I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
“God is answering our prayers!”
We often proclaim this joyfully when what we’ve asked for by faith is coming into sight. Our sick relative is getting better. Our once empty womb is now sustaining new life. The job we’ve always dreamed of is now our reality. It is amazing to see and to experience the blessings of God. Praising Him during moments like these is not only easy and appropriate but also necessary to give God the glory He deserves. For we must remember, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Yet there is another side to answered prayer: prayer that at first sight appears unanswered. The relative is getting worse instead of better. The job went to someone other than you. Your womb is still pining for new life. You’ve prayed, you’ve sought, you’ve searched, you’ve surrendered, but the answer you long for has yet to arrive. Or maybe the answer has come, and it is unexpected and undesirable. Your loved one is now gone. You are now unemployed and uncertain where the money will come from. Your momma’s heart is mourning the lack of life within as you watch your friends placing their hands on their bulging bellies.
Regardless of what our eyes may see and our hearts may feel, however, we must remember that God always answers our prayers. Always. He may not answer them the way we had hoped or in the way we had expected. His answer may be completely opposite of what we had requested. But He always answers.
And regardless the answer, He still deserves the glory.
Now before you stop reading believing I’m an insensitive Christian whose never struggled a day in her life, I want to remind you of two things. First, God does not cause evil; it’s against His nature. Nor does He make bad things happen; bad things happen because we live in a fallen world full of fallen people. God does not tempt us; nor does He lead us astray. His intentions are always pure and always just. And second, I am in no way minimizing your pain. Your pain is real. Your grief is real. Your struggle is real. Even Jesus suffered physical and emotional agony as He walked out His Father’s plan.
Evil, heartache, and pain exist; and they will remain until Jesus returns.
Yet regardless how we feel, how we hurt, or how we struggle, God is sovereign. And we must bless Him for His sovereignty. He has the power to use that sick relative to lead a nurse to the Lord. He has the ability to use your testimony at that relative’s funeral to reignite the passion of those present. He has the foresight to know that seemingly perfect job may not have been what was best for you; and another, more perfect job is on its way. He understands that while your womb may be empty, there is a child born to another woman–a child who desperately needs a family of his own–who will soon enter your home and ultimately your heart.
Or you may never see the purpose of your pain on this earth. You may never understand why your child has that disease. You may never know why you didn’t get that job. You may never understand why you remained without a child of your own.
Yet God is still God. And God is still good. As the popular song by Tree63 goes, “He gives and takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Now my dear fellow soldier, I do want to say it again: your pain is real. The heartache and uncertainty are not illusions. Nor can they be switched off in an instant. I am not asking you to ignore the hardships or bottle up your grief. What I am reminding you is that even when all seems lost, we must remember God always hears our prayers, and He always answers. God holds the entire world in His hands. He holds our past, our present, and our future. Although “now we see in a mirror dimly” and “know in part,” one day we will “know fully“(1 Corinthians 13:12). One day we will look back at our lives and see the hand of God moving through it all. Even the dark parts will be as light through the eyes of eternity.
So I encourage you today to thank God for answered prayers. Thank Him for the yeses. Thank Him for the nos. Thank Him for the not nows. Thank Him even when it doesn’t make sense. Thanking Him may not lessen your pain, and it in no way negates your grief, but it will magnify His name. And God calls us to praise Him. To praise Him continually. So whether you are walking through the valley, climbing the mountain, or standing victoriously on the mountaintop with arms open wide, God is always worthy of praise. God is worthy of praise even when His will is not our way. And I dare say God is worthy of our praise especially when His will is not our way.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18