For this I’m grateful: my denominational tastes have put me in position to drink a lot of sound Biblical truth.
My social media feeds are culled inlets of soulful Scriptural truth. I get a foundation of obedience and surrender. Names like Tozer, Chambers, Piper, ten Boom, and Elliott roll through my feed, highlighting for me the narrowness and ache of Jesus’ path. I get it. It’s not about me. Life is not a flowery bed of ease, a get-rich scheme, or a catapult to political power. Though this isn’t pleasant news, it’s true, it’s far more realistic-sounding, and I would rather know up front and be braced than blindsided later down the path.
But on occasion, it can be such a drag. (Yeesh. Is that okay to say?)
There’s plenty in this vein on how to handle a “no” from God. We know he is not a vending machine. We learn that sometimes perseverance in prayer is needed. We understand that God has his sovereign reasons for saying no, that he’s up to things far above our pay grade. We accept the immense value of patience and suffering in shaping and refining our souls, in teaching us to rely on the giver rather than the gifts. It worked for Jesus (Hebrews 2:10).
To be in both worlds full
Is more than God was, who was hungry here
– George Herbert
And if we read Scripture with ice-cold objectivity for long enough, we eventually pick up the idea that, quite frankly, disappointment in our lives is sometimes the only thing that will keep our wandering hearts bound to God.
See, I’ve learned my lines.
Meanwhile, we broach the topic of miracles and answered prayers oh so gingerly, so reluctantly. Certainly not with boldness. Sometimes we even attack it. We’re too uncomfortable for that; it feels vaguely immature. Risky. You know what I mean. Perish the thought of that health-and-wealth business. We’re determined not to get our theology wrong, and that’s excellent, because we value getting Jesus’ words right (not a fashionable practice in today’s church).
But sometimes I wonder…
Are we just having a hard time hoping?
Are we just making excuses for our unbelief?
Are we just trying to muffle a voice deep down that’s wearily confessing, “I just don’t expect much from God. He doesn’t work that way anymore. Let’s just obey now and we’ll get heaven later. I can’t go wrong thinking like that.”
It occurred to me one day that I almost feel better equipped to handle a no from God than a yes.
Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel and rescued me from Herod’s grasp and from all that the Jewish people expected.” When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many had assembled and were praying. He knocked at the door in the gateway, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer. She recognized Peter’s voice, and because of her joy, she did not open the gate but ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gateway.
“You’re crazy!” they told her. But she kept insisting that it was true. Then they said, “It’s his angel!” Peter, however, kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astounded. (Acts 12:11-16)
It’s kind of hilarious. The fledgling church is assembled and praying, but when God answers, there’s no confident grinning, no “yep, I knew he’d come through.” They’re astounded that their prayer has been granted. Floored. God supernaturally keeps Rhoda from bringing the evidence inside so that the story will record them almost resisting good news, coming up with alternative explanations to the miracle. These downtrodden Roman citizens weren’t used to shining angels and chains falling off wrists.
I can relate. It’s not a “no” that would surprise me from God these days; it’s a “yes”. In pretty much any area. I default to low expectations.
How bad is that?
Miraculous events have taken place in my church in the last year and I hardly know what to do with it. God is moving powerfully through South Asia and I’m shaking my head like a dog getting out of the water. He really does this stuff?
But I know why. I’ve witnessed a lot more “no’s” than “yes’s”, needless to say, as have we all. Perhaps it’s that disappointment, that jadedness, that I’ve wrapped around myself like a cloak to protect my heart from further letdown. It’s a mechanism that walks a verrry fine line between guarded heart (Proverbs 4:23) and simple lack of faith. At some point, it steps over.
There are days when I need to read less about how to handle the lack of a miracle, and more about miracles.
Fortunately, Scripture’s up for that. Remarkable displays of power, signs and wonders – they’re in there for a reason. Scripture loses vast swaths of its educational value to us if they’ve stopped. They’re for God’s glory, of course, for pointing people to him. But they’re also out of his generous heart and his desire to come through. Why cannot I simply sit back like a little child and let him…?
Like water sloshing back and forth in a pipe seeking its level, I find myself sliding back towards God’s Word – its full balance, richness, and hope.
I won’t accept a fortune-cookie Christianity that outdoes itself every week in predicting exciting new bombshells for your life, never presages anything bad, and winds up at “thanks God, see ya next crisis”.
But neither am I going to truss up my heart in resignation and call it holiness.
How, Lord? How will my inner Rhoda convince the rest of my heart?
Through his Spirit. Only way.
So I will pray, study, and let God do the answering.
Who knows what will happen?
I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!