You have heard all those clichés before… You know, how God hears our prayers and answers them… how “all things work for good for those who love the Lord…” and so on. I used to believe them without giving them any more thought than just to quote those spiffy little sayings when ever they suited my purposes and helped me towards my own favor. But that changed…
There are certain points in life where those statements seem pretty absurd, not because they are untrue but because at certain moments of life, those unpleasant moments of deep suffering, and those sayings – as biblical as they are – seem very untrue.
Whether it is the death of someone deeply loved, a divorce, a serious illness, or a deeply imbedded emotional wound that makes you wish life would just end, whatever the case may be it seems hard to believe that God hears and answers prayer and is doing so in order that your life will turn out for the good. In my case, it seemed pretty hard to trust in God after having spent nine months praying for my unborn son only to watch him die three days after his birth.
Following my own experience of suffering was a period of 1-1½ years where I could no longer trust God, even though I had nowhere else to turn but to God. Yet I could not pray. What would I pray about? It seemed that God did not near my prayers for my son. And if he heard my prayers then he must not have answered those prayers. And if he answered those prayers (which led to my son’s death), then what good was prayer anyways if it brought me this much pain.
Do you understand the dilemma? Almost three years later I heard a person speaking on the subject of spiritual transformation. This person himself had suffered the death of a wife and a son during his lifetime. During the question and answer session, I asked him how we learn to pray again. His answer was Romans 8.26-27…
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. (TNIV)
Scripture reminds us that God is working for us through the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us in prayer. Therefore God knows what we need even if we do not know how to ask for it.
This was a turning point. Because I came to realize that I needed to trust that God had only my good in mind, even if I was unable to see how God was working for my good in the temporal moment. This is why Paul continued in his letter to the Romans saying…
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8.28, TNIV).
At that moment I learned that if I was ever to recover from the horror of loosing my son, I would need to trust in God even when I could not see or understand why. This is faith and it is truly a liberating moment of joy with God.
Eventually I began praying again. My prayer started out something like this: “Father God, I need you in my life but I do not know what to say or ask you for. I don’t know what to even pray for. However, I know that by your Spirit you are listening and that you know what my life needs so in your grace and mercy will answer my prayer? I trust you in your Son, Jesus. Amen!
I do not have all the answers to why bad things happen. I do not fully understand how God is involved in our life. This I do know… The Father sent his Son, Jesus into this world to redeem us through the cross and resurrection and has left us with the indwelling Holy Spirit as a promise of our eternal life until the Son comes again. Because I believe this, I must believe God is always working for my good – even when I am unable to see that work in the temporal moment. And so in prayer I trust God once again.