I want to tell you something. This is a truth that I have had to learn through much reflection, study and meditation. I have learned it the hard way thorough many tough life lessons and I share it with you now, hoping to save you some of the trouble. (though the trouble is what grew,deepened and changed me, I will share it nonetheless.) The truth I learned is that GOD IS NOT A GENIE. It’s so easy to slip into the mindset that because God loves us and wants us to have joy that He will just give us what we ask, without reservation,all because we believe He will. Yes the Word holds much that seems to speak those exact words, however, we must take this in context of the Word and what we know about God’s character, vision and actions.
In John 14:13-14 it says “And I will do whatever you ask in My Name so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.” This is one of the most misunderstood passages in all of the Bible. Does this mean that if we actually fervently pray: “in Jesus name please give me a Porsche, a gorgeous house, a spouse, heal my child, my marriage, my addiction etc…” that He will automatically deliver with no questions asked? With no action from us other than prayer and belief? Does it mean if we pray in His name and He doesn’t deliver, that He either lied and doesn’t want to truly give us what we want, can’t give us what we want, or doesn’t actually exist ? (that last one is a popular one with the atheists). I have come to learn that none of these are even remotely true.
I used to think this verse literally meant that if you ask in His name he will wave his mystical prayer answering wand and everything I ever wanted would come true. I would listen to messages from Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer (and even Oprah) and drink in the prosperity gospel koolaid with a straw. Even as recently as 5 years ago, did I hold this belief ,that if I wasn’t getting, I wasn’t believing it enough. I am not a baby Christian and something that starkly contradicts the Word, was a forefront of my basic everyday faith code. It was almost my mantra.
When I was pregnant for the 4th time, I desperately wanted a little girl. After having 3 sons I was ready to be the mama of a daughter. I prayed and prayed for months and repeated the verse in John 14 over and over again. I stood on faith and bought girl’s clothes and even pink baby announcements. I “JUST KNEW” God would deliver. When the time came for me to get the sonogram that told us the gender of our child, I was so nervous with anticipation. I couldn’t wait to hear the words “it’s a girl”. Lo’ and behold I did in fact hear those words! I was so on fire with joy I cried and cried. The tech looked at me like I was crazy. My oldest son who was only 9 at the time and had come with me , was a bit embarrassed at my display, but consarnit, I was happy! I got what I wanted and you know what the best part was?All I had to do was “ask in His name”! I had stumbled upon the proverbial wishing well! This was great! Joel Osteen was right! Just believe and keep believing and eventually you will have success in whatever you want! Like it says in Best Life Now “It’s OUR faith that activates the power of God”! He NEEDS us to believe before He can DO anything! My daughter existed because of MY FAITH! WOW! How profound this was for me!
It was profound until my whole world shattered and crumbled all around me ten months later. It shattered and crumbled and I could do nothing about it. It was a Monday, early in the morning that I got the phone call that shook me to my core. I heard my sister’s trembling, tear-filled voice and her words, but I couldn’t believe it. Our mother was on life support at the hospital. She had suffered some sort of trauma in her sleep and stopped breathing long enough to need the vent. So far the tests concluded she had no brain activity and may not come back from this. I was frozen with fear and shock and just couldn’t process it to be true. Aside from the fact that I was over 500 miles away from the hospital my mother was laying in, she and I hadn’t spoken in over 8 months at this point. We had some issues between us that led to me making the decision to break contact with her. I immediately started berating myself. ” I am the most horrible daughter”, I said. I kept repeating these words, because I really felt they were true. How could I quit talking to my own mother? No matter what she had done, she at the very least deserved to know I loved her. She was my mother. I was raised to forgive. ALWAYS. I did not forgive for 6 years, and I didn’t realize until right then that I had made a grave mistake and was so scared that it was too late to make it right!
The next few days were a whirlwind. My church took up donations so I could travel on such short notice. Some friends of my sister’s (whom I had never met), offered to come get my then 5 month old daughter, Eleia and I from Texas and bring us up to Kansas so I could see my mother. The Doctors had concluded zero brain activity with no hope of it coming back. She was basically a prisoner in her own body. My sister and I had to make a decision and I needed to be there soon if I wanted to say goodbye. I spent these few days in a shock-filled, stressed out haze. I had laundry to do, groceries to buy and bags to pack and I also had to somehow come to grips with the fact that my mother was going to die any day.
I couldn’t accept it. I wouldn’t! God wouldn’t let this happen. He would never take my mother so early. She was only 50! She didn’t look a day over 35! She was spunky and energetic and had so much life to live and so much to give the world! We had so much time to be able to reconcile! She couldn’t leave before we made up! She hadn’t seen or talked to my kids or husband in 4 years. She had never even met my daughter. My sister was newly pregnant. If she died now, my niece or nephew would never get to meet her. No. This couldn’t happen. I would not let it.
