One day, as I was waiting to see the Dentist, I saw a small sign that read…

“CASH ON ALL EXTRACTIONS”

It took me a minute, but then I understood why. If you’ve ever experienced the excruciating pain of a bad toothache, you know that in THAT moment you’d pay anything to get relief. I’ve had toothaches that hurt so bad I would have given my first born (sorry Sara), and thrown in a puppy.

But when the pain is gone, are we still willing to pay anything? Evidently, as many Dentists have learned…not so much. In fact, they probably move so far down this month’s “Bills To Be Paid” list, they may never see a dime. Pain can be a great motivator, and the Dentist knows it.

In the midst of your personal “pain”, have you ever made promises to God, thinking he will bring relief? Perhaps you were searching in vain for a parking spot at the Mall, and eventually requested God’s assistance. No big deal really, would just be nice to find one closer to the front. But make that same request a few weeks before Christmas, and you won’t just ask, you’ll offer things up. Starting out with a promise to read morning devotionals, and ending up with 30 days of fasting and prayer. The greater the pain, the greater the promise.

A few years ago, I was driving a Penske truck from Minnesota to California. I decided to take the toll road through Oklahoma, knowing I would avoid traffic and make better time. One thing that concerned me was the distance between gas stations. It’s not like the Interstate, where a Truck Stop greets you as frequently as a slow driver in the fast lane.  Gas stations on toll roads are separated by time zones. 

Something told me I should fill up at the first station I came to. (the voice wisdom) But a voice in my head, the same one that tells me not to turn on the hallway light said, “You can make it. What are ya, scared!?” You would think one step on that lego would have told me to ignore that voice…but no.

I accepted the challenge.

Cruising down the road while listening to AM radio, I noticed the needle moved closer to “E” than I’d anticipated. I threw up a quick prayer requesting God’s assistance, but without knowing the distance to refuel, was still unsure of my chances. (How’s that for faith?) So I did what any mature Christians who has walked with God for years would do.

I began to sing.

Christian contemporary at first, but as the needle drew closer to empty, transitioned to traditional hymns. (Would have sang in the Kings James English if I thought it would help) As the yellow light came on, reminding me all was near lost, I opened the floor to personal requests. “Lord, what’s your favorite?”, I asked.

Seeing the offramp in the distance gave me hope, but as I exited, was greeted by a sign with an arrow stating, “Gas – 5 Miles”. “Seriously!Who has to travel 5 miles from an off ramp to get gas?” Evidently me. To make matters worse, the country road provided no shoulder, and if I DID run out of gas, I would block the entire right lane of a two lane street. By my calculation, I needed about 4/10’s of a gallon to get there, assuming no strong headwind. I couldn’t remember the 3rd verse of Amazing Grace, and was wondering if God would hold it against me.

And then I saw it…the oasis I’d longed for, located in the pertiest lil’ town you ever did see! I felt like a Cowboy ridin’ in after a long cattle drive, feeling parched, and in desperate need of whiskey. (Could have used “water”, but at this point “whiskey” seemed more appropriate) Fortunately, a pump was readily available and I didn’t stress about running out 20 feet from my destination. It’s hard to express the relief I felt as I put it in “P”, and shut off the engine.

Do you think my “offering” got me there?

Doubtful.

Especially the way I sing.

It doesn’t mean God may not have had answered my prayer, but I don’t think my Top 40 did the trick. (He performed the miracle of the fishes and the loaves, surely he could front me a few gallons…or bump my MPG’s)

Running out of gas, or finding a parking space in the Mall are minor compared to what life can really bring. Experiences so painful, both physically and emotionally, we want to promise God anything to find relief. In the midst of such great darkness, it’s hard to remember he’s already there. 

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalms 34:18-19 (NIV)

When darkness comes, and you fear all may be lost. Do what I did.

Sing to the Lord.

Not to manipulate, but to acknowledge His greatness, and give thanks for His precious promises. Through worship, you can break the chains of bondage, find peace in the midst of the storm, and healing for your wounded soul.

And it doesn’t matter to Him whether your song is contemporary or traditional.  

My guess?…He’s looking for something “original”.