Recently, I’ve come to terms with something that has been groundbreaking in my walk with God.
I realized: We don’t get everything we ask God for.
As a born-and-raised-word-of-faith-church-kid, it seems radical to even say that. Radical but true.
It’s not that I don’t believe God answers prayers. Of course He does. It would take me a lifetime to write down every single prayer He has answered for me. Not including the many prayers I’ve seen Him answer for other people.
He has opened a window over my life and poured out incredible blessings. But in all of these blessings, the truth remains, I can ask God for something – pray, beg, cry, sow – and simply not get what I’ve asked Him for.
I don’t understand it. I don’t get why praying people get sick or die or are abused by their parents or abandoned by their spouses or lose their kids or stay mired in abject poverty, or generally experience other horrible things. I don’t get why children get sick and die of cancer or other life threatening diseases.
I don’t understand it, but I can’t base my theology on my understanding. I can’t allow my faith to be controlled by my shaky, ever-changing circumstances. I can’t decide who He is based on knowledge limited by my senses. I have to ask myself: Is God only good because He gives me what I want? Or is He good regardless of my circumstances?
Does God exist outside of my prayer requests?
In my life, yes.
If He never did another thing for me, He is still God.
He has infinite wisdom. His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. He knows the end from the beginning.
Sometimes, I can think to myself, “it isn’t fair for me to not get x, y, and z because I am a good person.”
But the Bible says in Matthew 5:45, “He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust.” The bad things in life are not reserved exclusively for bad people and the good things in life don’t only happen to good people.
Besides are any of us really good people? And what does that mean anyway?
The Bible says that my righteousness is as filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6 & Romans 3:10)
If my righteousness is filthy in God’s eyes, what of my unrighteousness? My downright ugliness sometimes? It’s a wonder He answers any of my prayers if being a good person is the criteria. (Thankfully, it is not.)
Furthermore, what is fairness? Don’t we all have more than some and less than others? In some ways aren’t we all swimming in riches in some areas and dying of starvation in others? What would fairness look like? Is fairness based on feelings of contentment? There are those who are content though they seemingly have WAY less than you do. And there are those who are consistently miserable despite seemingly “having it all”.
It’s all beyond my understanding.
I do know this though: prayers can move God. He is the Lord and He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6), but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t change His mind. There are several instances in the Bible where God was going to do one thing, someone prayed, and He decided to do something else. (Exodus 32:14)
And sometimes delay is not denial.
My favorite scriptures in the Bible begin with “And then God remembered…” That remembrance on His part resulted in the miraculous for that person. (1 Samuel 1:19)
Sometimes we have to endure a “no” from God whether that’s a “not right now” or a “not ever”. (And both of those are answers in themselves, so it’s not true to say that God didn’t answer my prayers. Maybe he just said “no”.)
It’s brutal — especially when I feel I’m the only one experiencing a “no” in a particular situation. Even evil people get the “yes” I want sometimes. (Ugh. There are few things worse than witnessing someone who was downright wicked to me being blessed by God.) Why does God continue to say no to me?
I have no idea. I don’t understand any of it.
But I still believe God is good.
He is still the God who answers prayers. He is still the God who provides. He is still the Father who loves. He is still full of power. He is still performing miracles. He is still the Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He is still Faithful. He is still the Good Shepherd.
He is still the worthy of all of the glory, the honor and the praise whether he answers my prayers with a yes, a not yet…and even a no.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for in due time you shall laugh.” -Luke 6:21