Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Faith Amidst Unanswered Prayers

On the Hannah's Prayer Community Forums I am posting monthly devotionals based on various chapters of Hannah's Hope. Here's the 11th in this series.

The following is copyrighted material and has been adapted from "Prayer, Faith and Compassion" chapter eleven of Hannah's Hope: Seeking God's Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, & Adoption Loss by Jennifer Saake, NavPress, 2005. Please do not duplicate without permission. You may read a portion of this book here.

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. - 1 Samuel 1:12 (NIV)

I was born with a defect of my uterus causing conception difficulties as well as contributing to recurrent miscarriage. When I was being knit together in my own mother's womb, did God drop a stitch? How could I consider my broken reproductive organs to be wonderfully made? Jesus' interaction with a man born blind is enlightening:

His disciples aske him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayedd in his life." (John 9:2-3)

While it was a struggle to come to grips with God's hand in my sufering, there was also great freedom in realizing that my faith wasn't invalidated when prayers seemed to go unanswered. Of the many names listed in the Hebrews "Hall of Faith," Scripture states, "These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39-40).

The apostle Paul pleaded repeatedly with the Lord to remove his "thorn in the flesh." Rather than relief from pain, God's answer was, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Jesus asked of His Father that He not be called to face the cross "if it is possible" (Matthew 26:39). Was it impossible for God to prevent the crucifixion? No! He is God and can do whatever He pleases. Was it imperative that God allow it for my sake, even when it was possible for Him to prevent it? Yes!

So Jesus, through pervect prayer with holy motives, through a direct audience with the Father, asked for God to do the possible, yet even Christ did not receive what He asked. His burden was not removed. His painful trial and execution were yet to be endured. If all is possible with God, yet He chose to say no even to the request of His beloved Son, can I not rest assured that trials that seem unbearable in my life fit much better in His perfect plan than anything I can imagine from my limited viewpoint?

We are twice told that God closed Hannah's womb. While we can look with clarity of hindsight and see that He was preparing Hannah's heart so that her cherished son would be raised in a temple and bring a nation back to Himself, Hannah knew none of this then. In the same way, when I was in the middle of my deepest infertility heartache, I could not see how God was refining me and preparing my heart to better serve Him - both as a mother and through ministry. I did not know that my seemingly unanswered prayers were, in fact, being answered in a way I couldn't seen then. Had I known, perhaps it would have been easier to keep my faith strong. But then it wouldn't have really been "faith" - would it?

...One day, as I wrestled with God, He comforted me with the realization that struggling through disappointment with Him is not a sign of doubt, but rather proof of my faith. Hebrews affirms that God-honoring faith is as simple as coming to Him believing simply that He exists (see Hebrews 11:1, 6). If I believe He exists, it is reasonable that I might come to Him with preconceived notions of how He will answer. It is easy to trust when God's ways mesh perfectly with my plans. But it is only when reality collides with my preconceptions that my faith is tried and proved...

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. - Lamentations 3:22 (NIV)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jenni - I cannot thank you enough for posting this article. I don't usually look for rescources like this online, and never post comments, but today was so difficult and your page was the first to come up. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. After nearly five years of using no birth control and no pregnancy, we cannot deny it any longer. People are starting to notice and ask questions (or try to "prod" us into action, as they think we're just waiting). These questions don't bother my husband, but they devastate and humiliate me. With few exceptions, all of my married friends, both here (we live in Brazil) or back in the U.S., have children - and we're talking hundreds of people. At almost 33, many of my counterparts have pre-teens by now. No one in my immediate or even close extended family, on either side, is infertile. The very few times I have mentioned our bewildering difficulty (all my tests check back normal) to my family back in the U.S. was enough to give me an unexpected "stigma," where everyone is suddenly talking behind my back about why, and whispering that I don't visit them more because I don't want to see their new babies. I end up having to defend myself without having done anything! I am now known as "Jenny who can't have kids" rather than "Jenny who lives in Brazil," or "Jenny who was a missionary," and I hate it. Each month I wonder how much longer I have left to try... and your blog was exactly what God used to put my thinking back on track. I love the Scripture references you used, the call to believe God in spite of what seems to be "unanswered" prayer, and your reminder to submit to our husbands and let God guide them, even when it seems "wrong" in our eyes. Neither is blind to my situation. I pray that I and others reading may be able to say like Job: "When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Thank you so much for this beautiful encouragement.