Sunday, February 19, 2012

When God doesn't answer your prayers

In what can only be described as tragic, Sheridan Edwards was in a car crash four days ago, suffered such an injury she was in a coma, and passed away tonight.  People all across the globe were praying for her.  Concerts were stopped and musicians offered prayers.  Her hash tag #prayforshay was trending.  There are no words of comfort I could imagine that could, tonight, suffice.  I hope you'll be praying for her family tonight and for many days to come.

As Sheridan lay in a coma this week, a loved-one of mine asked, "What if she doesn't recover; all these teens are praying for her?" That's an incredible question, deep and powerful.  Will people lose their faith over this tragedy?  Will people doubt?  Will the young people in our community turn their back on God?  Why doesn't God answer every prayer and what should we do when He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want?

I know if this was my child who passed away tonight I'd see things differently, I'd probably be angry with God for letting this happen, I'd be upset.  I don't ever want to know what that's like, but I know sitting safe and sound in my warm den knowing my kids all healthy tonight I could sound like an armchair quarterback if I'm not careful....  I'm no expert, and I never met Sheridan, but here are a few thoughts: 

There are times when we pray and it simply doesn't make sense why we don't get the answer we want.  It's one thing for a teen to pray for the prom date they want and God seems silent on that request; it's different when God seems distant in a time of pain and death is on the line.  The mind of God is obviously beyond my ability to fully describe, or defend.  But for me, the 1st question I ask is, What does God know that I don't know about this situation.  It's a no-brainier for me that kids on life-support should be healed.  I mean, how could that not be the right thing, to see a full recovery?  God knows something I can't grasp, He has too much compassion and love to let these things "simply" happen.

My 2nd question is, What is God doing here that I'm missing?  God is doing all kinds of powerful things behind the scenes that we won't always see.  One young adult might turn their life around because of a tragic event.  A whole community might suddenly learn why we must never take family for granted.  A father & daughter might find the strength to achieve reconciliation now, who otherwise wouldn't have.  Who knows what good God will work in the midst of the hell on earth we suffer though?

Then again, I ask 3rdly, are there consequences to the choices we make?   The laws of physics and our freewill sometimes collide.  There aren't always miraculous interventions when bad things happen initially; that shouldn't ever deter us from pursuing God's mercy though.  What about the innocent bystander hit in the drive-by shooting?   I don't know why those types of things happen, but when they do, people suffer, sometimes through no fault of their own by bad choices their friends make, or even choices strangers make.  And God allows these times, and why, I don't know -- I can't wrap my mind around it, but He does let us make choices He wishes we wouldn't make.

Do parents ever say "No." to their kids?  All the time.  Even when it's a request they could honor:  Daddy, give me candy, dad I want to stay up late, father undo my grounding, etc.  But, if any of my kids needed a kidney, I'd be the first to give it up.  I guess there are times when I can't say no.  Nor should I.  But am I God? No.  Things seem to work different for God, perhaps because He doesn't violate our freewill, and, He knows the big picture.  I feel like Bruce Almighty sometimes when I think I could run the universe better than God could, but I'd mess it all up like Jim Carey did.

We see life as a tapestry, but with our face to the wall.  We can't see the big picture.  God can.  Sometimes God is more merciful than we give Him credit for and other times we are so frustrated with God, we can't see Him at all.  What can we do about unanswered prayers?  Not much it seems, or can we?  I think we can.

In times like tonight, I think we can strengthen our faith, and the faith of others when we trust God enough to be God and, we wait.  We wait for understanding from God, and we wait for Him to heal our hearts when we don't get the answers we desperately cry out for.  And, sometimes we are better off not saying a word... just being present for those who are hurting speaks louder than our insufficient words ever will.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments." (Habakkuk 3:17-19 ESV)

3/26/14 news clip of continuing the trial for Cody Dingus, her boyfriend who was driving


Hillary said...

Hello, I just wanted to thank you for posting this. I personally knew Sheridan and I played basketball with her a in high school. The whole situation is awful and I find myself numb to everything. I know she is happier now in heaven..but it devastates me at how we had so many people praying for her and supporting her, and it seemed like her progress was getting better, but then she died. God has a plan for #Prayforshay. Medically she wasnt even suppose to make it to the hospital but God kept her alive so she could touch all of those lives.

Craig Cottongim said...

Thank you Hillary, esp for your insight into God using her to touch so many lives.