by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

The desperation in their eyes told me this was not just fun and games. My husband and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve with our daughter and son-in-law. We were all dressed up in our holiday best for a night out on the town. After an elegant and delicious dinner, we decided to do something none of us had ever done before — play the penny slots at one of the nearby casinos.

Immediately upon entering the room, we realized that compared to most of the people there, we were extremely overdressed and our intentions were quite different. I’m not sure how many days some players may have been sitting in the same chairs, desperately feeding the game boxes before them with dollars, hoping for big returns. Their focused and weary eyes told a story of fervent need and longing, but also — hope.

I wouldn’t encourage a shot-in-the-dark approach for finding the solutions you anxiously seek, but I don’t doubt the value of being hopeful.

This casino scene reminded me of one of the recorded healings of Jesus. I think I’ve referred to this one before, but it’s one that offers many lessons. Like many of the penny slot players longing and waiting for the answer to their financial woes, hundreds of suffering and sick people filled the alcoves around the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). One of the Gospels explained that the superstitious crowds were waiting for the water to “bubble” and were hoping to be the first to get into the moving waters so they could be healed. Apparently, the people believed they could only be healed at such a time, and only one would be the lucky person.

Jesus approached a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well, the man explained how he had never been able to be the first one — that he had never had anyone to help him. It was clear this dear man had no idea who he was talking with and also never imagined that healing was possible another way.

Jesus knew that God loves His children very much. He knew that God makes His children perfect, able, active and strong. So Jesus told the man, “Get up. Take your bedroll. Start walking.” And the man who had not walked for 38 years must have felt the divine energy of Spirit which impelled Jesus’ instructions, because he immediately did exactly what Jesus told him he could do.

Where are you looking for healing, strength, relief, answers, supply or peace of mind? Perhaps many of us would say we place our hopes in a person, a place or a thing. No doubt, most of us leave no stone unturned when we’re desperately searching for some help.

My question is: Why do we often turn to God as a last resort? Whether I’ve turned to God first or last, however, I’ve never not felt the divine energy of Spirit healing me, enlightening me, guiding me, inspiring me, encouraging me.

The familiar Bible verse “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8) has given impetus to my prayers. Although it may sound like a conditional statement — it’s not. It’s really a promise assuring us that when we do turn to God, we will find He is already right where we are with a healing solution readily at hand. And for me, it also means the more I understand my spiritual selfhood as a child of God and the nature of God as omnipotent good, I’m discovering a present, powerful defense for battling any foe and conquering any challenge.

There have been times when I’ve struggled with desperation, especially if I felt I wasn’t getting my most-wanted answer quickly enough. In these moments, I’ve found it helpful to pause and appreciate any progress I’ve made, and to cherish and reflect on any spiritual insight I’ve gleaned — however small I may think it is. I was recently reminded that God has “legions” of ideas and insights for His children to help us continue to grow and progress on our life journeys.

Jesus once said God could give him 12 legions of angels if he needed them (Matthew 26:53). In biblical times, a legion would have been a division of between 3,000 and 6, 000 men in the Roman army — an army trained for combat. In my weak and doubt-filled moments, I’ve found strength in being reminded that God can and will send me “legions” of angel messages whenever I need them. And these potent messages will reveal exactly what I need to overcome any obstacle as well as arrive exactly when needed.

Then, my desperation is replaced with great expectation. And my upward journey continues with calm resolve and reassured hope. And so can yours, as you turn to God for help!