What God Cannot Do…
A Short Story Written by Joy A. Adewumi
‘God be praised! God be praised, let the name of the Lord be praised!’ I chanted alongside the praise team and then shouted as much as my vocal cords would let me as I opened the praise session for that month’s thanksgiving service with, ‘Let a living soul shout hallelujah!’
The large auditorium was rent with a thunderous shout of hallelujah and it felt like a retelling of Jericho. As I raised the first song that got everyone putting on their dancing shoes and worshipping God in the beauty of His holiness, my throat clogged for a minute. I took a minute to clear it as I held the mic away from my mouth. I couldn’t help but remember the last thanksgiving service we held.
The memories were more than sufficient reason to explain the tears of joy that stung my eyes as I brought the mic back towards my lips and raised the same song a second time, this time with even greater fervour. I had every reason to because quite a lot had happened within a month. A lot that was worth my praises for the rest of eternity.
One month ago
My phone vibrated annoyingly beside me as I laid on my bed staring bleakly at the ceiling. I had barely slept all night, so the pesky alarm clock was useless anyway. It was 6.am, which on a normal Sunday would be time to jump off the bed and get ready for church, more so that I can meet the final choir rehearsals before Sunday school starts. But today, I was jumping off to nowhere.
I wasn’t at the choir rehearsals the previous day anyway, so wanting to join the rehearsals that morning would be useless. If at all, I would be going to church, which was a big “if”, by the way, I wouldn’t be going in my capacity as a chorister. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I would be sitting amongst the congregation on a glorious Sunday morning. The notion felt strange, however, it looked like my only option.
You could join a live stream from the headquarters online, you know? My thoughts offered a way out.
Live stream from your room on a Thanksgiving Sunday? You must be kidding! Another part countered.
Great! Upon all the troubles I was dealing with, even my mind had now halved and the halves were warring with each other.
Think about it. If you go to church, everyone would want to know why you’re not with the choir. The first half argued.
Good point! Very valid point. Both of my phones had been ringing off the hook since the day before when I hadn’t shown up for choir rehearsals. It got so disturbing that I had to place them on vibration. My absence must have felt surreal to the members of the praise team which I led. It sure did feel surreal to me.
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Almost every chorister in Revival’s Breath Assembly, House of Peace Parish had put a call through to me between yesterday and today. As though to buttress the thought, another call came through from my pastor’s wife! I stared at my phone which was vibrating with a vengeance, wondering if I was really going to ghost her call. She, after all, was like a second mother to me in more ways than the spiritual sense. I had never done ghosted her calls. But then again, I had never ghosted as much calls as I had within the last 24 hours. I sighed as the call dropped and turned away from the phone.
Questions or no questions, it’s no justification for staying back home. Besides, these are questions you’d have to answer in the long run anyway. You won’t ghost your spiritual family forever, would you? The second-half replied. That was another valid point but it would mean I would eventually come out of this terrible slump I was in, wouldn’t it?
But it doesn’t have to be today, does it? Today, you’re depressed. Today, you’re disappointed. Today, your world feels wrong from every angle you’ve considered. Today, you cannot even muster the excitement that comes with Sundays. Today, you can’t find any reason to thank God, so what’s the whole thanksgiving point? Thus, today, you’re legit allowed to stay back at home. Stream the live session online if you would or just wallow in bed all day if you choose. Either way, you have reason enough not to go to church today!
This half was the realistic half, I realised. It expressed the true state of my heart as it had been since disappointment upon disappointment had begun ravaging my week and by extension, month and life. If I went to church, it would be to fulfil all righteousness. Not only would my sitting in the congregation turn several heads, but my sullen attitude would also be a bummer on other people’s joy. In summary, going to church didn’t sound like a good idea that morning.
Oh, come off it! You are to praise God both when the going is good and when it is rough. God wants you to praise Him during the bad, ugly and tough times as well as the good, beautiful and smooth times. He’s the same God on the mountain as He is on the valley. How many times have you preached and sang this message in your capacity as the praise team leader? And do you have the slightest idea how many souls you have lifted out of slumps like the one you are in with your inspired songs? You really do not have an excuse to ghost God!
Ghost God?! This second-half was way out of turn. Who said anything about ghosting God? I gasped as I sat up on my bed.
My dear, if you can find reasons not to go to the physical church, then you’ll certainly come up with reasons not to join the live stream. The second-half replied and I imagined it giving me the stink eye. I deserved it. As I sighed, tears burnt behind my eyes and I laid back on my bed to wallow in them.
