In my last post When God does not show up, I talked about two things that I believe I should watch when things are not going the way I want them to go and prayer does not seem to be yielding answers. The first was my attitude towards God and the second is what I tell myself to make sense of it all which I described as my self-talk.
When I was much younger my favorite question was why? I’d always ask why this, what that. Over the years, my curiosity about life and the world around us has grown to such enormous proportions. I have not stopped asking why. In my finite mind when I do not know the answer to why this or that, I turn to the Dr. Google. But when it comes to supernatural things or things for which I have no control the story changes.
I was socialized to never ask God why. God is and has always been the unquestionable God and we sing songs about His unquestionability (This doctrine probably has roots in the story of Job and one of these days we will unpack whether we can or should question God or not). To make sense of why things happen though, I fill in the gap with what I think God is doing. When I miss a flight I tell myself God is delivering me from a plane crash. When I did not get the job I applied for, it was because God was saving me from some possible disgrace or from getting fired later. When I lost my baby, God was saving me from having a child who would be born with complex medical issues and so on and so forth.
The problem with thinking this way and rationalizing God’s work this way is that at some point it stops making sense! How does one rationalize not having food to eat, or getting a terminal illness? or failing an exam? What could God possibly be saving you from? Trying to make these kinds of rationalizations have led many a Christian either down a rabbit hole of a debate about the goodness of God. If God is so good then why does he allow famine? Why does he allow devastating earthquakes? If God was so good then why…? At the point where it all stops making sense for many people, they can only conclude there is no God.
This week I have been thinking about better ways I should respond when It seems like God has not shown up and here are my reflections.
First of all, what do I desire most? The giver or the gift? If I desire the giver (God) more than anything then whether or not I receive the gift (answer to prayer) should not change how I feel about the giver. This eliminates the need to rationalize. This reminds me of the three Hebrew boys: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They had been ordered by royal decree to bow down to an idol and I am sure they must have prayed to God to save them from the impending punishment for disobeying the king but hear what they said: But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.” Regardless of the outcome, their attitude towards God was not going to change. They had chosen the giver over the gift and He was enough!
Another way to respond instead of rationalizing is to give thanks. When Job was given the news of the death of his children and loss of his possessions and his health, his friends came by to explain why a good God would deal Job a bad hand but see Job’s response to it all: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” Job 1: 21 BSB.
My final thoughts are that I need to understand and embrace my primary mission on earth: To show forth the praises of God… in every circumstance… in the good times and the bad… Paul summarizes this concept with these bold words: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain Philippians 1:21 NIV.
Now as Jesus was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth, and His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in him John 9:2 BSB
I must believe everything in my life as a child of God brings glory to God. And likewise, my response to everything in life must bring glory to God.
[I am] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [I] may declare the praises of him who called [me] out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV
In good times and in bad times I must declare the praises of Him who has called me… my life must declare the praises of Him who has called me… and my responses to the situations of life must declare the praises of Him who has called me…
That is my identity. That’s who I am [supposed to be].
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV