There was quite a lot of devastating news traveling around last week (not even counting Downton Abbey…) and my heart has been weighing a bit heavy ever since.
I was driving the other day and heard the song “Held” by Natalie Grant. The song always makes me tear up because it’s about a very young baby who passes away. There’s one line in the song that just seemed to hit exactly what I had been feeling:
This is what it is to be loved and to know
That the promise was that when everything fell
We’d be held
The promise Jesus gave to us was not that we would not suffer. Rather, the promise was that in the midst of suffering, we would be carried. We would be held in the hand of a God who not only knows all but who has actually felt the ultimate pain when He died on the cross.
When tragedy strikes someone who isn’t a Christian, I get anxious about what might happen in that person’s heart. You see, if that person takes a leap of faith and cries out to God in prayer, it can be devastating when He doesn’t answer the way he or she expected. That person might then turn away from faith forever, feeling scarred by his or her seemingly useless prayer.
It can be so scary to step out into His grace. We are so used to taking care of things ourselves. We want a guarantee that if we reach out to God that He will answer exactly the way we hope.
Just yesterday I was searching my email archives for something and ran across an email exchange with Tyler on March 29th of last year. It was the day before we found out he had a tumor and we were emailing like we normally do throughout the day. Tyler wrote that he had done some research on the likelihood that the mass was a cyst or a benign tumor and that he was just believing it would be nothing. We both wrote that we needed to remember to put the champagne in the fridge to celebrate his health. There’s even an email from me with just a bunch of star emoticons.
It’s bizarre to read those notes knowing what happened the very next day. That we would walk into that doctor’s office after days and days of prayer from our closest friends and family and squeeze each other so hard when the doctor said the words “malignant tumor” because we didn’t want to cry in front of this stranger.
It’s strange to look at that email thread and then remember that the champagne stayed chilled in the fridge for 3 months while we kept waiting for the good news. While we kept praying. While others kept praying.
God didn’t answer our prayer that the mass wasn’t a tumor. Or that the tumor wasn’t cancer. Or the prayers that the cancer wouldn’t need chemo or that there would only be one round of chemo.
Tyler did get healed (thank you, Jesus!) and I know that is a happier ending than a lot of people get. But we didn’t get all the things we asked for, did we?
If you haven’t experienced God’s grace or been carried by Him through a storm or felt His sweet gift of redemption, not getting the answer you want might feel like a total letdown. Why follow a God who doesn’t give you what you want?
The thing is, when Tyler was sick, God answered prayers for grace, strength, peace, comfort. He also met us in our darkest hours and the time we spent with Him there was so precious. Reading Psalms together, listening to worship music, just being still. He was present.
It was still hard, don’t get me wrong. We dealt with a lot of fear and had a lot of difficult moments. There’s just no doubt that God showed up for us in a big way.
I don’t write this so that you’ll never ask God for healing or to be taken out of suffering. Jesus is Healer! I believe that and have seen His touch heal people in my own life. We should bring all our worries to Him and ask for miracles.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
But let’s remember that our relationship with God is not “transactional”. We desire to be in communion with Him and sometimes that means enduring a trial together. When I’m going through a hard time or I know someone is struggling, I pray that we would understand that Jesus will be there and He will be enough.
The Bible does not say that if we become followers of Christ that we will not endure any suffering or experience any pain. Quite the opposite, in fact, Jesus says:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Take a leap of faith in your prayers, my friends, and take heart! He is waiting there with open arms.