That was unfair! Half-number-one retorted. You’re not even being considerate of her predicaments.
Oh, please tell her! I thought, swiping at painful tears streaming down my face.
Try losing your job on a Monday of all days with stuttering rubbish for an excuse and peanuts for severance pay. Then, as you try hanging on to your faith and telling yourself, it was for the better and that God had better things for you, imagine getting a call that your mum slumped and would need surgery as soon as possible. Not only are you thousands of kilometres away from her, by the time you put your savings and severance pay together and sent it for the bills, it barely grazed the half-mark deposit for the surgery, admission fees and treatment.
Then, as you run from pillar to post, trying to see what you can put together, think about having your clueless and annoying paternal aunt call you on Wednesday to invite you to, or more like, taunt you about her daughter’s upcoming nuptials, a girl six years younger than you. Now, think about her even accusing your poor, sick mum of witchcraft as the reason why you’re not married. Even despite all these, you held on to your faith, knowing only God can bring you out of this.
Then, as if someone spoke doom into your week, every single person you called to ask for some money either had their money tied up somewhere or were cash-strapped. Great! Just great!
You send out your CV to several places but knowing the labour market you have in your country, you know it would be a miracle if you heard back from any of them anytime soon.
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Then, Friday comes and your sister calls you to tell you that your mum has gotten worse and the hospital thinks you should take her someplace else as you’re unable to pay the bills and they need bed spaces.
Then, you begin to wonder where God is. You realise you’re alone, truly alone with no one to come to your aid. Times are hard and everyone has more financial burdens than they can bear. Your mother is very well at the brink of death and not only does she get worse with each passing day as she’s unable to get the surgery, every minute she spends on the hospital bed, but your bills are also piling.
You wonder why on earth God would let you be in such a pickle. You realise this is more than you can bear and if you would scale through, you would have to pave your own path.
When Saturday came and you realise you can’t show up at choir rehearsals because real life just happened to you and you can’t waste precious time belting out tonic solfa when you need to pick and explore every other connection you have not reached. As poor and fickle as they are, you simply can’t stop trying and begging. You, after all, have until Monday to pay a good percentage of the hospital bills if your mum will not be kicked out!
Now, tell me, how on earth is she supposed to muster the courage to go to some thanksgiving, talk less of participating, in the middle of this whole mess?
God bless this first-half of my mind. It knew exactly how I felt and voiced it out even what I couldn’t! Now let’s see how in the universe the second half could beat that!
So, how far have you gone with those connections? How much have you been able to raise? Where were you when you decided God could not help you and only you had your back and where are you now? Several steps forward, stagnant or backwards? My dear, you’re depressed for heaven’s sake! So, how well have you done now that you’ve decided to ditch God! How quickly did you forget that what God cannot do does not exist? How quickly did your faith run out and you let the so-called reality set in?
Imade, I know you know this, but it’s high time you started believing it, that your future is only secure when Jesus is in the boat with you. As long as He’s in the boat, the storms may do their worst all through the night, but He will eventually rise and speak peace into the situation. And you will certainly pass on to the other side unscathed.
Shameful tears streamed down my face as I saw the futility of my actions in veering away from God. I realised that I had played the hypocrite. The one who found it so easy to preach when the going was good for her but now, when the chips were down, was a shamefaced coward! I realised I was foolish to think God had forsaken me and I had to sort out my problems by myself.
Then, the words of the prodigal son came to mind as if they were mine.
I will arise and go back to my Father…
Exactly! Rise up from that bed, it’s your first step out of that slump. Take a shower! Get dressed in something nice and go thank God even if everything happening in your life says to do otherwise! The first-half encouraged.
At that charge, I swung my legs off the bed and stood, then with a sudden sense of urgency, I went through the motions of getting ready for church.
One hour later, Sunday School and the first session of worship and praise had finished and we were all seated for the sermon. As he spoke about thanking God even when we feel least like doing it, I couldn’t help but feel it was for me! There must have been other people in the congregation who probably needed to hear this but the message hit home on my end. More so, I knew it had to be all in my mind, but it felt like Pastor was staring right at me, straight into my soul as he gave the soul-piercing sermon.
‘Everybody take a deep breath.’ He urged as he demonstrated the exercise and asked us to imitate the motion, ‘Yea, slow and nice, like that. Now, release it gently.’ As we all did that, I wonder where he was going with this.
