“I’ll be praying for you.” How many times do we say this phrase in the Christian community? How often we really follow through on that commitment is a whole other post – but lately I’ve been thinking – when we say that phrase – do we believe it? And what happens if our prayers are “answered” contrary to the way we hope? Were our prayers not valid?
A recent situation with a young person from my alma matter caused me to dig deeper into this thought process. An accident happened, injury inflicted, and thousands upon thousands are praying for restoration and healing for this young person. My whole being wishes it to be so, and I eagerly await the next Facebook update on what progress has been made…but as I read some of the posts, the medical knowledge I possess and my logical side conflicts with my heart that desperately wants a happy ending.
I worked three and half years in an intensive care unit (ICU) as a registered nurse. Let me just be honest and say: there were not many happily ever afters on the unit. It was not a place you wanted any loved ones to be, not because the care wasn’t amazing, the compassion less than any other floor, but if your relative or friend came to our unit…they were sick. Sick as in modern medicine was all that was tenuously keeping them alive. There was so much death, pain, and indescribable, palpable grief consuming us just about daily, that now as I ponder these questions on healing and faith — I can’t help but be a little jaded.
Because I tend to see the world in black and white (I’m trying to learn to be ok with some “gray” areas- it’s a process…), I struggle so much with the concept of “fairness” and “why bad things happen to good people.” I think back to those ICU days and wonder why the prayers of those devastated family members usually weren’t answered…or at least answered by their loved one being able to go back to his/her earthly home.
There are thousands of people praying for this young person from my university — and to me, the Lord answering those prayers the way we all long for them to be answered — complete restoration — is what should happen. That’s what is fair, that’s what is “faith-building” – yet as soon as I come to that conclusion, I know I only see the world through my finite human eyes. I believe there’s a sovereign God who knows the plans He has for us. He’s in control. I’m not. The world is evil. Horrible events beyond comprehension will happen, and those valleys of life contain much faith building potential as well, if we’re willing to look for it. (<—this is where my struggle comes…)
So many experiences stand out when I think about the ICU days, however, there is one I will never forget. It involved a young person — younger than me at the time so suffice it to say, they were way too young to be fighting for life in an ICU. One day they were healthy, the next they had collapsed from an unknown health condition. Despite weeks of medical interventions and the very best care, this young person did not make it. However, the part I will never forget is as the heart monitor went flat, this person’s family and friends gathered around the bedside to sing hymns, singing the patient into eternity, to their forever home. I know this family prayed earnestly for a different outcome, for their loved one to be completely healed on this earth; yet they were able to sing, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “It is Well with My Soul” even as their deepest prayers were answered with a “no”.
I continue to question, to wonder, to seek, to pray — I know my God is big enough to handle it. I also continue to pray for the best outcome for this young person who is currently fighting for healing and restoration and for the family who, I believe, grasps this concept even better than I do right now. Their updates praise God through the good, the bad, the ugly — they are hoping for the very best, but they are confident one day all will be restored, even if not on this side of heaven.
So I strive to learn from them. And I pray that my faith can grow in the best of times and in the worst of times, realizing sometimes these times are synonymous with one another. Life is not fair, never has been, never will be — yet we have hope beyond this life, beyond the fear, pain, and the good-byes. At the end of my life, I pray I can also sing “Great is thy Faithfulness” and “It is Well with My Soul,” resting in a life well lived through the valleys, the mountaintops, the victories and the defeats.
It is on-going struggle I think – this tension to rest in Him while experiencing the grief, pain, and unanswered questions surrounding us. A daily battle sometimes. Yet, I don’t think faith was meant to be easy — by very definition, it’s not. So we press on, as a community of believers that doesn’t have anything truly figured out except choosing daily to believe there’s a God in heaven who does.
Do you ever struggle with the “fairness” of life? What are your thoughts on the sovereignty of God?