But I Begged God…

begged God+

 

In the middle of giving a talk a few years ago, I almost broke down. As I was recounting how I had begged God to save the life of my son, I felt my chest tighten. I remembered how desperate I felt. How sure I was that my begging would be effective. How much I wanted God to do what I had 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. It seemed good and right and in keeping with God’s character.

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? I couldn’t understand that. And I remembered with vivid clarity many other times that I had begged God for things that he refused.  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?” Of course, 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 our joy and 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 met 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. Though he may give 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 an abstraction I had found in a textbook, hoping it would resonate with my audience.  I was not advising them to do something that I hadn’t done myself.  Or asking them to trust God for things that I hadn’t trusted him for myself. No, I had lived what I was talking about so my words were from experience.

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 over what he had done in my life. And in that roomful of women who had suffered so much, his presence was tangible. There was joy mixed with tears. Repentance and confession. Hope and a renewed love for Jesus. I was standing on holy ground, grateful to be a part of this profound work of the Spirit.

As I listened to these precious accounts, I saw a tiny glimpse of the glorious work God is 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 perpetual 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.”

Why doesn’t God fix my problem when I’m begging him? Because he 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.

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

It has all been necessary.

 

 

Adapted and reposted from the Archives

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  • July 6, 2017 - 11:16 pm

    Marquida - Beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2017 - 4:18 pm

    MIke R - Thank you, Vanessa. Your comment, “…temporary pleasures and perpetual emptiness” is truly what I would choose, if left up to me. I have often failed to see that to be free of sickness is a temporary pleasure. It is the crucible of trial that has given you your ministry…and your credentials, a PhD in Pain and Suffering.

    “…smooth sailing in spiritually shallow waters” is another truth that applies to me. I want relief from trials, not to know God in the great depth. A magic wand instead of spiritual surgery. Happy mountain instead of dark valley. And honorary PhD instead of one that is earned.ReplyCancel

    • July 8, 2017 - 4:43 pm

      Vaneetha - A PhD in pain and suffering. Great analogy. Judging from your past comments, Mike, I know you have earned this degree yourself. Though not probably what you would have chosen, one day it will indeed reap untold rewards.ReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2017 - 5:48 pm

    Cindy - Vaneetha, this has put a big lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing your heart. One day in heaven….ReplyCancel

    • July 8, 2017 - 4:41 pm

      Vaneetha - You’re welcome, Cindy…it will be so great to meet all of our fellow sufferers and saints in heaven!ReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2017 - 7:46 pm

    Effie Darlene Barba - Beautifully written. I hope you enjoy this poem I wrote and that it will warm your heart whenever a bad day comes

    TO GOD-MY LOVE, MY HOPE, MY JOY

    My life-so filled with hopes and dreams
    Lay shattered at Your feet
    So many tears, so many pains
    I laid before Your seat

    Can I look upon Your face of love
    And question what You’ve done?
    For You have been my only hope
    My only morning sun

    You’ve seen my heart when crushed with pain
    Your hands have held it tight
    When I have been so weak, so frail
    You’ve shown Your strength, Your might

    You’ve held me close within Your arms
    When darkness filled my night
    And when I could not see my way
    Your eyes, they gave me sight

    I lay my life within Your hands
    That You may heal my soul
    And keep my eyes upon You Lord
    That I may reach Your goal

    Shine forth Your grace, Your mercy Lord
    And let me be Your light
    That all may see Your eyes of love
    The blind, they might have sight

    Let not the sorrows, nor the pains
    Bring bitterness within
    And give me strength to walk this path
    Protect my heart from sin

    I lay my heart, my soul, my dreams
    Before Your throne of love
    I lift my eyes to You, My God
    And seek Your will above

    You are the only one I need
    To fill my heart with glee
    It is Your face, my one true love
    Tis all I need to see

    So lift me up and hold me close
    Reveal Your love divine
    That through the holes within my heart
    A world might see You shine

    And if the sorrows of my past
    Can touch a wayward one
    I thank you Lord for each dark path
    That lead them to Your son

    I praise You now from mountains high
    For each dark path I’ve trod
    Twas there I found Your heart, Your love
    Twas there I found You God

    What great and wondrous joy I know
    Because You are my king
    And though the path I cannot see
    My heart will trust and sing

    A song of praise unto You Lord
    Who knows what’s best for me
    You’ll hold my hand and lead me on
    In darkness, I can see

    Your love, Your help, Your guiding hand
    Is all I’ll ever need
    So hold me close unto Your path
    For this is all I plead

    I’ll skip with joy along this path
    Though darkness may surround
    Because I know You hold my hand
    My feet will e’er touch ground

    I cannot fall outside Your love
    I cannot lose my way
    I’ll hold my broken dreams once more
    And see them real, one day

    A song of praise unto You Lord
    Who knows what’s best for me
    You’ll hold my hand and lead me on
    In darkness, I can see

    Your love, Your help, Your guiding hand
    Is all I’ll ever need
    So hold me close unto Your path
    For this is all I pleadReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2017 - 11:48 pm

    Chuck Bean - And the struggles that have shaped you, continue to be used by God to bring comfort, truth and balance to my life. “He is not a tame lion.” (CS Lewis)ReplyCancel

    • July 8, 2017 - 4:45 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Chuck. So very thankful there is no waste in God’s economy…He uses everything.ReplyCancel

  • July 10, 2017 - 7:54 am

    Crystal - Wonderful article Vaneetha! It reminds me of the words Job said:

    “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”
    – Job 13:15ReplyCancel

  • July 10, 2017 - 8:49 am

    Sharon - Dear Vaneetha. I thank God every time I read your blog because He always gives you the right words to say to reach so many when we’re hurting. I’ve asked for the easy way out on many occasions too like mos sharot of us do but I can see some of the time why He says no. Sometimes I can’t. I’m back at a cross roads in my life again , single parenthood and substandard health except this time I know I have my Father at my side holding me up. Something I didn’t realise last time so I thought I needed to work it out myself but now I know my Father is sorting it out in the background the way He, not I needs it to be done. It’s still hard for me to get my head around it at times but looking back through all thst happens i see that i have received many blessings from Him too which keeps my encouaged when I’m feeling overwhelmed with life. Your blogs are teaching me how to take one day at a time and just ride with the flow as difficult as it at times. I needed to read your words today. Bless you sharonReplyCancel

    • July 17, 2017 - 8:56 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful God used this, Sharon. Praying for you now that He would comfort you as you walk through this difficult season.ReplyCancel

  • July 11, 2017 - 1:58 pm

    Barbara H. - Thanks so much for this. Nearly 30 years ago when I was suffering from an illness which left me unable to walk for a time, Lamentations 3:19-33 were a major help for me, especially verses 32-33: “But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” Knowing that these trials had some kind of purpose, even if I didn’t know what it was yet, was a comfort.ReplyCancel

  • July 12, 2017 - 3:22 pm

    Kanko - This is edifying on so many levels. I praise the Lord for you Vaneetha, I do!ReplyCancel

    • July 17, 2017 - 8:52 pm

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Kanko. So glad this was helpful to you!ReplyCancel

  • July 15, 2017 - 10:35 am

    Laudable Linkage | Stray Thoughts - […] But I Begged God. […]ReplyCancel

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