It’s funny when you go to your favorite restaurant or fast food place and ask for their specialty sandwich, but with a little modification. Maybe you ask for a burger hold the bun, or extra sauce, and instead of getting what you asked for you get something like,
A burger with a bun.
No sauce, you asked for a little extra and they gave you none.
Now when we’re talking about our food order and they get it wrong (and seemingly do the opposite of what you asked for) we can usually laugh it off and not make a deal about it.
But what about our prayers? If we are praying for one thing, yet it seems that the direct opposite is happening, how we do process that without potentially becoming bitter towards God?
My mom had neck surgery earlier this week, and the surgery itself went well, with no problems or complications (praise God)! However, in my prayers for her before surgery and after surgery I ask for the following things:
- healing or reducing the amount of pain she is in from her surgery and also the surgery helping her back pain
- for her to be surrounded by nurses who will take excellent care of her, and essentially be “angels on earth”
- for her to start to recover and heal from the surgery in general
Well, I think God may have something in His ears or didn’t hear me correctly, because despite what I’ve been praying, here is what the reality is (seemingly the exact opposite of what I asked for)
healing or reducing the amount of pain she is in from her surgery and also the surgery helping her back.She is in way more pain, both in her neck post surgery and also in her back. for her to be surrounded by nurses who will take excellent care of her, “essentially angels on earth”Her care has been very inconsistent with the vast majority of the nurses somewhat neglecting to care for her basic needs and not consistent with her pain medications in order to keep the pain level under control. for her to start to recover and heal from the surgery in general.With her pain not being properly managed, it is getting to a new level of intolerable, so much that she is getting nauseous from the pain.
Even as I type this, I feel annoyed. Why is God hearing my prayers and cries to make this surgery go smoothly for my mom and seemingly ignoring my pleas and doing the exact opposite?
How can we keep from feeling bitter towards God when our prayers seem to go unanswered? Would it be better to just not pray at all instead of the opposite of what we ask for to happen?
I keep waiting for it to get better, or for things to get on track, and just when I think things will get better.
They don’t. Or they get worse.
So I’m writing this to encourage myself and all of us to keep the faith, keep praying and even it feels like it’s going nowhere or messing things up, because the bible tells us the following things about asking, seeking and receiving, and what God does when He answers our prayers.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
Right away I want to argue that I’m asking for things and not getting them so this verse must not be true. It’s easier to believe that when we ask for good things they will be given to us, no question asked, but the truth is even we ask for good things (what is good in our eyes) we don’t always get them.
Why this is the case has to do with the next couple of verses.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
No doubt about it, God is the ultimate giver of good gifts, and this passage above speaks to our limited understanding on what we think is good and what we think we want versus what God wants to give us.
Verses 9-10 ask us that how many of us, if our children ask for one thing will give them something entirely different instead. Something that doesn’t have anything to do with what they desire or want and serves no purpose?
We as parents like to give our children gifts and to see their delighted faces while opening up the present and for them to be able to use and experience the gift as we intended. And sometimes we don’t want to hand them everything they ask for, but we give them something better, and are able to teach them a valuable lesson and encourage their personal growth in the process.
Verse 11 tells us that in our sinful nature and limited understanding, we give gifts to our children because we love them, and how much more do we believe in God to give His good gifts to us?
God does indeed hear our prayers and responds to them, maybe not giving up everything we want, but ALWAYS giving us what we need.
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NIV
Listen, I don’t like knowing my mom is suffering and in pain, and I can get upset that God doesn’t take it away or give her a break if I only focus on the immediate and forget the eternal.
I don’t know what He’s doing in her and through her in those moments. I see pain and hurt and I want to take her away from that.
but God wants to take her through it.
There is a picture circulating around Facebook that talks about our natural desire to remove people from painful situations and the power of God’s ultimate hand our lives:
“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine.
I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.
I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives.
I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.
And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hardship will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.
So instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you, and be a help to you. I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.” Kimberly Henderson Proverbs 31 Ministries
Wow. Just Wow. In a nutshell we are called to trust God and His reasoning for allowing us to go through things and not taking away our pain.
So I invite you to stand with me, to pray this prayer that God will use all things for His good and His glory.
I stand in knowing that God is faithful and He seeks to give us the very best, even in the midst of our very worst.
I resolve to asking, seeking and knocking, and standing in faith that our Father in heaven hears my prayer.
Our father in heaven hears our prayers and responds with tender grace and compassion.
Yes, it often looks different than what we hope for, but in the end it’s all good.
Because He is good.