By Sheila S. Hudson
The smell of antiseptics mingled with those of perfume and coffee as thirty of us wedged into the St. Mary’s Hospital waiting room. We patiently sat, crumpled tissues in hand, occasionally punctuating the awkward silence with conversation.
Tears and smiles traded places on my face, while a fist of fear grew ever larger in my stomach: The doctor called the family into a private room. We joined hands and prayed. For me, this scene was too familiar. How would I react this time? How would my faith respond to the challenge if God answered my prayer for Becky’s recovery with “no”?
At dinner the waitress asked if we wanted anything else. Tim, my husband, began to softly weep. He looked away. I explained to her that we had just lost a loved one. She gave a compassionate nod and retreated. “Go ahead and cry,” I said squeezing his hand, “for tomorrow at the funeral, you’ll need to comfort Shawn.”
This was the fourth close friend I have recently lost. Barbara died of complications following childbirth. Shelia struggled and finally succumbed to cancer. Jean lost her battle with congestive heart failure. Becky, a young wife and mother, died suddenly of a cerebral aneurysm.
Each time that my prayers seemed futile, I asked God, “Why?” Death could have stalked someone less kind or worthy. Why was Becky, a wife, mother, accomplished musician, and teacher, snatched away with only a headache for a warning? Why did Barbara's child die? Why did she follow her infant daughter a few months later? Why did Shelia suffer with cancer and Jean struggle to breathe with congestive heart failure? Why did God choose to take them and not heal them? Why did God say “no”?
Prayer is a living thing. It is a two-way conversation with God. And God, our Heavenly Father, has many responses. One of these is “no.” As mature Christians, we must be able to accept the answers that God gives realizing it will not always be the answer that we want. God has better plans. His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. (See Isa. 55:8-9.) The understanding of what God is doing in our lives may not come until years later, if at all.
The Apostle Paul struggled with a “thorn in the flesh.” He constantly prayed for it to be removed, but God said “no.” Moses had a speaking problem, but God didn't remove it. Instead He sent him a sidekick. Jesus asked for the “cup” to be removed the night before His crucifixion, but God said “no” and enabled Him to bear the cross. Why should we think we are somehow exempt from tragedy and pain?
Many Christians have not taken the time or made the effort to develop a healthy, vibrant prayer life. They find themselves much like John Donne who stated, “I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and His angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and His Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.”
Prayer requires work and persistence, but the rewards of a richer walk with God are worth the effort. Pursuing God in prayer will develop a deeper faith and shatter the concept that God is unconcerned about our personal struggles. A deeper faith will enable us to accept God's answers, even the times when He says “no” to our most heartfelt requests.
My faith says that God will raise up another to teach the beginners. My hope says the Holy Spirit will convict another to cook and serve meals in Christ's name. My love says Jesus will plant the desire in another musician to accompany the choir. God's agenda will be accomplished. He still needs music to be played, finger-paint artists to be encouraged, choirs to sing, and cookies - especially chocolate chip - to be baked.
The fragrance of the carnations and lilies brings my mind back to the grave site. We clasp hands with those of our Christian family and commit our sister to Heaven. Though God replied “no” to our request for Becky's healing, He said “yes” to resurrection and her eternal life in Heaven with Him! This thought inspires me to look to the future with hope no matter what answers to prayer I receive!
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