Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Doesn't God Answer My Prayers?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.  Lord, hear my voice!  Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!  If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the LORD!  For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.  It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.                                 Psalm 130:1-8 (NRSV)
Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated.  Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  
Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.     2 Corinthians 12:7 - 10 (NRSV)
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity?  Curse God, and die.”  But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?”  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  
 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me! 
                                                                 Job 2:9 – 10, 19:25-27 (NRSV)
A cartoonist drew a picture supposedly representing God.  He is sitting at his computer perusing “knee-mail,” all the prayers that have come in that day.  In a sadistic twist the cartoonist has God’s right index finger hitting the DELETE button…prayer after prayer heads for the dumpster.
Have you ever felt like you've been unceremoniously tossed-aside, and your prayers wind up in God’s recycle bin?  Friends and family cut their ties with you suddenly, the doctor says cancer, or the CPA mentions bankruptcy!
Have your plans been put on a side-rail?  Have you ever awakened to a new day BLAMED by everybody, BUSTED by circumstances, and just plain BUMMED-OUT by life in general?  You've asked God to help...and it seems like He’s either on vacation or keeps His hand on the delete button 
The millionaire from Uz, Job had a day like that!  Job's wife only speaks two sentences in the whole recorded account of Job's trouble.  But we mustn’t overlook the reality that it was her trouble as well.  Mrs. Job was the wife of a wealthy, healthy, influential business tycoon.  She had a family that was wonderfully successful and happy.  And then, for no apparent reasons, the plug is pulled, and her happy, healthy family is devastated!  Her children are gone, her friends have pulled her membership in the Junior League, the rent is due, and her previously powerful and in-control husband is sitting on the town garbage heap, saying "blessed be the name of the Lord."                  "Hello!  Will someone please pinch me, and end this nightmare?"
What lessons can we learn from Mrs. Job? 


Mrs. Job had decided that God had forgotten the Job's address.  Her husband had messed-up somewhere, and it was so bad nothing could ever fix it!  The only choice left was suicide.  We run afoul of common sense when we attempt to interpret for others what God intends.  He is God, and able to speak for Himself.  Human beings seldom know God's reasoning for why things happen.  Job himself complained about God's program, and demanded an answer.  Later (38:1ff) Job is humbled by God's answers. 
It is wrong to judge tragedy, sickness and loss as ALWAYS a mark of God's disapproval.  God's ways are indeed higher than ours.  Job's friends thought they had it all figured out.  They did a friendly thing in coming to sit with Job for three days.  But when they started opening their mouths, they stuck their collective feet in them.  With their judgments on what was wrong in Job's life they offered their own version of Mrs. Job's "curse God and die." 
Be careful not to speak for don't have the credentials.  God may be using tragedy in your life, or the life of someone you know to bring about some very holy things.  Remember the prodigal son?  He was a lot closer to success when he was learning in the pigpen, than when he'd first arrived as a rich kid, with all the trimmings.


So often we are tempted to offer quick solutions, based on so-called wisdom.  It is fine to offer solutions, but they must be based on what God says if it is to be a wise solution.  The prophet Zechariah warned (2:13), "Be still before the Lord, all mankind.."
God has the last word (no matter what), and we are wise to hear it BEFORE we make our plans firm, or our speeches heard.  David had a wonderful intention to build the Lord a temple.  He only wanted to honor the God who had been so faithful to him.  The only problem was it was not God's plan for David to build that temple.  Don't speak for God, or before God speaks.

Whatever God has for you is better than whatever you could plan or do.  I have seen it often when trouble or difficulty comes, the very last thing people want is to be around the church.  Some of that has to do with pride....we don't want the brethren to see us at our weakest.  But some of that is because we begin to blame God for being unfair.  The trouble is hard, and we feel like if God really cared, He would've prevented it.  So our trouble is God's fault. 
This is the essence of Job's statement to his wife..."Remember, dear heart, God knows how much sunshine, and how much rain this family needs."  Rather than hide from God, it is much better to struggle with Him.  Jacob did!  He wrestled with God's claim on him, and his troubles and fears.  Jacob somehow knew that in grappling with what God was pushing him to do, that he would find answers that were higher than his own ability to handle life's toughest questions.  This is what the Psalmist meant when he said, "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (73:26)  Don't hide from God, worship Him.

As Job analyzes the situation, and all that has happened, he knows that the circumstances are pretty bleak.  It's been a tough week.  He's lost everything he worked so hard to accumulate, including his health, and the respect of his friends and even his wife.  And yet he makes a dramatic and strange statement that hardly seems to fit the moment to all who hear it, I know that my Redeemer lives....I will see God.  
The circumstances say that Job is going down for the third time.  His life is in the dumpster.  His family is dead, and his wife is looking to collect his insurance money.  Job's friends are heaping on the insult that the very God Job has been serving is at fault.  And the ulcers of ancient leprosy are oozing his very life's blood.  And Job has church, singing about how his heart "yearns within."  What gives?
The secret of Job's faith is that he knew that pain and suffering are not altogether inconsistent with the love of God.  How did he know that?  God had placed the reality within Job years before when Job gave his life to the Lord.  A story is told of a sculptor who was working on a bust of Lincoln.  Day by day he would only make a few carefully planned strokes with the chisel.  Each night the cleaning lady would sweep up the debris, and complain to herself about the "...mess this ol' rock makes."
Finally, one night, as the bust was nearing completion, the cleaning lady saw it for the first time, that it was the much respected Abraham Lincoln.  She got so excited she came back during the day to watch the sculptor work on it.  She couldn't wait to see the final product.  She asked the artist, "How did you know Ol' Mister Lincoln was in there?"  The artist smiled and said, "Oh, I didn't really, I just started chiseling-away what just didn't seem to belong."
In a lot of ways, that is what happens to a person when he gives his life to Jesus.  He is like a block of uncut rock with a masterpiece inside, just waiting to be worked-on.  Mrs. Job didn't see it.  She felt the pain of the Master's chisel....she never trusted the Redeemer's stroke to bring out her beauty.
Have you been "on hold"?  Are your prayers unanswered?  What shall you do while you're waiting?  Don't speak for, or before God....See what His word will say; search it, milk it, digest it.  Don't hide from God....struggle with him as He chisels-away the rubble.  And don't forget that He loves you...So much that He died for you.  That kind of love will eventually give you answers.  Answers like,
"I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die."
What is your choice…Mrs. Job's curse God and die?  Or Mr. Job...I know MY Redeemer lives..."

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