Some of the greatest enemies of revival and a fruitful Christian life are pride and unforgiveness, both of which frequently result in division. They seem to be favorite tools of the enemy to thwart the people of God from living lives fully surrendered to Him, passionately pursuing Him and effectively serving Him. Our family has been fervently praying for unity and revival at Mount Zion Baptist Church (MZBC) for over a year, Sarah’s journals are evidence it was her heartbeat as well. By praying for unity, I primarily mean we were praying for God’s people at MZBC to be characterized by a humble 1 Peter 1:22 love for one another.
“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” 1 Peter 1:22-23 [NASB]
Our prayers for unity and revival were combined with impassioned prayers for the pastor search team to walk in patience and obedience to the Lord to bring the man God had chosen specifically for MZBC. God did amazing and miraculous works to bring His man for us during the pastor search process. With God’s divine orchestration in His calling of Dr. Kevin Moore as our next senior pastor, I was certain I could sense a gentle yet increasing wind of revival coming our way.
June 8, 2017, the Mount Zion Baptist Church bus crashed injuring many and taking the physical life of our precious daughter, Sarah Lauren Harmening. At that time we immediately prayed, asking Him to redeem the agony.
On June 10, 2017 at 8:27 AM I talked with a dear friend and prayer partner, not a member of MZBC, who shared that as she was praying at MZBC the night of the accident God was impressing on her heart that He was going to use Sarah’s life and testimony as a unifier at MZBC. I texted her recently to see if she could recount exactly what she told me, recognizing my memory from that time might not be completely reliable. She shared the following:
I remember that very night when I was in the floor at Mt Zion. I remember thinking how you had been in prayer more and in the word more than probably any time in your life. Your hearts cry had been to lead you to God’s man, but also for the body to be one. It just came over me that God was answering that prayer through Sarah. That he had been preparing you through those months as you had prayed for the body to be unified.
My friend was quite passionate as she shared her heart with me, but it really didn’t resonate with my heart at that time. I suppose I was so consumed with my grief and that of my family that my focus really could not yet extend beyond us and our needs.
Later that morning, at 9:58 AM I received a text message from a second friend who is a member of MZBC, they shared with me how the Lord had used Sarah’s testimony to encourage them to seek restoration in a painfully broken relationship with another member at MZBC. Theirs was a deep and long lasting division I and others had fervently prayed over for more than a year. When they approached the other person that person was receptive and agreed to restore the relationship, a miracle of God’s unifying grace on both parties.
That same day, at 1:15 PM, I received yet another text message from a third friend, not a member of MZBC either:
I wanted to share something with you. I was impressed Thursday afternoon that the enemy is trying to destroy what God has done there at Mt Zion over the last several months. So [my husband] and I have been praying for continued unity amongst Mt Zion’s body and leadership. As I spoke with a friend of mine from church, she asked about you. She said as she was praying for you and Mt Zion the word unity kept coming to her. She had no clue about the search for a new pastor or your journey on the committee.
It immediately struck me as noteworthy that the two friends from different churches and different denominations, neither at MZBC, and strangers to one another were saying the exact same thing regarding unity. Maybe it was just about the unity that was restored to that one broken relationship previously mentioned, or perhaps it was more. I praised God for the restored relationship, but didn’t really ponder or meditate on the focus of unity any further.
In the meantime, in the aftermath of the accident I was deeply wounded by someone’s actions. They are aware of their actions and the ramifications. Immediately after it happened I began praying that God would enable me to have a tender heart and ability to forgive them when they contacted me for forgiveness and healing. I was prayed up, poised and waiting, but to no avail, they never contacted me. Yesterday my longing for that person to contact me in brokenness collided violently with a tidal wave of grief, and in the fallout I realized something has to change in my heart. I prayed through the night watches asking the Lord to help me to desire a right heart in this situation, and for Him to give me courage to walk in obedience to whatever He calls me to do.
This morning He called me to forgive in the absence of shared repentance. I suspicioned all along it would come to this. The Lord challenged me as I prayed and in my heart I heard, “You are willing to entrust your daughter to me, but you are struggling to entrust the hurt of this person’s actions to me?” I felt ridiculous and ashamed. If God can redeem Sarah’s departure, then surely He can redeem these wounds as well. So today, in my kitchen with hands held open I surrendered the hurt to Him and asked Him to once again create in me a clean heart overflowing with grace and forgiveness.
I remembered this afternoon that Sarah had written recently about forgiveness and unity in her journal. I remembered because it irritated me when I read it previously because I was waiting to dispense forgiveness conditionally upon receipt of an apology. This afternoon, with fresh eyes and a repentant heart, I reread them along with the scripture she referenced, and celebrated the importance of a heart set on forgiveness and unity.
Quiet time 5/22/17
Psalms 131-133/ 1 Samuel 1/ 1 John 1-2
- Psalm 133 – live together in unity. How can you quarrel with someone when it is either your brother or sister in Christ or an unbeliever. If it is an unbeliever you are destroying your witness. If it is with a brother or sister in Christ, you are angry with someone who has been eternally forgiven by God. You should forgive also because you have been forgiven.
- Two things I can learn from Hannah is to pray without ceasing and knowing that God answers prayer. Also to surrender. Hannah surrendered her only son to the Lord. How much more should I be willing to surrender my life.
- 1 John 2:1-2
- 1 John 3-6 ❤
- 1 John 2:28 ❤
~ Sarah Harmening
Psalms 134-135/ 1 Samuel 2/ 1 John 3-4
- 1 Samuel 2:2-3
- 1 John 3:1-3 ❤
- 1 John 4:7-12 ❤
- 1 John 4:17-21 ❤
- Praying today to really learn how to love. An unconditional love blind to faults and social standings. That I might learn to see people as God sees them. He died for them.
- Loving others is not a natural thing for us. Our human nature tell us that we’re more important. And if someone wrongs us, we have the right to hate that person. But the Bible says that whoever hates a brother or a sister is a murderer.
~ Sarah Harmening
May I be so full of His love that it overflows from the depths of my heart (1 Pet. 1:22). May I be characterized by being slow to anger and quick to overlook an offense (Prov. 19:11). May I never provide an opportunity for division through the mediums of pride and unforgiveness in my life (Prov. 11:2). May it never be said of me that I allowed the enemy to use me to thwart revival, even in just one life.
May I never forget that “We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here a moment. And this is not about us. Life is not about us. It’s about God who is eternal. So I want to dedicate the one moment I’m here completely and entirely to him.” ~Sarah Harmening
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. Psalm 133:1-3 [NIV]