A friend is hurting, and not just one person is hurting today — but many are hurting and have questions like the one my dear friend Brenda raised this morning:
And this very real and present concern in Brenda’s life — as she watches her son battle against the ravaging effects of sickness — deserves a very real and serious answer. Each one of us will have to deal with very real struggles in this life that surpass our ability to make sense of the “WHY!!!??????!!!!!!!” that screams out from our innermost longing.
I found that after answering Brenda’s question this morning, that I felt that I needed to go back and add supporting scripture references in parenthesis so that it was clear that this wasn’t simply my opinion, but was a gathering of what I’ve found in the Word of God that comforts me in those times when the “why” isn’t so easily held in the solid grasp of my mind — those moments when doubt and fear and hurt are like gravity, pulling at the grains of sand that are my faith held tightly in my hand.
Here’s what was my attempt at a sound, biblical answer to this outcry from my dear friend:
Harold Ballinger: Praying. I offer this because many of us ask the same things. David even cries out in several psalms of lament like Psalm 3 with such questions.
A prayerful relationship with God is not about us gathering enough “faith in our prayers to sway God’s will” — but it is about us drawing close to have “faith in God’s will and purpose” (see Psalm 115:3 & 1 Peter 4:19) . It is not our goal to become strong enough in spiritual things in order to sway or manipulate God to serve our will, but that we would become surrendered enough to hear, accept, and at times even understand His will as more perfect and sovereign than our wishes (Isaiah 45:9 & Romans 9:20) .
Yes, sometimes it is God’s will to heal, to perform miraculous signs and wonders to demonstrate His power (Jeremiah 10:12), arise wonder (Exodus 4:21), and confirm His message (Matthew 12:39-40). And yes, sometimes it is God’s will to not heal (2 Corinthians 12:8).
And yes, always it is His will that we pray truthfully to Him with our concerns and listen for His answer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But even Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane asking for this cup of suffering be taken from Him included “nevertheless, thy will be done”, and Christ went through the suffering, the scourging, and the crucifixion that led to the resurrection (Matthew 26:36-56).
Paul tells us that the sufferings in this age are nothing in comparison to the glories that await us (Romans 8:18). And many times the greatest testimonies to the unbelieving are that faith, that peace that passes all understanding, when a believer stands in the midst of trial and suffering and refuses to waver in their faith — even as their world seems to be crumbling around them (1 John 3:16). The unbelieving can dismiss a miraculous healing as false or as medically produced, etc. But they have no answer for the “faithful fool” that trusts his God even through the midst of horrible sufferings and that praises a “God who both gives and takes away” (1 Corinthians 1:18 & Job 1:21).
I don’t say this to discourage you from praying for healing. But I do say this to also encourage you to pray for wisdom to understand how God is working even in this situation and circumstances to bring glory to Himself — to understand how He might bring you and others closer to Him in a real, personal, fully surrendered and effective relationship with the living Almighty God –as opposed to a distant or only religious concept of “a god”.
These are questions we each wrestle with — why He moves one way in this situation and in another at another time. But for me, it reminds me that He is God and that we are not. Does He hear our heartfelt prayers and does He listen? Yes. Does He answer our prayers? Yes. Is it always in our timing or in the way we want It? No. Are all prayers and promises fulfilled on this side of eternity? No, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be fulfilled, so keep praying — but remember that prayer isn’t us talking “at God” but with God. Spend time listening to Him. If you can’t hear or recognize His voice as you pray so that it is a two way conversation, pray that He reveal it to you in His Word, open up your Bible and start reading through it diligently expecting Him to reveal both Himself and His will to you (John 5:25 & 1 Corinthians 2:9-13). Draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you (James 4:8).
And yes, in your time of need, call for the elders to come and lay hands and to pray for healing (James 5:14-16). The greatest healing, the greatest miracle, is not a healing in the physical body, but the restoration of something in our spirit that just wasn’t quite right, that wasn’t fully trusting and surrendered, that wasn’t pure of heart. The true healing of those things underneath and behind the veil of what can be seen, they many times spring up the hope, stir us to true saving Faith, and lead us to that love that overcomes all situations and circumstances. So I continue to pray that God will be glorified in all of this, that your faith will grow, and that the Good News of Jesus Christ will reach further than it had before — all by way of this situation.
God bless you and Joey both, Brenda.
I appreciate any comments, encouragements, corrections — wisdom of any kind — that you feel might help us in dealing with these types of questions. God bless.
A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.
1 O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
2 So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!” Interlude[a]
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude
5 I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
8 Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people. Interlude
Psalm 115:3 (NLT)
3 Our God is in the heavens,
and he does as he wishes.
1 Peter 4:19 (NLT)
19 So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.
Isaiah 45:9 (NLT)
9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying,
‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’
Does the pot exclaim,
‘How clumsy can you be?’
Romans 9:20 (NLT)
20 No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?”
Jeremiah 10:12 (NLT)
12 But the Lord made the earth by his power,
and he preserves it by his wisdom.
With his own understanding
he stretched out the heavens.
Exodus 4:21 (NLT)
21 And the Lord told Moses, “When you arrive back in Egypt, go to Pharaoh and perform all the miracles I have empowered you to do. But I will harden his heart so he will refuse to let the people go.
Matthew 12:39-40 (NLT)
39 But Jesus replied, “Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NLT)
8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)
17 Never stop praying.
Matthew 26:36-56 (NLT)
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. 38 He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
40 Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? 41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
42 Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away[a] unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.
44 So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested
47 And even as Jesus said this, Judas, one of the twelve disciples, arrived with a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs. They had been sent by the leading priests and elders of the people. 48 The traitor, Judas, had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss.” 49 So Judas came straight to Jesus. “Greetings, Rabbi!” he exclaimed and gave him the kiss.
50 Jesus said, “My friend, go ahead and do what you have come for.”
Then the others grabbed Jesus and arrested him. 51 But one of the men with Jesus pulled out his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, slashing off his ear.
52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. 53 Don’t you realize that I could ask my Father for thousands[b] of angels to protect us, and he would send them instantly?54 But if I did, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled that describe what must happen now?”
55 Then Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I some dangerous revolutionary, that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there teaching every day. 56 But this is all happening to fulfill the words of the prophets as recorded in the Scriptures.” At that point, all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Romans 8:18 (NLT)
The Future Glory
18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.
1 John 3:16 (NLT)
16 We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT)
The Wisdom of God
18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
Job 1:21 (NLT)
21 He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had,
and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
John 5:25 (NLT)
25 “And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live.
1 Corinthians 2:9-13 (NLT)
9 That is what the Scriptures mean when they say,
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him.”[a]
10 But[b] it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.
13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths.
James 4:8 (NLT)
8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.
James 5:14-16 (NLT)
14 Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.15 Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.
16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.