The trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing has yet been done. ~ C. S. Lewis, Letters To Malcolm, Chiefly On Prayer
She approached me after a speaking engagement, her face lit up with a big smile:
“Oh, don’t you worry, honey,” she said, patting my arm. “God’s not going to let anything happen to you. You have too much good work left to do!”
I appreciated her kindness and her absolute confidence that everything would turn out a-okay in the end.
The only problem? She was wrong. And I knew it.
I smiled in return, thanked her for her encouragement. She meant well, even if I didn’t agree. Behind her words sat a distorted theology: As long as I work hard for God, God is on the hook to give me a good life.
I knew better. Life and faith don’t work that way.
I walked away whispering a prayer of reminder: Live or die, God, I trust You.
Nine years ago, when I was still a young wife and mom, I was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the tongue — cancer, of a rare and personal kind. In the years since, I’ve had two serious recurrences, each more aggressive than the last. As a result, I’ve endured multiple surgeries and procedures including the removal of two-thirds of my tongue, chemotherapy and radiation on my head and neck, and countless doctor’s appointments, lab tests, and follow-up scans. Although I’m cancer-free at the moment, I will never be free of a doctor’s care. And I will live with permanent functional disabilities, making the daily tasks of speaking, eating, drinking, and swallowing difficult. And painful.
Beyond the physical repercussions, however, I wrestle with the emotional and spiritual wounds from such a life-altering loss. I’ve loved Jesus all my life and, for fifteen years, I’ve done my best to serve Him as a Bible study leader, author, and speaker. Moreover, during my illnesses, thousands of people prayed for my healing, including me and my family. But now, in spite of those prayers and years of service, the very means of my ministry — my speech — is compromised.
For me, life comes at a steep cost.
It helps me to know I’m not the only one who can’t always make sense her God. The pages of my Bible are filled with the stories of men and women who didn’t always receive what they hoped for. Although they loved Him, they couldn’t always unravel the mystery of Him.
Moses. Elijah. Jeremiah. David. John the Baptist. As well as the Twelve Disciples and early church.
After Jesus ascended to Heaven, the Gospel spread like fire. Those who had been witnesses of Jesus’ death and life couldn’t stop talking about Him, couldn’t stop sharing about the One who’d conquered death once and for all.
But, in the middle of all that good news, Acts 12 delivers a little bad news:
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also… — Acts 12:1-3
At a time when the Gospel needed every available voice to help it spread, two of the loudest voices were silenced. This was the time for a God-sized miracle. The church had too much good work yet to do.
Instead, one was thrown in prison. And another was murdered.
This must’ve baffled the believers. According to Acts, the early church “was earnestly praying to God” for Peter, and no doubt they did the same for James. On the other side of those prayers, Peter experienced a miraculous deliverance from jail. And James died by the sword. The same prayers to the same God. But two completely different results.
the word of God continued to spread and flourish. — Acts 12:24
Why? Because the early church remembered an important truth we too often forget:
What is most at stake in our lives isn’t our freedom, our families, or even the number of our days.
What is most at stake is our faith.
Years later, Peter would once again face an arrest and imprisonment. This time, however, in spite of prayers for deliverance, God did not deliver him in miraculous fashion. Instead, He delivered him to Heaven. Before he died a martyr’s death, however, Peter himself wrote these words:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To Him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” —1 Peter 5:8-11 (emphasis mine)
I don’t know why some get their miracle while others die before it comes. I don’t know why some prayers receive spectacular answers while other prayers — just as fervent and faithful — seem to solicit nothing but silence.
But this I do know.
God is where the pain is.
His presence is with those who question and with those who cry, with those who suffer and with those who die. And although cancer might wound a life, it has no say over a soul. Even better, a day is coming when God himself will restore all that’s been lost, either in this life or the one to come.
Live or die, God, I trust You.
What is your pain? What is your prison or sword? Keep praying for your miracle, friend. Our God is still the God of the impossible. But whether or not you receive it, decide now where you’re going to put your trust.
In your circumstances and ability to control? Or in the God who will Himself make all things whole?
The real miracle is Jesus. And, one way or the other, He will deliver you home.
Watch the Video
Written for Faith.Full by Michele Cushatt, author of Relentless.
* * *
What is your pain? Jesus is there with you. What is your prison? Keep praying! It’s your faith that’s at stake. No matter what, God can be trusted! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you about relentless faith! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full