When God’s Answer is the One We Dread

by Lynn on June 21, 2017

The month of June always brings my thoughts back to 2007. Up to that point, I had endured a few life-altering trials, but that year my family was broadsided by the most difficult challenge we’d ever faced. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer in late 2006, we earnestly prayed for her healing. In fact, we begged God to intervene and prevent the outcome we all dreaded. Holding onto hope in the furnace of affliction is hard. We don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. We are tired and worn out, both physically and mentally. At times it seems that we’ll never get through, the struggle will never stop, and the pain will never end. We know that God hears our pleas and we know that he is able to rescue us from the turmoil we’re in. But what if he doesn’t? What if the answer to our prayer is the one we dread?

It can be hard to maintain hope when we are not delivered. But as we see throughout Scripture, sometimes God intervenes and sometimes he does not. Paul described a “thorn in the flesh” for which he prayed to be removed, but his deliverance was not part of God’s plan.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NIV

Paul’s attitude of obedience might seem odd to the world, but Christ-followers see the big picture when it comes to suffering. God often uses hardship to teach us things we can’t learn otherwise, to give us perspective as to what is important, to focus and make us more like Christ, and to work in and through us as a testimony to non-believers. The Bible tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and so we’re never going to fully understand why he allows trouble to come our way or why he may not rescue us from such trouble.

Another example of bold faith under fire comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, where his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are threatened with death unless they agree to worship an idol set up by the king. In obedience to God they refuse to bow and Nebuchadnezzar instructs they be thrown into a fiery furnace. Their response to the king is worth noting.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18, NIV

Daniel’s friends recognize that God is able to save them, but they also acknowledge that he may allow them to perish. Their faith being anchored in God and not in their circumstances enabled them to be bold even in the face of death.

So what can give us that same boldness when we face trials? It is remembering God’s faithfulness, and trusting in his goodness. It is choosing to remain faithful even if we are not delivered from our affliction. Even Christ himself was denied deliverance when he asked to be spared from the cup of wrath God laid upon him instead of us. He willingly endured the cross, and became the greatest example of obedience that we could ever see. As Christ-followers, we know that there is more going on than we are capable of understanding, and that any suffering in this world is a mere blip on the radar when compared to the eternity we will spend with our Savior.

A new release by the Christian band MercyMe has really resonated with me. Every time I’ve heard it on the radio, I relive the days of prayerful vigil, pleading with the Lord to heal my mom, and tearfully submitting to his will when he chose to take her home instead. To me, the song is a prayer of trust and a choice to place my hope in Christ whether I am delivered from my trial or allowed to endure it.

We can have peace in the midst of pain by remembering that God is good, even when our situation is bad.

On the journey toward Home,

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