It was January cold. I was 14-years-old and a brand new Christian, bravely bubbling over with faith and excitement about Jesus, reading my cool Bible and believing and praying.
My friends were new to this Jesus too. Together faith was a daily adventure of new discoveries.
One frigid Friday night, we were bouncing along on a yellow school bus with our youth group down dark rural roads heading to a ski weekend on the slopes of what pass for “mountains” in northern Wisconsin.
Jostling, laughing, gossiping, singing in the back of the bus, we were having a great time til someone bumped into me and a contact popped out of my eye onto the dark, sooty grit below our feet.
This is not a crisis except if you’re a teenage girl who wouldn’t be caught dead in glasses. (Plus, contacts all those years ago were darn expensive)
Everyone dropped to their knees, scouring the gross, wet rubber floor for the tiny piece of clear plastic.
We. Looked. Forever.
Still on our knees, we were ready to give up when one of my fellow newbies ventured, “You guys…What if… we pray???!!! Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”
We closed our eyes, and my friend said, “Lord we can’t find this contact. You know where it is. Please help us.”
I literally opened my eyes, looked down, and astonished, picked up the lost contact.
We were ecstatic.
The creator of the universe – God Himself! – heard and responded to a few teenage girls with a little faith.
To this day I have no doubt that God graciously intervened on our behalf.
Fast forward to last year at this time. My brother David was diagnosed with Melanoma.
He had everything going for him. He was kind, successful, out-going, strong, fit, and a man of big faith, surrounded by a family of big faith.
So we prayed. And prayed.
We prayed with complete faith in our God who is able to locate lost contacts and lost sheep, able to heal the blind and raise the dead. We prayed to our God who can do more than we can possibly ask or imagine.
Two prayers. Two answers.
Why would God answer our prayers with a contact found, but a brother lost?
For so long God seemed predictable. And then He wasn’t.
For so long we did the right thing and things went right. And then they didn’t.
I’m guessing you too can give examples of times in your life when God seemed to make no sense at all.
As we all struggle to accept this latest answer to prayer, it is taking some adjustments to our perception of God and ourselves.
I grasp for hope through tears and look to Scripture saying, “What??”
And I find I’m not alone.
Jesus didn’t miraculously intervene and save John the Baptist’s butt (or head as it were). How must John the Baptist have felt when Jesus was off partying, doing “frivolous” miracles like changing water to wine and healing others, not showing up for a cousin who had sacrificed everything for Him? This didn’t make sense.
Jesus didn’t miraculously intervene and heal Paul from his “thorn in the flesh” even though Paul prayed repeatedly about this, and proclaimed the Gospel in spite of every punishment imaginable. This guy was sold out for Jesus. How must he have felt? It didn’t make sense.
As Sarah Bessey writes,
“Our narratives celebrate the simple wins and victories, not the complex heartache.”
As I sit with this complex heartache, and the mystery of God (which is very uncomfortable), I wonder if this is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to embrace.
Three questions that I’m asking are:
- Am I putting my hope in my plans or God’s purposes?
In Mark 8 Jesus rebukes the disciples: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God’s purpose prevails. Proverbs 19:21
2. Am I interpreting the goodness of God through my circumstances, or am I interpreting my circumstances through His goodness?
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
3. How does my view of God need to change? Do I truly acknowledge Him as God, or more of a cosmic concierge?
“The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.” Mark Batterson
Today is the six month anniversary of David’s death.
We continue to look daily to God, trusting Him for His love and redemptive purposes, anticipating the day when we’ll meet Him face to face and it will be made clear why our prayers resulted in a contact found, but a brother/son/husband/dad lost to us.