Unanswered prayers wreck me. Sometimes I feel like saying, “God, would it kill you to let me in on what you’re doing here? It’s not like I’m asking for a Rolex watch. What I’m asking for falls under the header of things you care about, too!”
Silence is not golden. Silence stinks. Especially from God.
Then there’s the well-meaning but annoying responses from people who want to help, but who make it worse with unhelpful comments like, “God never gives us more to handle than we’re able to bear.” Or “The only way out is through.” Or my personal favorite, “Just keep on keeping on.”
Do they really think I don’t KNOW all that? I’ve written and spoken exhaustively about God’s silence, about suffering, about waiting, about depending on God, about growing in compassion, about releasing others from our judgments. I get it. I also know that “No” and “Not yet” are answers. too.
Unanswered questions still stink. God’s selective silence still stinks.
I hate that God doesn’t put his arm around me and take me into his confidence and say, “Verla, you don’t have enough time for me to tell you everything, but let me share with you some of what’s ahead. Let’s clear up some of those pesky questions that trouble you.
“Now don’t get freaked out,” God might say, “when this particular thing happens that you’ve prayed about for so long. It needed to happen for that person you love to take responsibility for her own decisions. The relationship will be salvaged.
” And, true, that person you’ve been praying for so long WILL die, never having decided to join my family. Sadly, free will means some people you love won’t share eternity with you. It’s not my doing; it’s what they want and they will get it. I know that breaks your heart. That’s why I’m trying to prepare you for that day, even though you can’t imagine what it will look like.
“And when that hurricane damages your house in four years, you may be displaced for a while, but you will not be homeless. You will, however, be surprised at who is there for you and who is absent. I don’t want those relationships to end yet, though, because of how I’m using them to grow you both.
“Another thing. There’s a stroke coming and the E.R. doctors will be completely out of their depth. However, I have a nurse there who will be watching over you like a hawk. She hates Christians, but you two will hit it off and she’ll have a great suggestion she’ll make to another doctor. Plus, I have a miracle or two up my sleeve. Then, later down the road, you’ll have a chance to talk to her about your relationship with me. She’ll even teach you how to make souffles!
“Michael will be out of the country at the time on that new job he hasn’t gotten yet–the one he loves but which is outside his comfort zone. (The job will freak you out for a while, but that’s another issue.) Oh, and by the way, you’re going to love the trip you’ll take in 2015, but you’ll never make it to Africa. Does this help, Verla?”
“Lord, stop! This is freaking me out! I can’t keep track of it all in my head. It makes me excited and happy and scared and panicky all at the same time. Can’t you just tell me about the unanswered prayers part?
“No. You have to know these things if you’re going to insist on answers to your questions. Look, do you remember reading this week about Voyager, the first man-made object to exit the solar system? Well, your solar system is just a small part of one galaxy among innumerable other galaxies which are under my control. Everything affects something else. Life is complicated.
“Well, Lord, when you put it that way….”
“Frankly, child, my plans are none of your business, but I still let you know about some things even when I don’t have to. But I’m not toying with you. Don’t you get it? It’s not a punishment that you don’t get to know all the answers. It’s a gift! You’ll know what you need to know, when you need to know it. To know more would crush you.
“Sorry, Lord. I guess I forgot who I am in the grand scheme of things.”
“No, child. You forgot who I am. Now….tell me about your day and leave the rest to me.”
Oh thanks, Verla! That was so thought provoking and so human. Yea, I’ve asked a few questions…like did I really have to lose 3 husbands to know you are the great provider and constantly there for me to notice His presence. Just the tip of the ice berg to the thoughts that sprang up in my thinking as I continued reading your blog. Thanks again! Love & fond memories, Vonnie
I am so grateful to have found your writings. I’d googled “when God is silent,” hoping to avoid more pastoral articles answering my question with a varied euphimism of, “because of your sinful heart.” That approach is like a punch in the gut to someone waiting it out in the desert with their heart already laid out in pieces before the Lord. Your raw description of being torn up and praying so to God (the “Rolex prayer”) sums it up for me. I married and moved to a new country 14 months ago, and am struggling with infertility and also trying hard, with no success, to find a faith community with love and Word and prayer. The former is unbearable without the latter. It’s apparently time for me to “grow up in the Lord,” to learn to lean solely on Him (sounds good on paper, but OUCH in real, daily life). Your writing is the only stuff I’ve found that makes me feel like I can make it through this with faith, because you are not simpering in passive aggressive Christianese. It seems like you are okay saying, “I don’t know why. This is brutal! So let’s just sit and wait for Jesus to come through somehow, some way.” Maybe Job wished one of his friends would’ve done that instead of pontificating piously. Thank you for speaking plainly, boldly and blamelessly about pain and hope.