Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tough Question

I really only have one friend who asks me for advice.  I have more than one friend (I am pretty sure about that) but one who calls or e-mails me with pointed questions, wanting an answer.  I have not posted for a while, so I will post her question and my answer.  A Dear Abby of sorts.  Perhaps you will read it and conclude one advice seeking friend is one too many. 

Question from my friend:

This was sent to me by my friend, regarding her mom. The suffering is great. What to say to help? 
And here is what her friend had written to her...
I'm a little tired of all the church signs that intimate God answers all prayers. I must be praying for the wrong thing......And I was not even asking for the miracle.

My answer:

I don’t understand prayer. I really don’t “get it”.
I do think that church signs in general, even the charming or warm ones are mistake. Completely wrong vehicle to communicate anything beyond name, time.

As to your friend. I don’t know what to say to her because there are no words that will comfort. Words can easily hurt but they rarely can heal.

As to "answered prayer": 2 things happen when I pray. The first is I start to reflect Christ in that I care about others in a way that I really believes he does. Prayer puts me in a posture to focus on others, want the best for others, forgive others, show compassion and mercy to others. 

The other thing that happens when I pray is I am in a posture to be moved. The quote I keep in my prayer journal: the nature of your prayers are the description of your duty.

It occurs to me just a God/me moment is not the end game. I need to look for way to minister/love/act. It also moves my mind to consider a healthier, more faithful perspective.

If I am in prayer about someone or something that hurts, I start to consider a longer view than my normal default position. In other words, the Spirit starts to show me things beyond my little world.

Not sure, in fact I would suspect neither of those answers will “help” your friend. The truth is, her mom, whom she loves, is dying in a cruel way. It’s out of everyone’s control except God and there is not much evidence that he will interfere in the course of events to change the direction of this insidious disease.

It points to the truth that we all—faithful and people of no faith feel—how can a God who is described as being the essence of love allow that, when he has the power to change it?

We as parents would, as an act of love, protect our children from such horror-- if it were in our power. Why does God not protect us from the horror, pain, anguish, suffering of most death? Good and fair questions. I don’t know the answer.

There is ZERO comfort or satisfaction in this kind of pain to the reality of God’s mystery sovereign nature and the reality of broken world. It adds to the pain when we try and give someone a condescending theological pat on the back as she watches her mom die.

I always pray for healing because I think God wants me to want that for others. And I do want that for her mom and for her broken heart. I am so grateful when healing comes to people.

As a person of faith, I do believe that complete healing and wholeness won’t come on this earth—everything both good and bad is temporary and partial.

I am so sorry that the church signs add pain —Christians mess this and other things up all the time. In our limitations we corrupt sharing the love and good news too often so it’s neither loving nor is it good news.

I don’t thinks of prayers as ASK and ANSWERED—I don’t have that kind of clarity on God’s providence. I lift up people and circumstances and seek to care, to faithfully respond to both. I hope for things, give thanks for things, express negative and positive—tell God what I want, but not with an ask/answer loop in mind.

However, as I said before, I don’t really get prayer. I do it because I know it is a faithful response and it helps move me in right directions.

I am so sorry for you, your friend and her mom. It’s devastating. I hope your friendship overshadows the pain these insipid church signs cause and she feels and trusts in your love and care.

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?