Begging God

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Last week, in the middle of giving a talk, I almost broke down. As I was recounting how I begged God to save the life of my son, I felt my chest tighten. I remembered how desperate I felt and how sure I was that my begging would compel God to do what I asked.

After all, He is God. Nothing is impossible for Him. I had never wanted anything so much in my life, and it was almost inconceivable that God would say “no” to such an earnest request.

But God did say “no.” Even as I was pleading for my son’s life, he was dying. How does a good God let that happen?

Over my life, I’ve begged God for a number of things for which He has said “no.” As a child, I begged God to heal me. In my twenties, I begged God to repair a broken romantic relationship. And several years ago, I begged God to bring my husband back.

I wondered even as I was speaking, “Why doesn’t God answer my deepest prayers?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I had thought through my theology before delivering my message. My talk was about finding God in the middle of our mess. The point of my talk was that God uses all things in our lives for His glory.

But as I was saying the words, “I begged God…” I was flooded with the emotions that I had felt decades earlier. Once again I felt the raw pain of begging God and wondering why He had not answered me the way I wanted.

At the time, I had felt abandoned. At the time it seemed as though God didn’t care at all.

But as I was speaking, the Holy Spirit overwhelmed me. He used the words that I was saying, and had written days earlier, to minister to me in that moment. He reminded me of the truth that while He always hears and answers our prayers, His answers may look wholly different from what we expect. But even as He gives us painful struggles to endure, He carries us through them.

I was addressing a group of urban women, many of whom had known extraordinary hardship. As I was talking, I was thankful for my own suffering, even if it wasn’t as profound as theirs. My words were not trite sayings that I had read but rather honest words that I had lived.

In my own life, I have been much more moved by hearing someone’s experience with God than hearing them recite facts about God.

At the end of my talk, I had an overwhelming sense of God’s purpose. I was overcome by a love for Christ and a joy in what He had done in my life. And in that roomful of women, who had suffered so much, His presence was tangible. There were tears and repentance. There was hope and a renewed love for Jesus. I was standing on holy ground, grateful and amazed to be witnessing this profound work of the Spirit.

As I listened to these precious accounts, I was given a tiny glimpse of the glorious work God was doing in all of us.

I saw that His refusals were His mercies; they had shaped me. Every “no” drove me deeper into the heart of God, deeper into His word, deeper into prayer.

I was thankful for each “no”, each trial and hardship, each affliction that drove me to my knees.

In my finite wisdom, I would never have chosen the path I have walked. It has been hard and gritty and none of my struggles have had simple happy endings, tied up neatly with a bow.

But as I listened to these women’s stories, I realized that God had chiseled and hammered me, said “no” when I begged for “yes”, offered His presence when I wanted His presents, because He had a much bigger plan for me. Part of it was telling people about His goodness in the midst of suffering.

I am thankful I do not decide my future. God does.

Left to myself, my journey would have been smooth sailing, in spiritually shallow waters. My life would have been filled with temporary pleasures and permanent emptiness.

So today, when I think back over the instances when God said “no,” despite my begging, I am thankful. Though some “no’s” have left an ache in my soul, I would not seek to undo them. In part because I often see purpose in them, but more importantly because I know that He will always do what is best for me. Even when I don’t understand why, I trust He has a purpose in my pain.

In Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Tim Keller quotes John Newton saying,

“All shall work together for good; everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds… Yield to his prescriptions, and fight against every thought that would represent it as desirable to be permitted to choose for yourself. When you cannot see your way, be satisfied that he is your leader.”

Everything is needful that He sends. Nothing can be needful that He withholds.

God knows what I need and has chosen for me what I would not have chosen for myself, given my limited perspective on life and my penchant for my own comfort. But if I had God’s perspective, and knew what He knows, I would undoubtedly choose what He has given me.

It has all been necessary.

