Sometimes life hurts. And because we’re human, we want the pain to stop. So we bring our request to God, hoping He will rescue us. Repair the damaged relationship. Heal the sickness. Restore our health or financial security. And sometimes, He does. We feel blessed and give Him thanks. We often even remember to give Him credit when someone asks. And life goes on.
But sometimes when we bring our pain to God, He says, “no” or “not yet.” And the hurt gets worse or grows into an even bigger challenge. Now we feel both the pain and confusion. We ask a lot of questions that start with “why.”
I won’t pretend like I know the answer to this mystery. All I do know is how God faithfully gives me not what I want – but what I need. Even when what I want seems like the best outcome for everyone involved (especially me), God gives me something else. Something I never even thought to ask for. And He uses the pain of unanswered prayer to help me see it.
I often miss how I’m a part of the problems I face. But God knows that somewhere inside there’s a piece of my heart that needs fixing, even when I’m the injured party. Maybe it’s that I’m trying too hard to control someone or a situation. Or I’m relying too much on other people rather than keeping my relationship with God my top priority. Perhaps I’m finding my worth in my roles and what people think of me instead of who I am as a child of God. Or pride or vanity has taken up space where humility needs to dwell.
When it comes to my brokenness, I have a hard time seeing clearly.
While I wish for nothing more than the pain to end, God allows the pain to reveal brokenness I might miss. He sets me free from a struggle that is keeping me from experiencing the wildly whole life He wants for me. Even when I’m clueless that the struggle exists.
It happened to me when I asked God to heal my marriage, and his answer was “no.” Instead, He set me free from my false belief that I could be good enough to make someone love me. He untangled my dependence on another person’s love to believe in my worth. And He’s filled my life with relationships built on truth and authenticity, not performance and persuasion.
It continues to happen as I ask God to fill my empty nest with noise and laughter, but His answer so far is “not yet.” I look forward to one day having a house filled with the next generation of children, cousins, and extended family all raising a ruckus. But meanwhile, God is teaching me to embrace the peace and quiet as He sets me free from the captivity of activity and draws me nearer to Him in the stillness I avoided for too long.
Wanting God to take away our pain is only human.
But a God who removes all our pain and leaves us happy and carefree is what my pastor calls a fairy tale God. When he said it, my immediate response was, what’s wrong with that? I like fairy tales with happy endings. But when I’m honest, I know fairy-tale endings usually leave me wanting more.
Our God doesn’t give us the fairy-tale ending we hope for when we ask him to take away our pain. Instead, He meets us in our suffering and draws us into a close and loving embrace. From there he redeems our pain and gives it meaning, allowing it to transform us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.
When His answer is, “No, not that, but this instead…” when He tells us, “No, not yet, but this for now…” we can be confident that He is at work in ways we didn’t even think to ask and beyond whatever we can imagine. (Ephesians 3:2)
We can count on His love, even when life hurts.
I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. (Psalm 130:5)