This is a personal struggle for me. You see, I remember many, many years ago, sitting with my family in a church we were visiting during summer vacation. The pastor went on and on about how people with different sicknesses, like cancer, don’t have enough faith. If they prayed with true faith, God would take away their disease.
My mother, at that point a two-time cancer survivor, could barely stay in her seat. “Oh, so I guess it’s all my fault”, I heard her mutter. The audacity of this ‘man of God’ placing the blame for disease on a person's faith stays with me to this day.
So, I put aside my lesson and tried to address her statement. I pointed us to the story in John 9, where Jesus healed the man born blind. “Who’s fault is it?” the disciples wanted to know. His parents? His? Surely someone has to be to blame! But, what did Jesus say? He was born this way so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
I asked the women, Do you think when he was born, his parents prayed that he would be healed? Do you think throughout his life, the man himself prayed to be able to see? But for years and years, the man stayed blind. Why? So that Jesus could heal him at just that time, to show God’s power.
Just think, if God had answered his or his parents’ earlier prayers, this story wouldn’t be in the Bible, and we wouldn’t be learning from it, more than 2,000 years later.
It’s not easy, but sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way we want because there is a bigger picture. Sometimes, He wants us to show the world how a Christian lives with disappointment and need. If we respond in faith, trusting that God will provide in His way and in His time, others may learn from our situation.
Sometimes, He knows that what we think we need is not what we truly do need. Out of love, He does not give us what we ask. Sometimes, in the waiting, He works to change our hearts so He can give us what we truly do need.Luz shared how for two years and ten months she prayed that God would free her husband from prison. Without going into all of it, he was arrested and convicted in quick succession nearly three years ago for crimes related to his business ( a colmado, or small neighborhood store). Imagine having your spouse – and your only source of stable income! – suddenly gone.
The sentence didn't seem to have a specific duration, so she continued praying that he would be released.
I asked Luz if back during the trial, she had prayed that God would send her husband to prison, or free him. Of course, she had prayed for him to be free!
But – and this is so incredible! – while he was prison, his heart was changed. Now, he treats her with respect and love. He even says, Dios te bendiga (God bless you)! “If it wasn’t for prison, he would not be the man he has become”, Luz said with conviction.I told Luz, During all those years and months of praying, God seemed not to answer you. But, I quickly added, I don’t think it was because you didn’t have enough faith. Instead, it was because God knew the bigger picture. He knew that your husband needed to change his life, and that his time in prison could be a chance for this to happen.
Yes, we all need to pray that God increases our faith. Yes, we need to pray boldly. But, I believe our prayer for more faith needs to be more afaith in Him, that He sees what we cannot, that He knows what is happening and understands what we truly need. We need to cry out, asking for His help to continue trusting Him when He seems not to be answering.
Oh, Father, we lack so much, but You are loving and powerful and know exactly what we need. Holy Spirit, I pray You take my faltering attempts to explain, and in Your way, move in Ramona and Luz. I am humbled and so blessed to learn lessons of faith from these sisters in Christ.