Sep 15, 2013

When God is silent

I have unanswered prayers/ I have trouble I wish wasn't there/ And I have asked a thousand ways/ That you would take my pain away/ You would take my pain away/ I am trying to understand/ How to walk this weary land/ Make straight the paths that crooked lie/ Oh Lord, before these feet of mine/ Oh Lord, before these feet of mine/ When my world is shaking, heaven stands/ When my heart is breaking/ I never leave your hands/ When you walked upon the earth/ You healed the broken, lost and hurt/ I know you hate to see me cry/ One day you will set all things right/ Yeah, one day you will set all things right/ When my world is shaking, heaven stands/ When my heart is breaking/ I never leave your hands/ Your hands that shaped the world/ Are holding me/ They hold me still/

Sometimes, life is unexplainable, bad things happen.  Ecc 9:11-12 "... The fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. The wise sometimes go hungry, and the skillful are not necessarily wealthy. And those who are educated don’t always lead successful lives. It is all decided by chance, by being in the right place at the right time. People can never predict when hard times might come. Like fish in a net or birds in a trap, people are caught by sudden tragedy."

Tragedies seem to happen to us no matter if we are good or evil (Matt. 5:45 "...For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. ") It is often confusing. We pray and pray and God doesn't answer...  or He does, it's just not the answer we want.  

But God is omnipotent and omniscient! (Psalm 147:5 - How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!) He could do anything for me.  It even says in scripture that if I believe, whatever I ask, He can answer! (Matthew 21:22 - You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.  I John 3:21-22)  That if I keep asking, He will give it to me! (Matthew 7:7 - Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.)

So, then, why??  Why would he stay silent or say "Nope, sorry.", or "Wait", or worse, answer our prayers in a way we didn't expect.

Just who does He think He is?!

OH WAIT.  He's God.  Luckily, He loves us. (1 John 4:9-10 - "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.")

So why the silence? Why does He tell us "NO"?

Usually to come to those difficult questions, it means you prayed for something that you wanted with a deep desire.   For a sick parent or child to get better; to become pregnant; for an unborn child to survive a difficult pregnancy; for a marriage to be healed; for a miracle that never came.

One dear friend answered it this way "I believe that it isn't a matter of our prayers 'working' or not. God always answers prayers, the hard thing is that he often doesn't answer yes when we think he should. Sometimes his answer is wait, and sometimes his answer is no. This of course can be the most agonizing and painful no of our lives, but it is still an answer to prayer, just not the one we wanted! We will never understand why we sometimes get yes and we sometimes get no, at least not this side of heaven. I do believe that God listens to prayer and the hope is that our heartfelt requests are answered with a yes but with the knowledge that sometimes the answer is no. That doesn't mean we shouldn't ask! I heard a great quote recently: 'Pray for Spring but prepare for winter' that is kind of a fitting answer I think..." - A. Mishler
I searched through the Bible for some answers, and many of them were difficult to read.  As you read through, I am not intending to accuse anyone of anything, I am merely telling you what I found.  Keep reading... it gets better.  

Some scripture tells us that unanswered prayer is sometimes because of what we do (or do not do).
I don't believe that God is waiting around with His finger on the "smite" button, but if there is unconfessed sin in our lives (Psalm 66:18), if we are actively involved in sin with an unrepentant attitude (Heb 12:5-6, 11, 2 Tim 2:3,7), if we are selfish in how we respond to the needs of others (Galatians 6:7, Proverbs 21:13) or if we are asking with the wrong motives (James 4:3; I John 5:14-15), scripture suggests that those things will impact how, when, or IF God answers us.

Sometimes the best answer for us is "no".  2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 talks about Paul's struggle and God's "NO" to his {repeated} prayer to take his pain away.  God's answer? “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  Even though Paul prayed, and was a righteous man, with ample faith, God decided that Paul's "weakness" would help show God's power.  This may not help us feel any better, but may explain it.  Sometimes our hardship may be an opportunity for God to reveal Himself to others, through us and our circumstances.

Don't forget WHO God is.  Often we think of God as our very own "Genie in a Bottle", and we become angry at God for not "obeying our prayers".  In the book of  Job, after God allowed everything to be taken away from him, Job looked at God and asked "WHY?!"  He claimed that he was innocent of sin, that he was upright and made good choices, that he DESERVED to live an easy life (Job 29-31).  God's response was downright sarcastic (you can read it in it's entirety in Job 38-41) 
God said “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much... Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers? ... Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?  Are you as strong as God?  Can you thunder with a voice like his?" Job 38:2-4, 40:2, 8-9
So when we find ourselves railing against the heavens with a broken heart, we should stop and really consider what we are doing.  We have a limited perspective, we can't understand how our tragedy can help another person, or give us maturity we may need down the road.  This is where faith steps in.

My husband once wrote this in response to the question "“Why is this happening to me?” 

"I don’t care for this question because the immediate answers and conclusions are either irrelevant or inadequate. In the light of honesty I want satisfying answers not inadequate ones. God has taught me that satisfying answers begin with meaningful questions.

"My meaningful question for the day is, 'How can God help me through this?' I know He is both competent and loving, not just because I choose to believe this, but because I have experienced it. The satisfying answer I have received from God is, 'My love, grace and forgiveness will flow through you and in this way you will be blessed.'" 
Above all, we should remember that He loves us, and has our best interests at heart.

Romans 8:28 - And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Ps. 37:23 - The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

So what do you think?  What do you say to someone who has prayed for a miracle and it wasn't given to them?  What have you done when that has happened to you??
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