I have this journal I’ve been using for about two years that I write sermon notes in. It started out as a prayer journal for a few days until my last sermon notes journal literally started falling apart. You can imagine after two years of use, this current journal has long since begun to do the same.
My need for another new journal becomes evident on occasion as I’m taking notes on a Sunday morning and a chunk of pages slides out onto the floor of the worship center. This past Sunday was no different – other than the fact that I’ve come to expect these pages slipping out and my hands have gotten a bit quicker at catching them before they hit the ground.
As I slapped my hand down to shove the pages back into my journal, I caught a glimpse of something that instantly brought a lump to my throat. On this particular runaway page was a pair of lungs drawn in pink and purple marker, and under it circled and in all caps was FEBRUARY.
As tears welled up in my eyes, I remembered the day I drew those lungs two years ago. I had been praying at that time for Mom to receive a double lung transplant. Specifically, for her to receive it in February. And I was instantly reminded of what God hadn’t done. He hadn’t provided new lungs. Instead, he let her die six months later. It felt like a gut punch.
As someone who fully believes that God hears and answers our prayers, this is a tough one for me. How do I begin to process the fact that God didn’t give me what I felt our family so desperately needed? What I wanted more than anything?
In my perfect world, Mom would be here. She would be texting me pictures she found on Pinterest to give me ideas for decorating our house. She would be completely gushing over our new puppy and begging Dad to drive her up to Tennessee to meet him. She would be here. With me.
But the fact is, we live in a broken world with broken people who just get sick. And sometimes when broken people get sick, they die. Maybe this makes you uncomfortable. Quite honestly it makes me a little uncomfortable, too. But for better or worse, it’s the truth.
I think this truth is hard for us to swallow sometimes because we have this urgent need for things to make sense and to have purpose. I also feel like we live in a culture that desperately wants to believe God answers all of our prayers exactly the way we’d like for him to if only we just pray hard enough and have enough faith (as if he were some magic genie in a lamp granting our every wish).
A pastor I work with recently said, “We are always expecting God to show up according to our expectations.” While he wasn’t speaking specifically about prayer, I believe it applies here, too. You see, the problem isn’t that God didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted. The problem is that I expected him to move according to my will and in the way I thought best. But that’s just not how God works.
For sure he hears and answers our prayers. I’ve seen him do it. But he answers them in his own, omniscient way, with a bigger picture in mind that only he can see. And I guess that’s just what we have to trust in – knowing that he is in fact all-knowing and he loves us too much to always give us what we want.