What do you do when prayer doesn’t work? Rather, what do you do when it feels and looks like prayer didn’t work? This past week, I spent most nights not sleeping well and anxious for Thursday to come. Chris and I had spent time earlier in the week discussing how we both sensed a change was coming. We both felt something new was nearing…perhaps we were ending this chapter of illness and infections and getting ready to begin a chapter of healing and recovery? And then, Thursday came.
Message after message of friends praying for us and Chris and the doctors began pouring in. Chris and I spent time together praying for the upcoming procedure, both of us trusting God was in control, but believing the doctor would be able to FINALLY retrieve the stones that had been lodged in his abdomen and the root cause for most of his battles. Then the news came that there was just, still, too much swelling and our only option was to replace the stent in his common bile duct and try again this fall.
Sucker Punched. Disappointment. Shock. Bewilderment. Sadness. Questioning God WHY He wasn’t healing Chris? WHY He wasn’t at least allowing this ONE SMALL step towards recovery? Have all our prayers simply been ignored? How am I supposed to respond when it looks like the prayers haven’t worked; that God hasn’t been listening and not moving on our behalf?
Amid my disappointment and sadness, I realized we had a choice to make. We had a choice of whether we were willing to CHOOSE to trust God even in this. We had a choice of whether we were willing to CHOOSE to trust that God is still God, and He knows what we do not. Were we going to CHOOSE to trust that even when we are at a loss on WHY God doesn’t seem to be healing Chris, it doesn’t mean He’s not, and it doesn’t mean God is any less good.
In our disappointment, is where our faith becomes real. It’s easy to trust that God loves us and is good and is fighting for us when all signs agree. But, what about when they don’t? Is God any less in control or any less loving or any less good then? Either God is God, or He’s not. Our circumstances and our feelings about our circumstances do not change WHO HE IS.
In John 11, we read just how deeply God understands our sorrow and weeps with us in our sadness and disappointments. John 11 tells the story of Jesus’s close friend, Lazarus, who has become gravely ill. Upon hearing his friend is dying, Jesus waits 2 days before making the 2-3 days journey back to Lazarus’s home in Bethany to find that his friend had already died and entombed. Initially, it’s easy to assume Jesus must not have cared that much for Lazarus since he waited 2 ‘unnecessary’ days before going to him. But if you read earlier in John, you know that Jesus not only cares deeply for this man, but for his sisters, Mary and Martha, as well. Jesus does not want any of them to be heartbroken over the death of their brother and his friend, yet He allows Lazarus to die. Then we read John 11: 35-36:
“Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”’
Jesus wept over the loss and the suffering of his dear friend and Lazarus’s sisters. Both Mary and Martha knew that Jesus could have saved him had He been there and told Jesus that. Yet, Jesus allowed this close friend to die; not because Jesus was uncaring-no, even knowing what was coming, He was still so broken that Jesus himself wept.
There are times when all hope seems lost and that prayers have gone unanswered and miracles have died that we weep. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die because He needed the people to see God’s glory was not limited to the physical world but reached even beyond death. Jesus needed us to see that NOTHING can separate us from God-not even death. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that He could call His friend back to life long after all hope had been lost.
I don’t know why God didn’t allow Chris’s body to show signs of healing so that his stones could be removed. But I do know that in ALL things we have a choice. I know that it is only when it seems that prayers aren’t working that our faith is truly realized. We can choose to walk in our disappointment and discouragement and sadness and doubt God is in control. It would be easy and even understandable to do so. Or, we can make the harder choice and trust that we STILL serve a loving God even in this disappointment. We can trust that God weeps WITH us and believe that He WILL use even this for our good and His glory-revealing even more of Himself to us and through us. We can CHOOSE to believe that if God wills, NOTHING is beyond His reach-not even when all hope has been lost.