On the trip to Ireland I had the privilege of ministering to both pastors and participants alike. One time I was walking down the path, and some-one I don’t know said, “Pastor William, can you help me understand something about God?” He was struggling because the preacher had said, “If you ask God for anything in prayer, He will give it to you.”“I have been asking God for a number of things and none of them came to fruition,” He said, “I asked God to heal my mother-in-law and she died. I asked God to give us a child and it never happened. I asked God to give me the gift of tongues and I still don’t have it.”
Just as I was about to give a pastoral answer, I paused and said, “Holy Spirit, you answer this man.” So, as I asked further questions. Then pointed out the difference between those who walk away from God when things did not go the way they wanted and those who were willing to live in the tension of believing God is good yet doesn’t give us everything we want. Those who walk away live with a cynical, sarcastic attitude towards God and life, belittling all the good things that occur through Christians. In general, they think there is no purpose in life. Those who don’t understand why God didn’t answer their request, might have an argument with God expressing their frustration with Him, but by staying connected, they continue to see answered prayers and God’s involvement in their lives.
We don’t know why God doesn’t answer all our prayers, but sometimes His “no” is a better alternative. We don’t realize it until later. The fact is, we live in a fallen world. Jesus told us, “In this world you will have tribulations.” Stuff happens, but God’s specialty is stepping in and bringing amazing things out of our difficult times. I think of innocent Joseph getting tossed in jail, falsely accused. But then God moved in his life to bring about the salvation of the entire world.
When we measure our lives in terms of how I can be a blessing to others, suddenly the difficulties become faith moments to see how God is going to operate in our lives as we go forward.
Then the Holy Spirit said, “You are being given an opportunity to believe and an invitation to doubt.”
-Rev Dr William Lewis