Journal excerpt, April 11
Sometimes it is not His will,
though we so desperately want it to be.
And we have such deep faith in Him,
and we believe that He wants the absolute best for us,
and the absolute best for us is what we, at the time, believe is best.
It is an honest way of thinking,
a fervent way to believe in His sovereignty.
But ultimately, it is flawed.
According to scripture, it is flawed.
1 John 5:13-15
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the request that we have asked of him.”
Last Thursday, I was sitting at Panera, drinking my hazelnut-flavoured coffee with cream, eating my toasted cinnamon crunch bagel with hazelnut cream cheese, and I was reading the Bible. I started reading the book of First John, no reason, just figured it was short, a fair size to start with, and all I can handle right now. [an updated post on that will be coming soon, what has got me reading it again].
Back to Panera.
I started chapter five on this sweet morning, and it woke me up, probably more than the coffee did. In fact, it unsettled me, bothered me, then, it resonated with me.
I read it once, and it was the usual message that I heard a billion and one times before, “if you ask you will receive…if you truly believe then He hears you… if you ‘declare’ it then it is yours…” All the stuff that was preached at me for years, in good intentions I am sure. And when I read this, that was the message I got again, and the message bothered me. It hit a tender wound in my soul, one that is still open, still hurting, still healing. Inside I barked back,
“well I did believe! I wholeheartedly, I genuinely, I truly believed. When I was in absolute need for something that was absolutely dependent on a miracle, I believed for it, and I asked for it, I did what they told me to do… but I never received…”
So you can imagine what kind of aftermath I would have, after believing in the whole have faith, ask, get a miracle package, but not getting it. So many thoughts went through my mind…
…did He not hear me? What is wrong with me? What have I done wrong? Why can other people hear Him? Does He know how much pain I am in? Does He know I waited for Him? I waited for Him. He never came. I called, He never came. I thought He knew my needs? I thought He would always be there, I thought He was going to take care of me. Where are you? Why? why is the pain so great. I don’t want answers anymore, can you just come, can you just let me know you are there? Can you comfort me? Where are you!
…. Are you even real.
Years of that. Of words, of questions, of pleas, of silence, of tears, of waiting, of nothing.
So when I read that verse, “…if we ask anything…he hears us…”, it hurt, because all I heard was the tired voice inside of my soul that called back, “…but he never heard you.”
Bothered. Drinking my coffee, fidgeting in my seat. Looking out the window. Looking at the supervisor moving from chair to chair doing something with his phone. I went back, and I read it again, to give it a second chance maybe. To shut my mind up, because sometimes it speaks too loud when I am trying to understand something, trying to hear something.“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us ask anything according to his will according to his will his will. oh. wait. his will?
In a very silent way, in Panera, at about 9:30 am, I finally realized something that I simply had not recognized before, almost like an epiphany, but it was not my epiphany, because it had been written all along. The whole “have faith, ask, receive a miracle” was not solely dependent on me, that there was a will involved, and it was not mine.
This realization is probably nothing new to many people, but for me, in many ways, is revolutionary.
I grew up in a church that said “if you ask, in the name of Jesus, and believe with your heart, he will give you those requests, that if you need healing, he will heal you, that if you keep believing, you will get your miracle.”
I grew up in the evangelical culture that said “declare it. call it forth. you have authority.”
But, what about according to His will? Why did they leave out the middle part of the scripture that is in union with the entire theme?
Racking your brain, your heart, your motives, all the wrong things you have done to make Him turn away from you, can get exhausting. It tore me apart. They told me, all those years, that all I had to do was believe. They never mentioned His will, they never talked about the possibility of what we want, in fact, need, may not happen, despite how much we believe, may not be in His will. I heard His ways are ‘higher’, but no one talked about the higher ways of suffering.
I never really thought about His will.
Even if I do all the things right, even if I live the right way, even if my plea is a necessary need, there are times when a need so great, may go unanswered. And when a person is suffering; hearing that, thinking of that, accepting that, is like swallowing thirteen little knives.
But I would rather know the truth, that not all my prayers will be answered. Believing in false theology failed me when real life happened. I was confused, wondering what I did wrong when it felt like He had left me, ignored me. But there is freedom from this. Knowing truth, is much better than hearing it. Freedom comes in knowing that He does have a will, and it does not always make sense to me, but I find security in those words, according to his will.
This new understanding for me, that has been in scripture this entire time, doesn’t take the pain way, and it does not give reasons to why things happened the way they did. It does not tell me why the struggle has been so grave, it does not medicate the unanswered calls, the late nights, or the loss. But, in small ways, it helps. It paints new pictures that help distinguish greater depths than what I have been seeing. It may give me more peace. When the unexpected wave of pain comes, holding me, suffocating me, having its way until I am left bare, tired, and black-eyed, it may bring me back to the shore. Maybe it’s an anchor; I will toss and turn, bump and bruise, but as much as I drift, I will always be grounded, yanked back, by truth.
the whole truth.
photo by me