We prayed. We petitioned. We cried out for a miracle. We trusted God was big enough, strong enough, and good enough to heal. We knew His promises, were trained in His faithfulness, and depended on His mercy. But instead of healing, death came, at least in the finite, earthly, temporal form.
I sometimes think that God gets it wrong.
He doesn’t answer some of our most heartfelt, guttural, vulnerable prayers, ones that cut to our core and rip us of our pride. Venturing into an area of trust we haven’t experienced before, only groans can express the deepest crevasses of our heart. Our trust wavers when our loved one’s body shows the unmistakable marks of impending finality or when our dreams fade far from reality.
Doubts swirl in our mind:
Where is God when He says no?
What is His plan when we don’t see the good in our circumstances?
Can we truly say He is good and holy when our life is crumpling and the pain is unbearable?
Is He just? Is He fair?
Does He really love me after all?
Sometimes it feels like prayer doesn’t work, has no purpose, and yields no response. I get tempted to just give in and quit asking, especially when it comes to the deepest longings of my heart.
My very first time praying occurred five years after realizing and accepting the fact that I needed a Savior. My dear friend, Katie, was on a trip with her family when she had a sudden heart attack and slipped into a coma. For three days she teetered between death and life, leaving us unsure of what lay ahead for her life. Three friends huddled around a living room ottoman in North Texas, crying out to God on Katie’s behalf. Spare her life, God! Deliver her! Heal her heart, Lord, a heart that loves people with genuine compassion and grace! Save her parents, siblings, and friends from enduring the agony of her death!
But, Katie died. Not seeing the end of eighth grade like the rest of us, her numbered days were done. My first time praying ended in death, disappointment, and despair.
God answered wrong.
A lot of life has happened in the twenty years that followed that prayer. Ups and downs, and twists and turns have played out with a kind of melodic rhythm through the years. The good moments have come, though some have been sprinkled with pain or besieged by war wounds. My journal is wrought with testimony of prayers answered, people healed, souls saved, and God’s faithfulness through trials of all sorts. God has proven to be trustworthy. Walking me through many deep valleys, I have developed a deep, unwavering faith in His word and His promises.
But then something happened…
Almost twenty years to the day of Katie’s death, I found myself huddled around a hospital bed, praying the same prayer I first lifted up to God. Spare her! Deliver her! Grant her life to the full for years to come! This time the prayers were for my mom, who had just been told she only had months to live. My world shook. My faith quivered. My soul ached for a different answer this time.
But, Mom died. Not able to see her grand-kids grow up like most of her friends, her numbered days were done. However, something in my heart was different this time. Knowing God more intimately, I trust His character and His heart for me.
So even amidst this pain, I could still sing praises to the One who answered wrong.
God created us to be in communication with him, knowing full well that sometimes we just won’t understand His plan. We call him a liar, a swindler, thinking He asks much of us, but does not deliver the life of blessing we feel He promised. Feeling cheated, we give up, doubt His character, or feel His hope for our future doesn’t apply to our story.
In these moments when God answers wrong, we come to an impasse of having to make a decision on what we believe:
Do we believe God is truly who He says He is?
Do we believe He is really all knowing, never changing and glorious in His wisdom?
Do we believe God is worthy of all praise no matter what? Is He really merciful?
Are His ways always good?
Do we believe that He really loves us?
From Katie to Mom I can honestly answer yes, He is who he claims to be. Yes, He hears my pleas and collects my tears in a bottle, not one falling without his knowledge or care.
Furthermore, I have come to have a more accurate view of myself. No, I am not omniscient, and I can’t see the span of eternity. No, I can’t know what is best for every living person on this earth, and I don’t get to choose when people die or what my future holds.
But, I do get to trust. I get to lift my requests up to Him, the only One who has the power and authority to set up and dispose kings, to heal the sick and save the lost. I get to choose joy when my circumstances feel chaotic and out of control. I get to rest knowing God will never leave me, even when He sometimes feels far away.
I can say that for Katie and Mom, healing came in a more perfect form than I could have ever prayed. They are complete and whole, lacking in nothing. Delivered and free from pain, anxiety, and worry, they sit at the foot of their proclaimed Savior. Our hearts yearn and break in a way we never knew possible, missing their company and the unmet dreams for their lives cut short. We don’t know how to walk forward without them and wonder if joy will ever be our companion again.
But through this questioning, God’s word stands firm. My hope is secure in Jesus’s death on the cross, not just for heaven, but for the mess of this life on earth too. I trust God knows how to heal and restore my soul, and that He understands my questions and my pain. And in time, His joy will come.
Even when God answers wrong…I have FAITH that He is still good.
Have you ever wondered if God answered wrong about something in your life? What helped you trust His sovereignty and His grace when you didn’t understand His plan?