The invitation was to lunch on 14th February, 1975. I accepted as I was on sick leave. I had cracked my coccyx on the recent ski-ing holiday. I could not sit for long periods. We were required to sit in the office all day.
Julie greeted me with joy. She told me that we would go to the hospital where Bob worked. He finished at midday. Then we went to a Catholic Mass in the Hospital Chapel and after that came home to lunch. Who was I to argue. I was happy to be with company, where I was wanted.
We arrived home and over lunch the conversation quickly turned to my problems. At one stage Julie got up and took one of the Bibles lying around in their home. She put it on the table, placed her hand on it and said to me, “This is God’s Word. Either accept it or reject it, but don’t try to change it to suit your circumstances.”
It hit me like a bullet. I had been counselled by a person who taught me to do exactly that. Make excuses and change the words so that I would not feel guilty. I suddenly realised how futile that exercise had been.
Our discussions went on until Julie asked, “May we pray for you?”
“Wouldn’t do any good,” was my abrupt reply.
“Oh well,” was all she said and got up to do the lunch dishes. Bob got up to attend to the children who had just arrived home from school. I was left sitting at the table alone. Who did I think I was? Letting them pray couldn’t hurt me? Remember all the things that they have done these last three months. I felt miserable, ashamed and as small as a pin cushion.
After some time I said, very quietly, “Julie, you may pray for me.” She was delighted, but I added, “May I first make a phone call?” (Days before mobile phones.)
I made the call and said I would not be there that evening. In my heart I knew I would never be there again. I was unable to enunciate those words.
Julie called Bob and after ensuring that the children were suitably occupied, they got me to sit at the end of their bed in the bedroom. They prayed in the manner that I had gotten used to in the Thursday evening meetings. I felt too miserable to really be interested. Then, as they were still praying, an enormous weight was lifted off my shoulders.
It felt like I was a teenager again, back on the farm, helping to unload the truck. At the truck a bag of wheat would be put across my neck and shoulders. I would hold the two top corners with my hands, to avoid it falling. With this weight I would walk over to the silo where another person would take hold of the bag and I was relieved of the heavy burden. It was such a heavy weight that was lifted off my back that afternoon, sitting at the end of the bed with Julie and Bob praying for me.
My body straightened. My shoulders moved back. Something dramatic had changed and Bob said, “Ria, you have a smile on your face.”
I was speechless. I was not able to comprehend the changes that were taking place at that moment. I just knew that I felt ‘different.’
I was invited to stay for the evening meal. They would take me home after that. The conversation was very different from what it had been earlier. I actually enjoyed the evening.
Upon arrival home I went straight to bed. I fell asleep very quickly.
Next morning I walked into the kitchen to make breakfast. I saw the nine bottles of tablets that were lined up on the table. Four of those bottles were marked with the warning, “Do not stop taking this medicine without the doctor’s consent.” That is a warning that it is an addictive drug.
Fear hit me. I had not taken my medication yesterday evening, nor at bed time. Then that soft calming voice of guidance. “The medication is for your problems. They prayed for your problems to be taken away. Without your problems you don’t need the medication.” That made perfect sense. I had slept better than I had for many months. I was not consumed with anxiety.
I opened the drawer that was in the table, moved all the medication into that drawer, and closed it. From that day to this, I have not had a single mental problem.
There was much to learn. The first thing to remember is God’s word, “… I am the Lord who heals you.” Exodus 15:26. But when we learn what Jesus did when he lived on the earth we see that he healed all who came to him, even if they were brought by friends. (Mark 1:32, 2:12, 7:32, 8:22.) I was healed, not by drugs but by the power of God in answer to the prayer of believing Christians.
I have never looked back.
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