You never know when God will provide an opportunity to share the hope you have.
It was well after 10 p.m., in Conway, Ark., a small town north of Little Rock. I had just gotten done with a late meeting. Earlier in the day, my car rental reservation fell through, and I had to pivot to taking Uber, a rideshare, to the meeting. Front Street was quiet and dark, and my Uber app was spinning in search of a willing driver to take me back to my hotel.
In the meantime, Dave had just sat down with his dogs after a full day of work, followed by a few hours of Uber runs. His day was over. But something drew his attention to his Uber app. He noticed a late-night request for a ride back to a hotel near the airport in Little Rock. There were no other drivers online. He decided to go back out and make the run.
My wife (who was on this trip with me) and I were thrilled when our app finally said that a driver named Dave in a silver sedan would be arriving soon. We’d be at our hotel 37 minutes after that. Dave pulled up and stopped in the middle of Front Street. “No rush,” he said. “There aren’t any other cars coming through here anytime soon.”
After a bit of small talk (“Where are you from?” “Las Vegas.” “Why are you here?” “Helping start a new Lutheran Christian church.” “What do you do?” “Mission counselor. I help groups share the gospel and start new churches in their communities”), Dave said matter-of-factly, “I’m agnostic.”
Dave had a warm personality. Middle-aged, short-sleeved polo shirt, clean-shaven, bright-eyed, living in the Bible Belt. I was very curious. “Were you always agnostic?” I asked. “What’s your story? How did you get to this place spiritually?”
Dave was willing to tell me, an “open book . . . to a fault” in his own words. His story was hard to hear: a brother who shot himself and survived, but only to live a life of hardship—blind, mental health issues, alcoholism leading to an early death. A mother who promised God at her son’s bedside that if he kept her son alive, she’d start going to church . . . and kept her promise, introducing Dave to church for the first time as an early teen. A mother who died just a couple years later of cancer, in part because she refused medical treatment while waiting on Jesus to heal her. A wife who committed suicide and was first discovered by his daughter. A frantic and long drive home from work in response to that phone call, pleading with God the whole way that it wasn’t true. A son and daughter with whom he has a strained relationship because they refuse to talk honestly about how their mother’s death has affected the three of them.
“I just don’t see God anywhere!” he said.
Dave explained how he had enough exposure to the gospel as a teenager that he felt he had a rather strong faith. But then he went off to college, studied other world religions, was exposed to the horrific past and present of the church—the Catholic Church in particular—and endured the death of his mom. It was all too much.
Dave acknowledged the value of having a relationship with the church and with Jesus, a true source of purpose and meaning, a foundation on which to build one’s life, a source of hope.
I asked, “Who or what is your rock, your source of meaning and hope?”
Dave replied, “I don’t have one.”
There were less than ten minutes left in our ride. I had the opportunity to share a wide variety of gospel promises and assurances. Dave was not unfamiliar with most (albeit from a bit of a law bent). Life in this world of sin is often difficult. Death is the consequence of sin in this world. God sent Jesus, not to make this life a little more bearable for a little more time but to suffer the consequences of sin for us all, to defeat death, to open the doors of heaven where our eternal existence (versus the blink of an eye, which this life is) will be lived out in bliss and peace and perfection. We discussed the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We discussed God’s unconditional love. We discussed the perspective shared by the psalmist in Psalm 73. We discussed forgiveness.
Okay, that didn’t all happen in ten minutes. Halfway through that conversation, we had pulled up to the hotel. But Dave was in no rush to get back to his dogs. And I was in no rush to end this conversation or leave Dave without hope.
The conversation continued . . . questions, answers, rebuttals, gospel promises, frustrations expressed, hope shared. Dave looked intently into my eyes through the rearview mirror; I looked intently back. “God loves you!” I said.
Finally, it was time to go. Dave got our bags out of the trunk and shook my hand. I held that grip, looked Dave in the eye, and said, “I’ll be praying for you, Dave. Thank you for your honesty. And thank you for coming out to help us tonight.”
I couldn’t sleep that night. I was praying for Dave. “Bless Dave. Please work your love and hope and peace and saving faith in Dave’s heart.” Finally, at some point, I concluded, “Please let me now go to sleep like the farmer who plants the seed and then goes to sleep knowing that God makes it grow.”
Author: Matthew Vogt
Volume 111, Number 02
Issue: February 2024