We’ve all experienced it. We’ve prayed selfless prayers for others believing beyond a shadow of a doubt that God would materialize the answer to our prayer because, after all, it was a “good” prayer to help someone in desperate need of a miracle. But, the answer didn’t come in the way we expected.
I know I’ve experienced it. Recently, in fact. I gathered with my husband and a group of friends, and we poured our hearts out to God on behalf of some friends needing God to move on their behalf. We quoted scripture that backed up our request. Our prayers lined up with God’s character. They were fervent and filled with hope and expectation. Yet, we walked away without seeing the answer we expected.
So now what?
Honestly, it stung quite a bit. My husband and I replayed the events of that day.
We quoted the scripture about faith of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20) – check.
We quoted the scripture about asking anything in His name (John 14:14) – check.
We quoted the scripture about where two or three are gathered (Matthew 18:19) – check.
We quoted the scripture about asking with pure motives (James 4:3) – check.
All the boxes seemed to be checked, but yet the miracle didn’t happen in the way we eagerly expected.
So now what?
Before I offer advice about what you should do, I want to tell you what NOT to do:
Don’t accept answers at the expense of bad theology.
We don’t like not having answers. We like to know the whys of what happens in our lives. There’s a certain tension living with the unknown, and it can be an uncomfortable place to be. Many times, rather than live with the tension, we insert “feel good” answers which are just plain bad theology. We shortchange the work that God is doing and the space He has created for us to seek after Him to satiate our need to “know.”
Oftentimes well-meaning people will offer “answers” because they too are uncomfortable with the tension between what they know to be true and what they are seeing. It probably comes with good intentions, but may not be good theology. We are instructed to test everything (I Thessalonians 5:21) for a reason.
If we accept the Bible as truth and without contradiction, then the whole thing is true, every single part of it. The verses mentioned above are true. Every single verse that reveals aspects of God’s character are true.
Sometimes our circumstances don’t seem to line up with those verses, but does that mean that those verses are not true, or is it our perception at that given moment? The Bible says that we only see in part.
We just don’t need to make excuses for God and why He didn’t do what we wanted Him to. He can answer for Himself. We can trust the process because He is the process.
Which brings me to the “now what.”
In the midst of unanswered prayer and timing that seems “off” by our human minds, I don’t believe God is uncomfortable in the tension. I believe He wants us to draw closer to Him, to seek after Him, to rest in Him. Of course, we can ask Him the hard questions. They’re not hard for Him. In fact, He says in Jeremiah 33:3 to call to Him and He will answer us and tell us what we don’t know.
But more important than seeking answers is to seek after the One who has the answers. Seek after intimacy with Him. Abide with Him. As we draw closer to Him, He will reveal more aspects of His character and His heart to us. I have a feeling as we do that, more and more of our questions will be answered.
So for me, for now, I’m okay being in the tension between what I have experienced and what I know to be true about who God is and what He says He will do. I believe His Word. I believe that His ways are higher than my ways. I will continue to seek answers, but more importantly, I will seek after the answer giver.