Wednesday, May 31, 2017

When He doesn't...

Daniel 3:17-18 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

I grew up in church. I had a W.W.J.D. bracelet. Almost every concert I've been to in my entire life was a Christian concert, Carman being the first. "Tell me who's on the house?" (bonus points of you know the answer to that question). I can do all the hand motions to "Our God is an awesome God" and rap all the lyrics to DC Talks Jesus Freak. 

I went to Vacation Bible School. I went to Church Camp. I went to Sunday School. I went to Acquire the Fire. Heck, I even went to Christian school. 

I've read and memorized scripture and heard all about stories like the one of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Stories about people of faith standing up for their beliefs and believing that God can and would save them. That He would answer their prayers and show himself victorious just in the nick of time. 

The Bible is full of God's power and promise. We see time this time and time again in scripture. We hear sermons about praying through the valley. We hear stories about a friend or family member and how God answered their prayer. 

But what about when He doesn't?

I'm not talking about "I prayed I would pass a test I didn't study for, and shocker I didn't pass the test". I'm talking about real, earth shattering/life changing kind of stuff. 

Like sickness, divorce, infertility, unemployment, death...

I've been there, and I would guess most of us have at one point or another. A time in our lives where would have gone to any lengths to change our current situation. 

We prayed. Not just "Thank you for the food" kind of prayers. Real prayers with tears. Real prayers where sometimes you couldn't even find the words but would just cry or keep saying the name of Jesus over and over.

We changed. We made promises and commitments to do better and be better. Our spiritual lives... our physical lives... nothing was off limits and we would have been willing to give almost anything else up for the this one thing we wanted. 

And in the end, the answer was no... or wait... I don't know. It just wasn't yes. We didn't see the miracle we cried ourselves to sleep over. We were waiting for God to come in like our knight in shining armor... and He didn't. 

Our hearts were broken. Partially for the loss of what we wanted, but I think mostly for the doubt it placed within us. 

I believed. I prayed. I fasted. I did everything right. I did everything the bible says to do... and it still wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. At least that's how it felt. 

And at that point, someone telling you "God has a plan", does nothing more than make you want to punch someone. Because at the very moment, it feels like God's plan sucks. 

It sucks because you can't see past that moment. You can't see how any plan in this life or the next could be any better than the one you were praying for. 

In my experience? I still don't know God's plan. I still don't know why things worked out the way they did. 

It put me into a very dark place for a while... a place so dark I didn't know if I'd ever find myself in the light again. 

Maybe I wanted it too much. Maybe the things I was praying for had become idols, and were more important to me than the one I was praying to. 

Maybe it's as simple as God was trying to save me from something far worse in the long run. 

I can tell you this. I am a better person for the prayers God didn't answer. It's made me stronger and helped me to see how the things I wanted weren't good for me at the time and were probably never going to be. 

And even though it wasn't what I wanted to hear at the time... God did have a plan, and He still does. My life wasn't over. It didn't end when I didn't get what I wanted. 

I didn't have the faith enough in God's ultimate plan for my life to prayer a prayer that said "Even if He doesn't". I didn't want to think about what my life was going to be like if my prayers weren't answered. But they weren't... and here I am... still standing. Still pursuing God's purpose. 

You see, I believe that many of the bad things that happen in your life aren't because God caused them to happen, but that God didn't prevent them from happening. That other forces want to drag us down to the point where we give up. Where we simply stop believing when our prayers aren't answered. 

He didn't answer your prayer, or at least not the way you wanted Him to. But is your faith dependent upon getting what you want? Or do you have faith enough to believe that even when we don't get the answers we were looking for that we can still hold tight to the promise that God desires to give us a hope and a future?

He didn't answer our prayers. But we are still here, and I have to believe that we are still here because He still has a purpose for our lives. 

At the end of the day... this life is temporary. That doesn't mean we won't feel sorrow or pain in this life, but simply that we can look forward to the day when we won't. 

God is still good. My life still has purpose. And my unanswered prayers haven't destroyed my faith. 

Because Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen. 

Faith is easy when all our prayers are answered. And I believe that God can. But will we remain faithful even when He doesn't?

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