Even If/ What Then?

If God doesn’t answer my prayers in the way I ask, in the time frame I ask, what then?

The first time I head MercyMe’s song “Even If,” I sobbed. I was crying, yet I couldn’t stop replaying it because it spoke to my soul on such a deep level. I knew there was such truth to the lyrics, but I also knew I wasn’t in the place where I needed to be. If you haven’t heard the song, I highly recommend listening to it. It was the catalyst to one of the most difficult yet rewarding spiritual lessons I’m working on thus far. 

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t 
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith 
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have right now 
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

Yikes. I’m definitely in that piece of the pie in life when I’m being held to the fire, and it’s been a very long season of suffering for over 17 years now. These lyrics brought to light for me how conditional I could be with God. We all want to be loved unconditionally, and God loves us unconditionally, but was my response to Him unconditional? If I was being honest, I had work to do in that department. It sure is easier to trust and to love when things are going well, and it sure is easier to trust when the hard times are brief!

“Even if You don’t” and “when You choose to leave mountains unmovable”- what?! It’s so much easier to view God as always answering our prayers in the way we want, in the time frame we want. If God is all-good, wouldn’t he protect us from suffering and from hard times? Why would He ever leave a mountain unmovable? 

We love to hear the stories of miracles and answered prayers. They make us feel good and bring with them a renewed sense of faith that is surely a blessing. The glory of God should be shouted from the mountaintops in those scenarios. But not all of our prayers are answered in that way, in what we would consider to be a “reasonable” amount of time. The catch is that we still have to glorify God in those times as well, because who God is doesn’t change with our circumstances. 

The truth is that He doesn’t always spare us from suffering. I’ve honestly felt very slighted by that fact until I got my eyes off of myself and realized that He didn’t spare Jesus or Mary from suffering either! That means that it isn’t just me, and it shows that my suffering is not some gauge showing His lack of love for me. (You know those sneaky thoughts that can creep in at 3:00AM… or who am I kidding, at 3:00PM as well on those really tough days!) We may not understand the “whys,” but we have to trust Him with what we cannot understand.

The awful situation I’m in isn’t my fault- it’s the result of other people’s mistakes, which has been very hard for me to accept. The thing that I struggle with the most is that while God didn’t spare me, He hasn’t healed me yet either. I know that God could make all of this pain and suffering go away right now, but He hasn’t yet. Ouch. 

So, what then? Does that change my relationship with God if I don’t get what I want from Him, as quickly as I want it? Do I still believe the truths about God and His love for me if He doesn’t give me what I want, or does that color my thoughts and even beliefs? Had I been turning to God as more of a genie than as my creator and loving father? Do I still derive my hope from Him alone, or am I turning to other things in my hurt?

I realized that I had a decision to make. I had to decide what I wanted my relationship with God to be, regardless of circumstances and feelings. I’m human, so I’m going to feel angry about my situation, I’m going to wrestle with not understanding, and the doubts are going to present themselves. But would those feelings translate into me turning to God or turning away from Him in hurt and anger? It’s a choice that presents itself to me multiple times per day right now.

God invited me to a space of growth where I didn’t really want to have to go. My life’s circumstances are still beyond crummy, but He asked me, “What now?” I like things that are more neatly packaged than the question of how I am going to respond when He doesn’t intervene in the way I ask for 17+ years! He wants my heart in its entirety though, unconditionally…despite anything else. 

I think the lyrics “give me the strength” are key here. I don’t think I could feel that it is well with my soul or grow to deeper places spiritually on my own- I need strength from God. God’s grace is the gift that can help me to say those words and mean them, and He wants to help me. So, I’ll keep knocking at the door for that extra helping of grace which I so frequently need. 

Even if my prayers aren’t answered in the way or time I would like, and even if I don’t understand at all what God is doing with my life, and even if He leaves some mountains unmovable, I’m going to stay faithful. I’m going to continue to ask God to help me in that endeavor, because I certainly can’t do it on my own. Even though it’s hard, there is something comforting and freeing about having something solid in your life that circumstances can’t alter. No matter what happens, I will always have my faith. 

Let me be clear: those challenging feelings still pop up regularly! Some days I stumble more than others. This decision to be faithful in all circumstances doesn’t change the circumstances of my life or the grief that accompanies those circumstances. What it does is shape my response to the circumstances and grief. The decision prevents me from going spiritually off-track in response to the valley. It brings my focus back to growing spiritually and getting to heaven- our ultimate goal. 

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