My heart wept as I ran. The tears were inside, but threatened to spill down my face. As the worship songs in my ear buds directed my heart towards praise, I struggled with two feelings: pain and praise, in the very same moment.
I once heard someone explain the verse that said we are to praise in every moment, give thanks despite any circumstances and it is this: we can only ever give a ‘sacrifice of praise’ here on Earth. In heaven, when we praise God, we will do it eternally and forever, joining the chorus of the angels and archangels as well as people from every tribe and nation on Earth. Amazing. We will be in a place where there are no more tears, no more pain, no more reason for hurt or anger or upset or fear.
But here, on Earth, well… we all are intimately acquainted with pain and hurt here. Life is full of hurt, we grapple with fear, and sometimes our hearts ache to just about bustin’ out of our chests. There is much hurt in our journey.
And I was struggling. Wrestling with God. Pondering the previous night where I wrestled in the dark hours of the early morning too. Questioning God about this verse: “Ask and you shall receive.”
Well, Lord? What if the answer isn’t coming? What if the resolution isn’t there? What if night after night there is interrupted sleep, and every morning brings the crushed hope of circumstances unchanged? What do I do with that verse?
I’ve heard others expound that we shouldn’t expect God to be like some cosmic genie, ready to grant our every wish and desire. Like a million dollars, for instance.
Ok. But what about a request that involves a child, my child? What about a desire to see freedom from a lifelong affliction that brings more problems the longer it goes on? What about your promises of healing, Lord? I know you heal! I’ve seen you heal! I’ve heard story after story of your goodness and your healing power. I know it’s true. You revealed yourself as Healer way back in Genesis and I see that theme running through the entire Bible.
So what about that?
Then, yesterday as I ran, I listened to a talk by Bill Johnson. I will paraphrase the part that struck me:
Faith is what connects you to the unlimited nature of God and makes all that was impossible now possible – that is the nature of faith.
The Bible talks about breakthrough that faith brings (“Go, your faith has made you well”), but also teaches at the end of Hebrews 11, the importance of enduring faith
This implies that the answer sometimes does not come immediately – the ability to hold to faith in the middle of nothing good happening, no breakthrough happening – faith brings answers… but enduring faith brings answers with character.
God is not only interested in answering prayer and in demonstrating his heart, his will and his power in miracles but he is also interested in building us into a people of character.
We can’t get to where we want to go in life unless we know how to navigate disappointment, loss, criticism and betrayal…
He is trying to build in us the capacity to hold firm to our relationship with Him regardless of circumstances.
There are different kinds of breakthroughs. Sometimes you’ve prayed a brief, simple prayer and a miracle occurs.
Sometimes you’ve been praying for a long time for something with no breakthrough.
I don’t believe that God is holding out on us. He is not like that. I think that for some reason, the breakthrough has not occurred, but perhaps, as Bill explains, God is wanting enduring faith in this situation. Perhaps God is building character. And although it is painful not to see the answer we want to see, I trust God. I know His heart towards us is good.
I am reminded of the words of Habukkuk…
Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.