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‘Henceforth, whenever you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom or are fast approaching there, do that! Not only does it clear your mind and help you think more clearly, but the fact that you can do that without any external aid will also remind you that you still have breath in your nostrils. The breath you’re able to draw and release without a problem in the world. That, in itself, is a testament to the fact that God is interested in your wellbeing. It would also remind you that as long as you can take that breath and release it, you have life and when there’s life, there’s hope that things will get better.’
I sighed as I considered his words in light of my situation. Last week was a testament to the fact that things could go from bad to worse and as much as I willed them not to get worse, the situation spiralled out of my control. So, how could I hold on to these words if all I had experienced so far was a worse version of each preceding situation?
I was waiting for you to realise that! The first-half of my mind taunted! I didn’t need this right now! I groaned inwardly, wiling the misleading voice to be quiet.
Job also went from bad to worse and even to worst but he came out victorious and better. Your situation doesn’t hold a torch to his, so, why should you give up hope? The second-half answered gently.
A little bit encouraged, I turned back my attention to the sermon, ‘I know how hard it can be to praise God when the going is bad and it looks like the odds are not in your favour. Trust me, I’ve been there. However, after giving up on my faith too many times in situations like that, I learnt a way to go about it. I found a way to shut fear’s yawning mouth and hang on to the Saviour’s hem.’ I sat up straighter at the far-back seat where I had begged the usher to let me seat with them, hoping I could sneak out as soon as the service closed. I needed to hear this way Pastor said he had discovered.
‘I’ve learnt to stock up on beautiful songs that concentrate on thanking God for who He is. In this playlist, I also have songs that praise Him for redemption’s plan and execution for mankind. The last category of songs in this list is the ones that bring to mind God’s past faithfulness and kindness. You see, what the devil does is cloud our minds so much with our worries that we forget who God is and what great feats He has achieved in the past. Satan magnifies our problems so much that the omnipotence of God lessens in comparison, but you see this special playlist I put together? When my troubles are becoming than I can handle, I listen to them. They keep everything in perspective. I am constantly reminded of God’s greatness and faithfulness. I am also reminded that this time, just like every other time, I won’t be broken, I won’t be defeated and my problems would not be the end of me. Rather, because I have a big God and a very little problem, though posing to be big, with Him by my side, holding my hand through the rough and unforgiving terrain, I will come out of that slump victorious! Let somebody shout hallelujah!’
A thunderous shout of hallelujah reverberated through the auditorium and mine was probably the loudest. It was the most spirited I’d been all week! And now I knew why I absolutely had to be in church this morning. I knew if I was to put together a playlist like Pastor’s, I would be putting together quite the arsenal because I knew my songs. The mere thought of putting Pastor’s method to use had my feet itching to dance! Wonder of all wonders! I felt like I had just gotten my victory.
Of course, I was still jobless with more bills than I could handle but somehow, I felt I had won the biggest battle. I had found a way out of the slump. I was back in the Saviour’s arms and more than ever, I believed He would come through for me, come what may! Because what God cannot do does not exist! Glory!
After the second session of thanksgiving which featured birthday and wedding anniversary celebrations, children dedications and wedding thanksgivings, the service was brought to a close with a couple of announcements. As the announcements were made, I tried to sneak out but the Holy Spirit, which of course, I had figured was the second-half of my mind led me right to my pastor’s office. I, of course, struggled, but He just wouldn’t let go until I found myself knocking on the door, though I knew he couldn’t be in yet.
The door, however, opened to reveal my pastor’s wife who gave her signature motherly smile – though today, it was heavily laden with concern – as she pulled me into her warm bear hug! I thought I was done crying, but apparently, I wasn’t, as I realised my foolishness. All the while I was looking for help everywhere, I completely discarded the thought of coming to my spiritual parents who had always been there for me.
At first, I didn’t want to ask them because they wouldn’t make it a loan and I didn’t want to take advantage of their love. Then, when I began running out of options and knew they were my next best shot, I couldn’t imagine the hurt and disappointment on their faces when they realised I had held back from sharing my troubles.
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One hour later, I was sitting opposite my pastor with his wife’s arms around me as they both heaved a sigh after my long and tearful narration.
‘First things first, can I get the account number of that sister of yours with your mum?’ At that request from him, my jaw dropped and stayed like that for a while until my Pastor hiked his brows and his wife patted my shoulders. I shook my head out of the daze and retrieved the number for them from my phone as well as the other details he needed. Then, Mummy spoke.
