Conversatio Divina

Part 2 of 2

God’s Mercy in My Messy Intercessory Journey

Kristiana Phillips

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

– Hebrews 4:13-16

01.  Compassionate Listening

When engaging in spiritually vulnerable conversations with my peers, I’ve sought to listen as compassionately and openly as possible. Often, I listen with an unguarded empathy that can make me vulnerable to doubt, despair, even horror as I process the difficult stories and struggles of those who bravely share their hearts with me.

However, in my growing awareness of the stories of suffering unfolding all around me, my gratitude for the empathy of Jesus—who sees each one of our stories—has also deepened. He proved His great care and compassion for us by taking on flesh and enduring all things to make a way for us to enter into His kingdom.

In times where I sense myself beginning to take on the burdens of my friends and experiencing deep philosophical or emotional doubts—questioning why God has not shown His faithfulness in any obvious way to one friend, or doubting alongside another how a God who casts unbelievers into hell can truly be as good and loving as I want Him to be, or crying out in terror for Him to have mercy on His horrifically broken Church because of stories I’ve heard from a third—in these times especially, I need to go to God in prayer. I trek to my spot beneath several towering oak trees, kneel on a stone, stare at the sky, and I tell Him: You need to save us. We won’t make it unless You find us. We are so, so broken, and we cannot save ourselves. 

I drag our haggard frames up to the Mount
of Skulls, where, on our faces, rain falls red.
As coils of skin — far more than I can count —
come peeling from your hands, I raise my head.
Now here come pealing screams, torn from my chest
both by your wounds and by the man above
who hangs on bruisèd bones, alone, undressed:
the bloodied body of true slaughtered Love.
Hair sticky with cannibalistic wine,
I clasp your oozing hands between my own.
Two thousand miles of rock block out the shine
of sun, and all is blackened to the bone.
We are but corpses coughing borrowed breath,
but to this Tree may we be sealed in death.

How grateful I am that our God hears such desperate prayers! He has extended to me an expansive invitation to pray. As I have responded, He has given me spiritual treasures in place of the second-hand traumas I had absorbed from listening with so unguarded a heart. The poem above was written for a friend wrestling with betrayal, bitterness, and self-harm. I prayed over him through a season where he reveled in his rebellion and defiance against God. I witnessed him encounter the depths of God’s gentleness, patience, and grace in ways I might never have understood if drawing only from my own personal experience.

For many other friends, I continue to intercede. I have seen only small glimmers of hope that one day they will encounter God as the powerful and loving deliverer and redeemer that I believe Him to be. I am continuing to navigate the intensity of my empathy as it relates to spiritually significant conversations, ever asking for wisdom and often befriending it through painful experience. God’s mercy covers all my fumbling on this intercessory path, growing compassion, patience, and hope within me. He is showing me that His light is greater than every kind of darkness, and we as an Easter people are called, amidst stories of real agony and terror and doubt, to hold confidently to the hope that Christ’s presence will dawn.

Exhausted in our pain, we corpses sleep
through quaking earth and stones rolled from our tombs.
The gentle light of early morning creeps
into our blackened world and wakes the blooms
of hope. Along the Warm Spring Road we walk
and call to mind all kinds of suffering.
A Pilgrim joins us quietly as we talk
and seems to heal us with His listening.
The Living Word Himself speaks, drawing near.
We Slow of Heart blink blindly at His face.
the Sun of Righteousness is risen here,
our hearts are burning with the flames of grace,
and as we sit at table, breaking bread,
at last we see: He’s waked us from the dead! 

02.  Strengthening Connections

  • Find one young adult in your life and invite them to share a meal. Ask them to share something they are struggling with right now. Intentionally listen as they share and refrain from giving hasty advice.
  • Set aside intentional time this week to pray for young people within your community. Ask God to show you his desires for them and echo those desires.
  • Spend time reading and meditating on Psalm 27, which describes waiting on a mighty God who has the power to shelter, answer, and save. Consider bringing the stories that have discouraged or burdened you into the presence of the LORD who is our light and salvation. What might it look like to wait on the LORD and take heart even as you bear witness to these stories?


Kristiana grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a love of stories that took her deep into the worlds of others. Of the many experiences that shaped her throughout her time studying English and philosophy at Westmont College, where she now works, she is particularly grateful for the opportunities she received to worship in church communities in England, Ireland, Mexico, and Japan.