I Heard Him in a Song

Three bars. That’s about all it takes. Three bars of this popular song:

Authors: Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt © 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing) Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Authors: Bryan Torwalt, Katie Torwalt
© 2011 Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
Jesus Culture Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

and I’m itching to turn off the radio. Sometimes I listen, but most days it’s too painful.

On my brother’s first night in the hospital, I stayed with him. I sat in the recliner, while he drifted in an out of consciousness. As I waited through the quiet parts of the night, fear dominated my emotions. I could barely complete a thought, much less utter a coherent prayer. Desperate, I googled “healing prayers” and prayed words I couldn’t string together on my own. I tried to remember scripture and scrolled through my Bible app. I was not comforted.

Then I remembered the advice of a friend, “Invite Jesus into your difficult places.” So I prayed and invited Jesus into the hospital room, into our presence, into Derek’s presence.

A bit later, I found myself humming a song, one I didn’t know very well:

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
to be overcome by Your presence, Lord

I didn’t know the name of the song. Couldn’t remember where I’d heard it before. And couldn’t remember any other lyrics. But there I was singing the chorus over and over again.

For the rest of the night, that song was my prayer. And I experienced a measure of peace. God was with us. I could feel His presence.

In the days and weeks that followed, I watched my brother teeter on the edge of death more times than I want to remember. I tried, on every occasion, to welcome the Holy Spirit’s presence. But some days, my faith was like sand running through my fingers. I couldn’t hold onto it and the harder I tried, the faster it ran out.

One day, after leaving the hospital, feeling completely bankrupt of spirit, I couldn’t bring myself to pray, let alone to hope.

What does God think, I wondered, when I don’t have any faith? What would he say to me now, when I can’t bring myself to speak to Him? Is He angry? Disappointed?

Then something broke through my thoughts – a song playing on the radio:

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…

What timing. I didn’t have the energy to sing or pray, but I didn’t need to. Because it was as if Jesus was in the passenger seat singing the words for me. I could almost see Him there, inviting the Holy Spirit into the car.

As the song played, Jesus spoke to my heart, “The Holy Spirit is still welcome here, Nichole. Even when you have no strength, when your faith fails and hope runs dry, I am still here. When you can not pray, I am praying for you. I am not angry or disappointed. I want to be here. With you. Even now.”

A few days later, my brother came off the respirator and left the ICU. Over the next weeks, he overcame two bouts of internal bleeding and was able to visit with his son more than once. We spent time together, talking, laughing, praying. His recovery baffled doctors. We praised God for the mysterious miracle and waited as they prepared to discharge him to a nursing home for rehabilitation. Only they never did.

The phone call came a 1:00 a.m on June 19. Derek had developed sepsis.

What do you wear when you’re going to watch your brother die? With trembling hands, I put on my “I love you to the moon and back” t-shirt.

Love you to the moon and back

My husband and I picked up my mother and sister-in-law and drove to the hospital. What do you say when you’re on your way to watch your brother, your son, your husband die? We rode in silence.

Can you feel it? The dread? The fear? The oppressive weight of death and suffering and hopelessness?

God, where are you in this?

A few blocks from the hospital, a song came on the radio.
A song came on the radio.
Like the final bookend for a heartbreaking saga, a song came on the radio.

As we drove down lonely city streets,

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here…

As we turned onto Woodland Avenue,

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…

As we pulled into St. Francis Hospital,

Your glory God is what our hearts long for…

As we parked the car in an empty garage,

To be overcome by Your presence Lord…

During the long, silent walk from the car to the elevator to the ICU lobby, the words lingered in my mind,

Let us become more aware of Your presence…

When they buzzed us through the ICU doors, like in a prison, only we were the ones walking death row, as the doctors and nurses greeted us with knowing glances and sad smiles, before shifting their eyes away,

Let us experience the glory of Your goodness…

In that room, in that room, where my brother lay dying…

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here… 

As he whispered for help while I held his hand,

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…

When I look back on those hellish 47 days and find myself questioning God’s faithfulness, doubting His presence, wondering what it all was for, I remember a song…placed on my heart in the silence of that first sleepless night at the hospital with my brother.

I remember a song…sung to me by Jesus as I drove alone in my car, when I had no faith, no strength to sing myself.

I remember a song…the last song on the radio just before my brother died.

Like a tower of stones, those moments, one upon the other, are my Ebenezer. I think God knew I’d need them.

To remember, in the days of doubt and despair, when I find myself asking, “Why? Why let him get better only to snatch him away? Did you hear our prayers? Were you even there? Do you even care?”

To remember, that we were never alone, that He was there, from beginning to end, and every moment in between.

He was there.

I heard Him in a song.

© Nichole Liza Q.

17 thoughts on “I Heard Him in a Song

Add yours

  1. Thank you for allowing us to take a peek into one of the most heartwrenching chapters of your life. How amazing that Almighty God who could fill the entire universe with his enormous presence and can call things into being by the mere power of his word chooses to make himself small enough to sit beside us and speak tender words of truth and comfort. May you continue to make His presence welcome.

  2. Going to read all of the lyrics to that song now … needing a healthy dose of hope, which you just initiated. Thank you, my friend. ❤

  3. My dear friend, I still cry with you and am sad for you. I praise God for the healing He is bringing like waves, just continuing to wash over you, over and over and over. Thankful for the words that He brought to you that night that you invited Him into your presence when you did not have the words to string together in a prayer. He loves us so much and is so faithful to bring exactly what is needed throughout these sufferings. Reminds me of something I read this morning regarding the sufferings we will experience in our lives:
    17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:17 New International Version (NIV)
    So, through you sharing in ‘I heard Him in a song’, it has ministered to me today, right now, right here. God uses it all for our good, for His Glory. I needed to be brought into His presence, and welcome the Holy Spirit into my atmosphere, so thank you.
    I love you and I continue to lift you to the only One who can give healing, understanding, hope, love, faith, trust and grace.

  4. Wow, such beautiful words to describe such a brutal experience. Amazing. This morning I was feeling overwhelmed with stuff and when I got to my desk a very old song came to me. An old John-Michael Talbot song, “Only in God.” That led to another I haven’t sung in decades, “Healer of My Soul.” It was amazing how God met me in the midst of these songs. Thank You Lord for meeting us in these places, high and low. Thanks for sharing Nichole. Very moving.

  5. You wrote this so beautifully, Thank You! For sharing your innermost feelings of when you lost your brother. It is so truly heart wrenching when we lose someone we love so much, someone who is so young. 💕

  6. Wow. No words, just eyes welling up. Thanks Nichole. I’m just so grateful for His presence…

  7. That song now has new meaning for me. Of all the places for the Holy Spirit to be welcome that was the most appropriate. To have the Holy Spirit ready to greet your brother and usher Him into his eternal home – wow.
    I think you wore the most appropriate shirt as well. He knew you loved him and being able to read it on your shirt when he looked at you was so comforting. He was surrounded by those who loved him. That’s how I want to leave this world as well.
    Thanks for being open in your sharing. It’s beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time.

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