Wednesday, December 14, 2016

When God Didn't Answer My Prayers

If you have said prayers for any amount of time, in all likelihood, you have had similar experiences to mine. 

I don't know your stories of unanswered prayers. I wish I did. Maybe if I knew all of your stories and you knew all of mine and we passed them around like potlucks do, then maybe we would see patterns emerging and we might be able to make sense of the No's and the Not-Yet's. 

How about I start by telling you my story.

Our second son was born a twin; a tiny one at that. But he drank his mama's milk just fine and his little chin was full and he grew as we expected.

At the usual time, we introduced the runniest solid food known to man and all of a sudden we had problems. Our little guy was labeled "Failure to Thrive" and indeed was inadequately increasing in size. He saw a few specialists and gagged and threw up everyday at home. 

As that little toddler's blood was tested and his organs examined, we prayed. 

"Jesus, fix our son."

Our Max was soon diagnosed with Oral Aversion and given a feeding tube and sent to therapy. We were thrilled to have answers and hope. 

"Jesus, fix our son." We knew it wouldn't be long.

Our assumptions were simple: the therapy would bring Max to a place where he could and would eat normally and the feeding tube would assure that he had all the nutrition he needed until that day (quickly) came.

It was nine years ago that we first prayed that prayer. My eyes are damp as I remember, and I am so glad I couldn't see this day on that long-ago day. 

Soon my prayers became less pressing; the urgency was gone. God was nodding in our direction and our son would soon be fixed.

"Yay Jesus! You are fixing our son."

We started off feeding him four times daily through his feeding tube. He always could eat, he just didn't want to. Therapy changed that somewhat. Max now had the ability to eat, but the task of chewing and swallowing was cumbersome and time-heavy. A year later we were surprised to still be heavily relying on the feeding tube. 

"Jesus? Aren't you fixing our son?"

The years rolled on. The feedings continued.

When it was time for school and our little Max would be eating his lunch away from the hawk-eyes of his mama, panic set in and begging leaked into the prayers again. 

The strain of counting calories and rallying the Lunch Ladies and the Office Ladies to work with us was high. Appointments with his GastroIntestinal doctor and nutritionalist pointed to little progress. 

I remember many nights kneeling beside my son's bed, after I had given him his nighttime feeding, and begging God, convincing, insisting, that he fix my son. Because I was exhausted. I cried in frustration at the burnt-out place I found my wheels spinning. 

God. This is ridiculous. Why aren't you fixing him? We have been at this for years and years. I am frazzled. He is discouraged. Where is the end? You say you redeem and restore? Let's see it. I'm done. I cannot keep doing this.

Not intimidated by my dramatic monologue, God kindly brought me to the book of James and highlighted an idea for me.

You don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it.
And even when you ask, 
you don't get it because your motives are wrong- 
you want only what will give you pleasure.
James 4:2-3

And there it was, the wrapping ripped off to reveal the contents inside. 

I was asking and pleading for my own sake, for what would give me pleasure. I was tired and wanted out. Of course I wanted wholeness for my son, but there was much, MUCH of self left scattered through my prayers.

It was a beautiful come-to-Jesus moment. Complete with a good cry fest and an apology. 

My son is now ten years old and still has a tube in his belly. We only use it once a day and have no idea how long this will continue. I no longer want to know.

One thing I do know is this: God is so much bigger than my prayers. He does not operate on a Q and A level; it is much much better than that.

God gave me what I didn't even know to ask for. He gave me what I was too short-sighted and selfish to desire: he gave me Endurance. I would never in a million prayers have asked for that, but he knew I wanted it desperately. 

It is completely his fault that I am so stubborn. For nine solid years he has been weaving that into my character. I'm pretty much one step away from a relentless donkey.

That is my story of beautiful, laborious unanswered prayer.

You have a story too, don't you? There have been times when God has not answered your requests, your demands. Some stories you could tell with chuckles, others with tears, a lot with both.

If you find yourself growing impatient as you wait for God to respond to your prayer, dig in. Not your heels, but your trust. 
Dig in to your motives. 
Dig in to a picture far bigger than what will bring you pleasure in the immediate.
Dig deep into Who God Is and not just What God Can Give.

More than likely, God is developing something in you that you unknowingly, desperately want. 

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