Long ago I cared for children in my home in order to make ends meet. One specific moment never fades from my memory. I cajoled, rocked and sang to my daughter, Dawn, to calm her for a nap. She fought me and cried; she wasn’t a cuddler. Playing on the floor around me were two little girls the same age as Dawn. They giggled as they created little games with their toys. In one second I can go back and feel the mix of sadness and humility I experienced. With everything in me I longed for my little girl to be normal; to be down on that floor playing. I also sensed an overwhelming awareness of being held in the arms of a sovereign God, which meant I was not in charge. It was a strange sense of being put in my place. I could pray (beg) God to change Dawn; to heal her, but no matter what I did for her, I couldn’t make it happen.
Through the years, people have spoken to me various versions of this statement: “I’ve read my Bible, prayed, and tried to be a good Christian, but I can’t catch a break.” Then they tell me what they want but don’t have: a husband, a job, healing for a child, etc. All reasonable and universal desires. God has disappointed them.
Another question we hear (maybe we’ve even asked ourselves) is: “If God is good, why did He let this (fill in the blank) happen?” I hurt for them and empathize with the disappointment of unanswered prayer. But there is something important missing in their understanding.
I adopted a belief early in my faith life that Christians would be spared difficulties. I liked the sound of that, and gladly tucked the tenet into my brain’s personal theology library. Then my husband left, I learned I was pregnant and our little girl was severely handicapped. Leaders said if we would just believe in faith we’d have answers to our prayers. I’d screw up my faith and imagine Dawn talking and interacting in a typical way. I knew with certainty she’d be healed. Only, she wasn’t. When a person teaches us that we carry the weight of our outcomes, there are bad results. A couple of friends, who were seriously ill, said they felt guilty when they weren’t miraculously healed. They felt something was wrong with them; maybe they didn’t quite believe earnestly enough. Then they died.
God is a God of miracles. At any second He can break through our circumstances and heal a loved one or give an answer we so desperately want. I have no doubt about this. He accomplishes wondrous acts today just like we read about in Scripture. I still pray for Dawn to be healed; to develop intellectually. I’ll always pray for her.
What we must carry, as a comforting blanket wrapped around us, is what I carried with me that day as I rocked Dawn. God’s sovereignty. His mighty loving omniscience rules the earth, including people like us. We flatter ourselves when we think we have Him figured out. When we come up with a formula to accomplish what we want; A + B = C.
Since I first became a Christian, I’ve prayed over and over to be like Jesus and meant it. Then He shows up in ways I don’t recognize Him and my happy life changes course. It doesn’t look the way it should. I cry over my hardships but realize I’m changing on the inside. I remember my prayer; I want to be like HIm. Our amazing Father uses every detail in our lives to change us and conform us.
It’s important to us humans for our lives to make sense. Somehow we feel better if we can, by control or manipulation, affect our own outcomes. We put more stock in ourselves than God.
God is Love. He can’t help but love us; it’s Who He is. It’s not because of anything we’ve done or haven’t done. He’s in control of the entire world; we’re not. His goodness doesn’t waffle based on what happens in our lives. His very nature is good.
As I churn out my thoughts I suddenly realize I’m probably a bit too big for my britches to even address this subject. To try to make sense out of the conundrum. Who do I think I am?
Being a human and a Christian can seem like a tricky task. I certainly don’t have all the answers. I only share what I believe to be true after walking with Jesus for 50 years.
One of my favorite quotes makes me want to live more fully in my life today, rather than worry over the life I don’t have.
Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.Jim Elliot
Let’s believe with all our hearts that He will answer our prayers. But In the end if it doesn’t look like it should; when God doesn’t do what we thought He’d do, let’s embrace Him with our whole hearts and rejoice in His loving control over our lives.
Draw close to Him and be comforted by His sovereignty. Love Him, trust Him and worship Him regardless of what your life looks like on a given day. We’re able to do this because of His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.
There is a whole world of difference between those who look only for their own happiness in this world and those who know that their true happiness lies in the will of God.Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman