Fair warning... long content. :-)
Prayer isn't always easy after a tragedy. Prayer, in fact, can be very frustrating because of that monstrous question "Why?" that looms over your head. Why didn't God change this? Why didn't God answer? Why did God let this happen?... as you well know, the list could go on.
As humans, that "why" question will unfortunately never be answered. The Holy Spirit may minister something to your heart to help soothe your questions and may even answer it, but the answer He gives you may make no sense to someone else. I think the biggest reason why the inevitable "why" will never be fully answered is because "now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely" (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).
We can't see the big picture. Only God can. So if we can never completely understand why God does what He does, how can we continue to pray?
We can continue to pray because we believe. We believe God is good. We believe God is true. We believe God can't lie and we believe that God is faithful to His Word. He will perform what He said He would do.
The phrase "believe the best" has stuck out to me over the past few weeks.
No matter what situation you are facing and no matter how bleak life may seem, you have every right and even the ability to believe for the best in that situation. Believe God will bring a miracle. Believe God will work on that person's heart. We can always believe for the miraculous because nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
When my water broke, we believed and prayed for a miracle... that the amniotic fluid would build up, that a new sac would be made, that Brody would live through it all.
Now the fact that didn't happen doesn't change a thing. I still should and can always believe for the best in future situations because that's the kind of God I serve.
Here's an interesting story that I kept remembering while in the hospital. It's in 2 Samuel 11-12, the story of David and Bathsheba. Wait. It's not really the story of David and Bathsheba, but what happens after that. The punishment David had to face was that his baby son was going to die. Now I have no desire to get into Old Testament theology about God killing or anything like that. Let's just say that I believe God doesn't kill, but He does allow things to happen.
The interesting part is what happens next. David's son became ill. David knew the son was going to die, according to what the prophet said. Here's what David did: "David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them" (2 Samuel 12:16-17).
David believed for the best in that situation.
The child did die. When the servants finally told him what happened, look what David did: "David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
"[David's] attendants asked him, 'Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!'
"He answered, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, "Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live." But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.' (verses 20-23).
I kept thinking of that in the hospital. David didn't have a faith failure when his six days of prayer and fasting weren't answered. He was simply believing for the best in that situation. When it didn't happen like he wanted, he got up and continued on with life. I'm sure he spent time grieving, but he didn't give up on God because of what he went through.
Situations often look like faith failures when prayers aren't answered the way we think should be, but I think it's completely wrong to base your theology on the prayers you think were left unanswered. How do you know that God didn't answer your prayer? Perhaps it was in a way that you couldn't understand! How do you know that His way wasn't a better option than yours?
Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."
This idea of always hoping and believing for the best in a situation reminds me of my dog, Tucker. Every time he hears you open a bag of food, open the fridge, open a cupboard door, or do anything related to food, he jumps up from his napping position and runs to find you. He patiently (okay, not always that patiently) begs with his eyes, his whining, and his vast amount of tricks (sit, lay, shake) in hopes that you will share with him.
No matter how many times we reject him, Tucker always comes back for more. You can almost see it in his eyes, "Maybe this will be the day you'll share!"
Erik and I let him lick our plates and share some small bits of food with him, but Tucker is always hoping for more.
I want that same persistence in life. The "why" question hinders persistence. True, I do have to deal with my questions in some fashion so I don't shove them so far inside that they explode years down the road. On the other hand, I can't let them hinder my persistence to come to Jesus.
Jesus will never stop loving me or taking care of me. The past may make me or even the people around me question why God allowed certain things, but those questions should never hinder me from persistently coming to Jesus through prayer.
These words may seem like I have it all figured out and am continually coming to God and don't have questions. That's not true at all. I know what to do; that doesn't always mean I do it. But I want to... and I know God will ultimately take my want and help me make it a reality.