understood, but call it pride or whatever, I was determined not to mention it.
Since I was tired of feeling victimized by my loss, we decided to accept the invitation. I’d spend the morning reflecting on happy memories of my son, then we’d meet our friends for dinner, and I’d trust God to deal with the whole wine issue. Maybe it wouldn’t even come up.
We happily embraced our friends when we arrived at the restaurant, but as we were led to our table, panic set in, and I began to regret my decision. I didn’t feel so brave anymore. My hands were trembling and I felt that my body was on the verge of exploding into a million pieces.
I realized my problem was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but I prayed about it anyway. Maybe Jesus would intervene to help me. I was emotionally vulnerable and knew I couldn’t do this thing without Him.
The waitress arrived to take our drink order. My friend ordered a glass of wine and my heart dropped like a rock into my stomach. It had happened, just as I’d feared. The drinks were quickly delivered to our table, and I turned away. Swallowing hard to push down the lump rising in my throat, I had a silent talk with myself. “You’re not a child. You’re a grown woman, so act like one. Just don’t look at it. Pretend it’s not there. A glass of wine has no power to hurt you!” But I knew it did. In fact, it was already hurting me just because it was there.
I was wallowing deep in self-pity when my attention was unexpectedly jerked back to the table by my friend’s murmur of surprise, “What in the world?” I followed the direction of her gaze to her glass; not a wine glass, but a water glass. Her wine had been served in a glass exactly like mine, minus the ice.
The waitress delivered our water and tea and the single glass of wine and left the table without mentioning it, as though there was nothing at all unusual about serving wine in a water glass. My friend gestured to the wine glasses sitting on other tables and wondered aloud why she was the only one with a water glass. I must have appeared sympathetic to her question, sitting with my hand over my mouth and an expression of startled disbelief on my face, but I was actually trying to stifle my laughter!
What an answer to prayer! God didn’t remove the problem; instead, He provided a way for me to deal with it. The wine was still there, but the Lord made it invisible to me, so I wouldn’t be haunted by the sight of it.
Not only that, but this event also changed my perspective about the situation. Suddenly the wine wasn’t a threat to me anymore. More important to me was the realization that my Lord didn’t turn away from my cry for help because He couldn’t be bothered with something so trivial. His intervention strengthened my faltering spirit with three undeniable facts:
- Jesus heard my cry.
- He cared about my pain.
- And He acted to help me.
When the waitress returned to our table, we were too engaged in conversation to question her about the odd choice of glasses. Already forgotten, that water glass wasn’t important to anyone else. Only to me—and the God who loves me!
How has God demonstrated His kindness to you when you were suffering? If you’re experiencing a struggle in your life right now, don’t hesitate to cry out to Jesus to help you. His response is sure to be surprising. And it will always come at exactly the right time.
Merry Christmas, my friends! May you also experience the overwhelming abundance of His love for you during this holy season!