I love trusting God. I love reading about His promises and declaring His word and the finished work of the cross over my life and my circumstances. I love this verse: “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:20) I am even learning to love it when things don’t work out the way I thought they would or the way I planned them to because that means that God has room to do something so awesome, so out of the realm of possibility, something I just could not begin to imagine. Because He’s God and that’s just what He does. Amazing.
But what about when it just doesn’t work out? What do you do with that? When you have done everything you know how to do. When you have been faithful before God with what He has given you and it is all taken away. When you consistently tithe off your gross salary and give gifts and offerings with a cheerful heart but you are still in debt and wonder how you will make it if the car breaks down or the roof starts leaking. When you pray with more than a mustard seed of faith for healing but disease remains or death comes. When you pray for the salvation of a loved one but nothing ever seems to change. What do you do with that?
To me it’s like treading water. You start out feeling full of faith. You’ve been through hardship with God before, you know He’s faithful, you know He’s good, you know He has the best for you. You can make it. Then you start to feel tired. It’s harder to remember with such enthusiasm what God has done before. Besides, the past is the past, this is now and God can’t rest on the success of that last blockbuster miracle, He needs a new release and soon. And then you hear it. Maybe you’re in church, maybe you’re listening to a message on-line or maybe a friend has an exciting story to share. Either way, someone else shares their story of God’s miracle working power in their life. A miracle just like what you need. Only you’re still treading water and there they are relaxing on the beach, all smug and happy, having trusted God to come through. Seems they are now reaping the rewards of their faith while you are still trying to keep your head above water. Doesn’t it just make you want to sob your heart out? I mean its’ one thing to shout ‘Hallelujah” and “praise You Jesus” when you hear testimony of a miracle that you are not personally waiting for. But when someone is singing the praises of God for a miracle just like the one you are waiting for well, it can feel devastating. Why that person and not you? Did they do something that you’re not doing? Did they pray harder? Were they more faithful? Did they have more faith? Is there something else God is waiting for you to do? Does God love them more? Why doesn’t He see you? Why doesn’t He see me?
I remember this one Sunday service years ago. We were going through financial strain and it was wearing on me. We were tithing and I was declaring Malachi 3:10 over our finances. “’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” One of the pastors stood up and told a story of how he and his wife were in financial need. They prayed and believed God would take care of their need. And guess what? Money appeared at the foot of their bed. Seriously. Money was laid out across the bottom of their bed. He was not preaching a prosperity gospel, he was just recounting this story in his message. And it broke me. I sobbed. God, why can’t you help me like that!
I enjoy watching the 700 Club Canada. There are incredible stories of healing and salvation shared every day on that program. My faith is encouraged and strengthened as I hear what God has done for so many different people in impossible situations. I know that God can heal. This past spring, I underwent surgery to remove my uterus because biopsy reports showed I had a condition that was pre-cancerous. Afterward I developed a bowel obstruction. I was in constant, often agonizing pain. I had to have a nasogastric tube inserted twice to drain all the bile that was building up in my stomach. Both times the tube had to be inserted it took multiple attempts because I instantly started gagging and vomiting liters of bile. It was traumatizing and I needed a sedative to cope with the insertions. For two weeks I couldn’t eat or drink and it began to look like I would have to undergo another surgery to correct the obstruction. I knew this would only increase my risk for bowel obstructions in the future and with my faith in the toilet I desperately prayed for God to heal me. And He did! As two of my friends were praying over me, God removed the obstruction and three days later I went home. But guess what. The pathology report came back showing that I had the earliest stage of cancer in my uterus. I was completely shocked. I did not expect that at all. I really believed it would come back negative. This is a very unusual cancer for someone my age to have had. I have none of the risk factors. My mother died of breast cancer at the age of 51 when I was 22 years old. She was a beautiful woman of God and believed that God had said He would heal her but she has now been dead for 19 years. If God were going to heal anyone based on faithfulness and surrender, it would have been my mother. Is my mother’s cancer genetically related to what happened to me? I don’t know. It will take 5 years before I am discharged from regular follow up. The chance of cancer recurring in that time is statistically very slim but like I said, statistically it should never have happened at all. That can feel scary.
So, what do you do with that? What does Sharlene Bosma do with the senseless murder of her husband? What did the early Christians do in the Roman arenas with the lions baring down on them? What did the Jewish people do in Nazi Germany? What does the persecuted church around the world do every single day? What do you do with your own unanswered prayer?
I have always loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When the king builds a great big gold statute and has everyone bowing down to worship it, these guys refuse to bow, they will worship no other gods but the living God. I love what they say to the king: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18) What I like best about their reply is when they say, “but even if He does not”. They acknowledge that God is able, in fact they say “He will deliver us from your (…) hand” but just to be entirely, one hundred percent clear, even if He does not, they still will not bow. That is my answer. That is what I do with a lack of finances. That is what I do with my body, still waiting for physical healing (I have a couple of areas of healing I have been asking God about, one request is now over 10 years old). Many years ago now I was moved by the words of Job: “though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him”. (Job 13:15) Those are pretty extreme words. And because they are such extreme words, they better be said to a God who is able to handle extreme. What if I die at an early age? What if we end up living in a cardboard box on the sidewalk with not a penny to our names? Even if these things happen, there is really nothing else I can do. I am a bond-slave of Christ and like Peter I say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Please understand, I am not speaking these things over me. But people live through these things and more. What do you do with that? Jesus has commanded us to take up our cross and follow Him. (Luke 9:23) We cannot know how big God is until we carry our cross. The great heroes of the Bible were commended for their faith, even though they did not see what was promised. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1)
God has already told us that in this life we will have trouble. But – Behold the Underlying Truth – but, He also told us that in Him we have peace because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) If we are struggling with unanswered prayer, this bears repeating: not we will, but we have peace. God is Who He says He is. He can and will do what He says He will do. He is not slow in keeping His promises (2 Peter 3:9). He is able to keep that which we give to Him until that day when we see Him face to face. (2 Timothy 1:12) So that is what I do with that. That is what I will do with my questions, with my “unanswered” prayers, with my heartaches, with my failure and my fear. I will declare that He is able to save, heal, deliver and restore but even if He does not, by the strength He has given me by the Holy Spirit, I will not bow down. Who will stand with me.
“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24,25)
- Either Way (crowleyfirstumc.wordpress.com)
- Even In The Fire You Are Faithful…. (branditrent3.wordpress.com)