Updated: Jan 31, 2020
I woke up with a start. My body ached as I pushed myself up from the floor. With rug burns on my knees from the carpet and a red mark on my cheek from where I had laid on the floor, I walked from my closet through my bedroom and into the kitchen. I refused to eat but poured myself some juice before walking into my bathroom. I looked at my slight frame and sunken eyes in the mirror and thought, "Just hang on a little longer, Kristen. It won't be long now."
My children were still sleeping so I went back into the closet. Sitting on the floor, I looked at the Scriptures I had taped to the wall and at the prayers I had both written myself and printed from the internet. Maybe one of the prayers would work. I said them over and over like some magical chant.
The morning before I had called four separate prayer hotlines and had wept on the phone to strangers begging them to pray for my marriage. I had fasted for three days now but I brushed it off because Jesus fasted for forty. I would make sure I didn't wind up in the hospital again. Besides God would answer soon. I just knew He would.
Now, three years later, I look back at that desperate woman and marvel at how different she was from the woman I am today. At the time, having practically spent 30 years in ministry, hearing more sermons than the average Church going kid, I thought I knew how to rightly divide Scripture and how to pray. But I didn't, really.
Regular church goers can spot-read Scripture the best and desperation enhances our desire to claim every positive word as a specific prophecy from God about our specific situation. But what do you do when the Bible verse you're standing on doesn't produce the result you believe it should?
What do you do when you read, "Ask and it shall be given to you" (Matthew 7:7) but your hands remain empty? What are you supposed to think when you read, "What things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them" (Mark 11:24) but you don't have them?
Cancer has struck godly men and women and the doctors have given no hope. Divorce has assaulted godly men and women and the judge makes a decree. We stand on "by His stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5) and "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mark 10:9) but then she dies... but then he leaves. What then? Car accidents, terminal illness, bankruptcy and all kinds of tragedy and betrayal strikes and the people of God build an alter on every verse that promises victory....but the victory we beg for doesn't come. What then? We thought we were supposed to have abundance (John 10:10) but we are pinching pennies. We thought the angels had charge over us (Psalm 91:12), but we were hit, were hurt and are still haunted by the trauma. What then?
I wrestled with this. I swayed from one wind of doctrine to another in search for the one verse, the one interpretation, the one prophecy, the one remedy to fix what Satan had destroyed and when nothing seemed to change my circumstance, I fell into disillusionment. I could not understand how an all-powerful, good, covenant keeping God would give me anything other than what I asked for.
This is where spiritual puberty begins; where we feel all the awkwardness and discomfort of maturity. Some of us pull back and choose to keep drinking milk like we're in Peter Pan's Neverland, than push forward and grow up in the grace and deep knowledge of the Lord. Never in Scripture does God promise us ease and He will never give us what we ask for if our desires are not for our eternal good. Many times what I beg for is idolatrous (James 4:3). If the desires of our heart are more about wanting what God can give rather than wanting who God is, then we are guilty of viewing God as a granter of wishes rather than the Giver of Himself. In this world, things break because we are not the One who holds all things together. People die because we are mortals living in a decaying body that groans for heaven. We don't get everything we want because we are temporal people who most often ask with lust, not with eternity in mind. To sum up God's desire for us when we take and claim His Word: He wants us to want Him, not a display of His power.
If you have your own set of rug burns and a weary body weak with hunger, let me encourage you to take up your Bible and not simply pick out the verses that help you stay afloat, but learn the whole context of God's Word that is able to strengthen your faith in a way that no tangible blessings ever could. Today, while I do not understand all the why's, I do understand that having Jesus is worth more than having all that I had obsessively prayed for. Friend, dive deep into the Word of God and you will find His sustaining love in the darkness of your hospital room, your funeral home or your closet. Though what we presently see may be the worst, our faith gives us the best - Jesus Christ Himself. Don't ask to get from Him more than you ask to see Him.
As one Bible scholar so aptly put it, "Lord, teach us to seek your face, not your hands."
For more on this topic, study:
Genesis 50:19-20; Psalm 37:4; Luke 9: 23-24;
John 14:13-14; John 16:24; Romans 8:17; Romans 8:35-39; 1 Corinthians 10:13;
2 Corinthians 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9,16-17;
2 Corinthians 6:4-6; Philippians 2:5-8;
James 1:2-4; 9-11; James 4:3; 1 Peter 4:12-19;