‘You know, Sister Imade, Satan is quite the cunning one. He has a way of making us see only what he wants us to see by making us think of only what he wants us to think. That way, he gets us right where he wants us – in the place of doubt, fear and depression. That was the stunt he pulled with you. When everything began falling apart, the first thing he did was to give you reasons not to turn to your family. Then he raised the stakes by arranging a few more tragedies, just to break your faith.
‘Now, God permitted him, only because He had arranged a way out to even bigger favours for you, but the devil had you blinded by the enormity of what was happening and you couldn’t see what God had planned for you. Finally, having lured you to places where there were no answers in the first place, you felt all hope was lost because all you met with were dead ends, and he eventually took away your praise. That was supposed to be the beginning of the end, but Mercy cried “No!” He literally dragged you down here today because here is where He had ordained for your deliverance. Upon Mount Zion, there shall be deliverance and the house of Jacob shall possess their possession, remember?’
I could not believe my ears as Mummy analyzed the nasty plot of the devil and how he was able to carry it out. Gratitude washed over me for God’s unfailing mercy and for the beautiful people He had placed in my life. While I was still processing her words, my sister’s call came through. Worry nipped at my heart as I wondered if this was another bad news. However, I chose to believe God was in charge. With all that had happened so far, there was no way He wasn’t. I excused myself and picked the call but Itohan’s excited scream was the last thing I expected to hear.
‘Sister, someone just sent 150,000 to me ooo. One Matthew Ajebamidele! Can you believe it?! Wait, do you know the person?’ Tears sprung to my eyes as I lifted them to Pastor’s face and then to his wife’s. They nodded in unison with gentle smiles on their faces and one tear slipped, after that the rest gained emancipation and I was in full bawling mode.
‘What happened? Why-‘ My sister’s worried tone had me swiping vigorously at my tears as I tried to hold back sobs.
‘Don’t mind me, Itohan, they are tears of relief. Yes, I know the man. The money is from my pastor and his wife. Please, remit it to the hospital and let me know whatever they say.’
‘Okay, sister, thank your pastor and his wife for us ooo. God bless them!’ Itohan said as she hung up the call.
I dropped to my knees in gratitude, but neither man nor wife would have any of it.
Mummy pulled me back to the chair and said, ‘Like I was saying before the call came in, the devil had you looking for help from everywhere but where help was. That said, do you remember I told you about five months ago that, should you consider leaving where you currently work, I would love to have that brain of yours on our company’s finance team.’ I didn’t dare hope Mummy was implying what I thought she was. But then, right at that point what other choice had I but to hope.
‘You laughed it off and said if you accepted any more favours from us, it would mean you’re taking advantage of us. I neither corrected you nor pursued the topic because I felt the timing was wrong. Well, it is not a favour, I believed you were underemployed where you worked previously and with what you’d done with the church’s finances, I knew it would be a big plus to have you in the company. Come to think of it, being the praise team leader is no small work. Coupling that with the office of financial coordinator is certainly more testament of your diligence and efficiency than any formal interview can reveal.’ Pastor nodded in agreement with her words and I held my breath as she continued.
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‘Now, certainly not coincidentally, a member of the team left the company some weeks ago and that position has, since then, being opened. Imade, you’ve managed the books for the parish for years now and not a single naira has been out of place. You are a gem and we would really like you to take the open position.’ I blinked rapidly as my eyes darted between both of them.
‘Are you se- Oh, no, sorry, that came out wrong. Is this real or is this a dream I escaped to, to get away from reality?’ Both of them laughed at me. Mummy poked me gently and asked with a smile if I felt that. I nodded in affirmation and burst into laughter.
Shame on you, devil! I thought. I’ll give it to you, you’re quite the master plotter, but guess what? My Redeemer is always a step ahead of you! In fact, he had placed you on the backburner since some two thousand years ago! You’re just all bark and no bite!
I glanced back at the couple and hugged Mummy then I dropped to my knees again to thank them profusely.
‘I’ll take the job. I’ll certainly take it!’ I announced excitedly as I sat down. ‘But what position is the job opening, ma?’
‘Head of Audit.’ Mummy said casually and I blinked rapidly.
‘Ma? Did you- wait! Did you say “Head of-”?’ I shrieked more than asked. This time it was the couple’s turn to burst into laughter.
As the praise session ended, I raised up my hands in worship as I sang:
‘This is the confidence
That when we come to You oh oh
What You cannot fix
What You cannot do
What You cannot solve does not exist
Somebody say eh eh
What You cannot fix
What You cannot do what You cannot do
What You cannot solve what You cannot solve does not exist.‘