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

 

 

  • August 7, 2014 - 6:23 pm

    When God’s Plans Were Different From Yours | Christ Covenant Church | Greensboro, North Carolina - […] If this is where you are or where you would like to be, read the whole thing: Begging God. […]ReplyCancel

  • August 7, 2014 - 6:51 pm

    Deborah - Thank you for this – the message that I need to hear again and again. Bless you for taking the time to write this.ReplyCancel

  • August 7, 2014 - 11:43 pm

    Amy Duncan - Thank you for sharing, Vaneetha. It comes at just the right time.ReplyCancel

    • August 8, 2014 - 12:44 am

      Nancy welsh - Vaneetha,
      Such a blessing and encouragement to see the work that Christ is perfecting in you. You have a beautiful testimony that bears witness to the omniscience of our savior in all things, all the time. He allows us to suffer so that we might know Him more fully. You are so very precious as evidenced in His love overflowing for you in a manner which could only be apparent in the midst of greatest need of Him. Thank you,for standing firm in your faith and sharing your testimony so the many women who hear are able to come to a closer understanding of life in Christ .God is good!ReplyCancel

      • August 8, 2014 - 10:54 am

        Vaneetha - Thank you so much for your encouragement, Nancy!ReplyCancel

  • August 9, 2014 - 3:24 pm

    Hema Retna - Thank you for this wonderful testimony of faith and hope.

    Have you ever read Thomas Watson’s “A Divine Cordial”? It is a great encouragement. Divine cordial is his term for Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2014 - 12:55 pm

      Vaneetha - I have never read that book, but I really enjoy Thomas Watson and I love Romans 8:28, so I will put that on my “to-read” list. Thank you for writing, Hema!ReplyCancel

  • August 10, 2014 - 8:22 pm

    Christina - This gave me some much needed hope. This week, truth has been so hazy in my life and it’s easy to doubt God’s goodness. Thanks for the truth that God’s will is better than our prayers being answered the way we want to see them answered.ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2014 - 12:59 pm

      Vaneetha - Christina, I’m so glad this post gave you hope. A dear friend just said to me, “God’s answers are wiser than our prayers,” which echoes your sentiments exactly. What a comfort that is, especially when truth is hazy and we want to see God’s goodness.ReplyCancel

  • August 18, 2014 - 5:01 pm

    Heather Ward - Vaneetha, I am always so very blessed by your writing and by your honesty. As I was reading this today I was reminded of a work God has been doing in me through Romans 8:28-29. I came face to face with the truth in those verses several weeks ago when He showed me that the “good” that comes from the hard things in life are working out of His purpose to conform me into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I was confronted by the truth that I way too often stand in the way of the Lord accomplishing this purpose, often because I don’t want whatever it will take for Him to do that. When I think of how unlike Jesus Christ I currently am, I realize that it is taking an awful lot of chiseling by God to get me to where I look more and more like Christ. Yes, what He sends is indeed needful! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • August 18, 2014 - 6:42 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you for sharing that, Heather. Too often I am so focused on what I think is good that I forget that He is doing something bigger in me than I can possibly imagine. Glad you’re seeing it too. Its a journey…for all of us!ReplyCancel

  • September 15, 2014 - 1:46 pm

    Marleah - Vaneetha, I just came across your blog via the desiring God blog. I will certainly be adding your blog to my reader now! Thank you for this post. Just this morning I was asking God, for what seems like the 100th time, to remove a longing of my heart that he said no to over three years ago. Your post reminded me that I may not see it now, or ever, this side of heaven, but He has a purpose and I can trust Him. Bless you for sharing yourself with so many and allowing your past hurts to encourage healing in others.ReplyCancel

    • September 15, 2014 - 2:14 pm

      Vaneetha - You are so welcome, Marleah. I know how hard unfulfilled longings can be. I am thankful that God has a bigger purpose for our pain than we may ever see on earth. But one day we will see- and rejoice!ReplyCancel

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