When Prayers Don’t Lead to Miracles
The Bible is a book of miracles.
Lazarus was brought back from the dead. The blind, leprous, demon-possesed, paralyzed, and more were healed,
Jesus rose to death from a crucifixion.
But, there are times in the Bible when the miracle doesn’t happen.
David’s first son with Bathsheba died….despite David fasting, grieving, and crying
Paul suffered a mysterious “thorn” in the flesh.
Job, suffered for a long time without a plausible reason, physically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Church doesn’t often speak of these times as often, because it’s not as comforting to churchgoers…but these unanswered prayers and the pain are something the Bible does not run away from.
There are entire books in the Bible dedicated to this pain (Lamentations and Ecclesiates) and parts of the “happier” books, like Psalms, where humans pray to God for a miracle or relief.
And those prayers are not answered. The baby still dies. Paul’s prayer is denied. The Israelites are conquered by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and many othe powers. Job is left in ashes and poverty (while also being misunderstood by his friends) until he meets God.
While Christians are told to just to rely on God’s timing or to accept the suffering as a lesson from God, this can hurt.
I don’t think we give that pain full justice.
It’s easy to say “It’s all in God’s timing” or “It’s God’s will” when it’s not your family member that died, or your health didn’t recover or you lost that one thing you’ve been praying for.
It’s not so easy to live through it.
Especially when the Bible is so full of miracles, of people of all types of illnesses and situations being healed and freed.
I know this because I am living through it.
I was recently diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis this month.
It has been a confusing, chaotic dizzying journey of appointments, lab tests, etc.
I’ve begged God to not let it be MS. I’ve cried. I’ve tried to eat “better.” I’ve gotten angry. I’ve asked God “why”. I’ve been through everything. I’ve negotiated with God.
I’ve tried everything.
Yet, my symptoms still declined and are still declining….and the diagnosis still came.
The thing is, I know God has the power and authority to heal. He’s done it before in my life and in the lives of more people than I will ever know.
Even if I don’t get healed in the next minute, I’m starting to learn…The lesson is to keep going, even if you don’t know why or how…because God is still on the other side.
Abraham and Sarah had to live with the social stigma of not having children.
Hannah had to live childless years before she gave birth to a son while also being taunted.
David had to live through the loss of one child..and then another through his reign.
This “moving forward” is the ultimate lesson of Job. It is also the repeating theme in all of the painful stories of the Bible. It’s why I believe God intended for books like Lamentations and Ecclesiates to be included in the Bible.
God is still God when we are angry, confused, lost, and torn apart.
By saying this, I don’t mean that God is an uncaring Being who wants to just deal with us with whatever happens to us in this life.
I mean that God can handle it when we ask God “Why?. He can handle when we ask “I don’t understand.”. When we are so distraught, we can barely get the words out.
In all of these situations, God didn’t say to the humans experiencing pain, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” God allows Job to speak his pain and confusion. God allows Abraham and Sarah to go through confusion and wrong turns as they try to understand God’s miraculous promise that they would have a child when they old.
God is patient. He respects our right to be confused, angry, or depressed, but also does somthing amazing.
God uses His patience as a miracle and lesson.
For us, the idea of trusting God when things happen outside of what you expect for your life.
The miracle is that the pain and tragedy we face in this life becomes the blessing that God always intended it to be….even if we never fully understand it.
When Jesus was being crucified, his mother had no idea that her Son would rise from the dead the way that He did.
When Job was going through his pain, he never knew his story would be in the Bible…or that he would meet God.
When David lost his son with Bathsheba, he never knew that one of his future sons with Bathsheba would be an ancestor of the Messiah.
The miracle is not in the pain, confusion, or the tragedy, but in the glory God creates from it.
That is the miracle I will hold onto…whether it happens in the next minute or centuries from now.