A very dear friend is going through a deep trial. This faithful follower prays for wisdom, guidence, assurance and peace. The result so far is confusing. When they pray to hear the voice of God they hear spiritual crickets. Nothing. The frustration is real. I want to do something to help and all I can offer is prayer and presence.
But when we study how God works in our lives should we be surprised with the process? A song by Laura Story resonated with my soul on a recent walk. The song is called “Blessings” and the words are profound.
We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
There is nothing inherently wrong with praying for those things. But my attempt to maneuver God to grant my wishes is wrong. Laying out my will and praying for God’s notary seal is not what He desires. Blessings are not just receiving good things from God and that truth is beautifully captured by Story’s lyrics.
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Her lyrics come out of learning to trust the object of her worship even through the trials. Her website bio describes her journey.
But amidst that success a brain tumor hospitalized her husband in 2006. The faith Story sang about was put through the unexpected fires of fear and loneliness; most young newlyweds don’t imagine being kept alive at one point by breathing machines or having to find their way through significant post-operative vision and memory loss. Could grace notes resound from such a life-altering struggle?
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not our home
Story relates the question she faced during the health crisis she faced with her husband.
“But there’s a decision that I find God is asking us to make: whether we are going to choose to interpret our circumstances based on what we hold to be true about God, or whether we’re going to judge what we hold to be true about God based on our circumstances.”
Our faith is not based on feelings or circumstances or checking off items on the prayer list. Our faith is based on the object of our faith. God is faithful. He hears our cries. But sometimes the answer is not what we desire. Paul learned the same thing and he wrote about it to the church in Corinth. You likely know the passage. Paul was given “a thorn in the flesh” that he begged three different times to be removed. Paul had a pretty strong signal on the Faith-o-meter. Five bars. But God said no. I like the translation from The Message.
Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. (2 Corinthians 12, The Message)
The gift of a handicap? Are you kidding me? But as I look back on the deep valleys and trials of my journey I see God’s hand and my growth through those events. Blessings from the pain? Without question. And I am learning the truth of Laura Story’s experience.
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise?
More and more I am realizing that they are.