So while I prepared to leave, I went to my arsenal. I prayed like I have never prayed before. I repeated those cherished words in John 14 over and over. I asked God to please let her stay until old age or at least long enough so I could say I love her and that I forgave her. That I have never ever hated her and that I was grateful for how she mothered and loved me my entire life. WhenI found out she was near death, I forgot the conflict between us and remembered all the beautiful things about her.
I kept praying all the way to Kansas. My faith would save her. My faith would keep her from dying just as my faith brought my daughter life. God told me to sing to her. I didn’t understand that. Sing to her? How could I do that? This wasn’t a joyous occasion for me. I sing when I am happy. When I worship. This was not a time for happiness or worship. This was a time to go to the throne and make her stay!
When I entered the room I barely recognized my mama. She was so puffed up from fluid they were giving her ,she looked 40 pounds heavier. Her eye lids were very swollen and there were tubes and machines everywhere. I couldn’t breathe. I thought, how can I leave this room knowing this will be the last time I see her? At this point my faith was quickly dwindling. I had been so sure that if I just prayed and asked in HIS name that her life would be given back to me. That I could ask in His name and He not let her live for even a few more moments would make me go with her. I couldn’t bear the thought.
“SING.” was all my Father in heaven would say. I prayed and begged and shook my fists at the sky and nearly screamed through my tears right there in the ICU. I resolved to obey, because I could not move. It was as if I was paralyzed. Finally I stopped begging God. I held her hand and said I was sorry. I said I loved her. I asked her to stay. I started singing. It was part of the chorus of a song I had started writing a week before I got that fateful call:
stand beside me now when I’m awake when I’m awake
stand beside me now, when I’m asleep when I’m asleep
Don’t you know when the weight of the world is coming down around you
you don’t have to bear the weight anymore because He died for you
I had no idea when I got this melody and these words from the Lord the impact that they would have or what they meant. I was having other issues in life at the time and assumed that was why He was sending me this message. Clearly the message was meant to get me through this moment. To help me see that she would be ok. That I would be ok. That I could walk out of that room knowing that I would see her again and that even though she didn’t open her eyes we DID have a reconciliation because of the blood of Christ. Because He died, she would live again and I would see her again. He said sing because singing is my spiritual gift, and I believe it was the way He could make her hear me. It wasn’t the answer I wanted. It wasn’t my wish granted or my prayer answered. Praying those verses in John didn’t get me the desires of my heart.
This doesn’t mean HE didn’t have a plan or know what he was doing. It didn’t mean that He could NOT do what I was asking. It definitely didn’t mean that He wasn’t real. It meant that His ways are not our ways and I was not seeing the mosaic picture. I was merely seeing one tiny piece of marble. I was meant to find the peace in the earthly void of my dear mother. I was meant to see the joy in the sorrow.
I still don’t see the full mosaic, even 4 years later, but I surely understand it much more and catch glimpses of it here and there. He shows me little flashes of light to let me know He is there and in control of ALL things, even in the darkest moments. He sent healing through the gift of song writing. Since her death he has direct downloaded almost a dozen songs (included the completed song they i sang in my mother’s ICU room)This has been monumental in my healing. It has been the answer to the asking in His Name, the light in the darkness, the joy in the sorrow. His ways are not our ways.
I don’t believe that our prayers mean nothing or that they are all said in vain. I do believe He WANTS us to ask. I just know that prayers hold the power that GOD and ONLY GOD gives them. I don’t have the power, HE does. I don’t know the plan. HE does. My job is to trust in my God through faith. Not use my faith as a tool to get my all my needs met, then get angry at Him when He doesn’t meet my needs. I must be ok with God saying “Not this time my child.” Even if I am not ok (because let’s be honest, sometimes His “Not this time my child” hurts like crazy) I must trust Him. It is no longer I. It is HE that runs the show. (see Galatians 2:20)
I tried for so long to do this thing called life on my own without even knowing I was doing so. Let’s face it I still do it. It doesn’t ever work. Anytime I step in without Him it ALWAYS fails eventually. I have seen friends have terrible losses,shattered dreams and huge betrayals and it makes me wonder how I could have ever had the mindset and been so presumptuous to think that praying harder and believing bigger would have got them what they wanted every single time. GOD IS NOT A GENIE. This is a slap in the face to the suffering believers of this world. That starving child, that childless mother, that divorced couple, that cancer patient. He tells us in that profound book of the Bible I stood on for so long for an instant fix: ” in this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).I believe this with all of my heart.
I know the power of prayer. I have seen marriages restored, sicknesses healed and finances repaired. I have seen so much something come from so much nothing because God’s people gathering and prayed. I believe in it. I also believe in God’s powerful loving arms. His comforting words when the answer is “not this time my child.” I often hear and read the common thought that “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” This simply isn’t true. The world constantly gives us more than we can handle. He could stop it but doesn’t always do this. It is HE who is bigger than our problems. HE can make victory from our suffering. Not us. We can’t always handle it. I will go as far to say as we can’t EVER handle it. Not without Him. He will help us my friends. HE will help us find peace in the void and see the joy.