God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
I gingerly stepped across the dark room, trying to avoid damp spots in the carpet It was nearly impossible to do, as small patches of vomit seemed to traverse the path I needed to take from the door to my son’s bed. It was the middle of the night and the poor guy was sick.
As I cleaned him for the third time within the hour, I wondered if I’d make it back to sleep before dawn. My thoughts were interrupted by his quiet voice.
“Mommy, why do we pray to Jesus when He doesn’t help us?”
My heart sank. He was only six years old, but since I can remember, he has always wanted to be prayed for when sick or scared and that night was no different. After he threw up the first time, he asked me to pray for his tummy. So we did. After the third time, he was questioning the point.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to say to him at first. I understand the physiology of removing harmful stomach contents and how it eventually makes us feel better. But for my son, it wasn’t so simple. All he knew was that he was suffering from the painful retching. He wanted relief and had hoped God would give it to him.
Job wanted to be relieved from his suffering, too. After loosing all of his livestock, the death his 10 children who were together in his home when a firestorm struck, and developing sores all over his body, Job began questioning God.
“I cry out to you, God, but you do not answer;
I stand up, but you merely look at me.
You turn on me ruthlessly;
with the might of your hand you attack me.” (Job 30:20-21)
His friends believed his was being punished for doing something wrong. His wife even told him to curse God and die, expecting he would be put out of his misery. But he refused. He knew he had done nothing to deserve such significant loss and continues venting to the Lord.
“I say to God: Do not declare me guilty,
but tell me what charges you have against me.
Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the plans of the wicked?” (Job 10:2-3)
He goes on to plead with God to understand why he had been created, carefully put together, shaped, and molded like clay if only to be destroyed and returned to dust. He questions why he was even born, why God showed him kindness, and why he had previously found favor with God for it all to be taken away.
“If I am guilty—woe to me!
Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head,
for I am full of shame
and drowned in my affliction.” (Job 10:15)
He doesn’t believe he has sinned, therefore cannot comprehend why all these bad things would be happening to him. He questions God, but does not blame Him. He desires to understand the why rather than trusting The Who.
When God finally responds, He reminds Job of His omniscience, asking him, Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:4-5) Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb? (v. 8) Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (v. 12-13)
Job is rightfully put in his place as if God is saying, who are you to question me? Job replies,
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5)
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:2-3)
Job realizes his error in questioning God. He acknowledges his inability to comprehend the workings and thoughts of God and that his job is simply to trust.
My son was not wrong for questioning our prayers. Like him, we all go through difficult times when we wonder why God would be allowing them to happen, contemplating if He sees or even cares about what we are going through. We believe that if we just knew the reason, we would be able to cope better. But the reality is, God keeps information from us in order to build our trust in Him. If we knew all the causes of our problems, we would likely try to fix them independently, missing out on the opportunity to grow in our faith.
That night, I shared with my son that we won’t always understand why our prayers seem to go unanswered, but we can trust that Jesus is with us at all times. I reassured him that praying is always a good idea, even when it feels like God isn’t helping us.
Lord, thank you for the peace that comes from knowing You are in control. You know the past, the present, and the future. You know everything and can be trusted in the difficult times of life. Help me surrender to You my doubts and discouragement when You don’t intervene they way I want You. Amen