This week I'm remembering the last thing I said to Bryan before he took Jayden to the doctor, when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. It went like this:
Me: I sure hope he doesn't have diabetes.
Bryan: Well, that would be awful.
So, as I ponder that short exchange, I've been thinking about what hope looks like, what faith looks like, what honesty looks like when things don't go well, prayers don't make it better, and the very thing I feared would happen, happens.,
Who is God then? And who am I?
As I ponder (and wrestle), I've been going back to the chapter on Jesus' arrest, besting, and sentencing from my book. And I've been reminded of what faith and hope are when my worst fears come true. I've found this excerpt helpful, and I hope you will too.
So, if you're facing a battle today and God's not making it "go away," read on ...
WRESTLING WITH WONDER excerpt
So who is this God who forces us to face our worst fears and refuses to answer our prayers to take this cup from us? Who is he whose will includes a Messiah’s arrest, beating, and horrific death? Who is he who sends a mother to witness the death of her Son?
This God is the One who ...
... takes us where we don’t want to go
... to do what we never dreamed possible.
He is the God who says “Follow me!” in the midst of the worst times in our lives.
Will we say, “Your will be done ... even if it’s this nightmare” as we pray and sweat and bleed?
Because we are called by this God to face our fears and love anyway, follow anyway, believe anyway.
Even when prayers are answered with only a resounding “No!”? Even when we pray and things get worse? Even when it seems like God hasn’t heard us at all?
After all, a lot of people in the Bible didn’t get their prayers answered the way they wanted. But God’s will was done anyway. Here is just a small sampling:
—Jonah: In Jonah 4:2, Jonah prays to the Lord and says, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish.”
Jonah wanted his enemies, Israel’s enemies, in the city of Nineveh to be destroyed. He prayed for Israel’s freedom from the horror inflicted on them by the Assyrians (Nineveh was their capital city). Instead, God sent him to preach to them, to warn them what would happen if they didn’t repent. Jonah fled in the opposite direction, toward Tarshish, to avoid the outcome he dreaded—the Ninevites repenting and being saved. But things got worse with a storm at sea, Jonah swallowed by a huge fish, and his being vomited up on land. Jonah went to Nineveh—the last place he ever wanted to go. He preached. They repented. And God did not destroy the city before Jonah’s eyes. His enemies remained. Jonah’s prayers weren’t answered. The worst thing he imagined happened. But God’s will was done.
—Paul: In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, Paul says, “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Three times Paul prays, and each time God answers with a resounding, “No!” But God’s will is done. Paul’s character is refined, and God’s power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness.
—Jesus: In Matthew 26:36-46, we see Jesus praying to his Father. It says, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane.... Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death....’ Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.’ ... He went away a second time and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.’ ... [He] went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, ‘... Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!’”
Jesus is barely done praying when the answer comes in the form of the arresting party armed with swords and torches. One of Jesus’s closest friends, Judas, is leading them and will betray him with a sign of love, a kiss. Jesus will then be beaten, mocked, and crucified. God, his Father, essentially says to his Son, “No! My will is not for this cup to pass. I will take you where you don’t want to go, and you will accomplish what no one has thought possible.” He would accomplish the salvation of us all. Because God said no, Jesus went where he didn’t want to go, and faced a nightmare death.
The reason these men’s prayers weren’t answered in the way they’d hoped was not because God abandoned them, or because God didn’t love them, or because they’d used a wrong prayer formula. It wasn’t because they didn’t have enough faith, or had made God mad, or weren’t worthy.
Instead, it was because God was accomplishing his will not only for them, but for others around them. God was up to something that required more faith, more trust, more submission to his will. God had another plan. Saying “No!” to their prayers was the only way to accomplish that plan, God’s vision, for them and for us.
Just like Jonah, Paul, and Jesus, God takes us where we don’t want to go because he is doing something that is meant to glorify him through our lives
His vision is bigger than our comfort, more glorious than our need
for health, happiness, satisfaction, or even earthly life. He is doing
something more, something wondrous, something nearly unimaginable.