Sunday, January 12, 2014

When God Says 'No'

Dear Lord, Please let the lump in my mom's breast be benign.


What do we do when God says no to our fervent prayers? It feels like I've been denied something really important. This isn't trivial; this is cancer, for goodness sake. I could stomp my foot and demand to know why. But I have more faith in God's providence than that. I trust that all that He does is for our good and His glory. Oh, I can ask why. But I should be prepared for silence. God often works in silence.

I'm reading The Good News We Almost Forgot, a book about the Heidelberg Catechism by Kevin DeYoung.  I love the Heidelberg Catechism. There is something comforting and sweet about it,  as catechisms go. As I read this morning, I was thinking of my mom. I was thinking of our phone call last night, when she told me she does have breast cancer. She'll have to have surgery. She'll have to have radiation.

My gorgeous, graying, godly mom.
What in the world?
This is not supposed to happen.

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
God's providence is His almighty and ever present power whereby, as if by His hand, He still upholds Heaven and earth and all creatures, and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things come not by chance but by His fatherly hand. 
(Lord's Day 10, Q and A 27, Heidelberg Catechism)

See what I mean about being comforting? See why I love it so? Whereas the Westminster Catechism is the plumb line you want to clonk Osteen over the head with (well, I can't speak for you; I know I want to clo--oh, never mind), the Heidelberg Catechism is a soft pillow where the weary pilgrim can lay his head.

I was thinking of my mom as I read question 27, of the cancer and the radiation and the effects. I was comforted by this reminder that God doesn't merely allow things to happen to His own, as if He is a passive bystander; He brings them by His own hand because He is active in His creation and in His Church.
For our good.
For His glory.

And then Alex called.

She had to get her visa renewed to stay the remaining three months in Israel. We knew that going into this. We knew that she and her friends would have to re-up at the halfway point so they could stay the whole time. Two days ago, they made the trek to Jordan in order to re-enter Israel and renew the visas.

They enjoyed Petra and the Jordanian people and drank in more middle-eastern hospitality. They rode camels and went parasailing.

But don't all go to the same application window, they were told. It would look suspicious.
So two women went to one window; Alex went to the other.
Sounds like a plan.

Until the visa agent decided she didn't like Alex.
She doesn't want Alex in her country.
And she gave her seven days to get out.
The other women got their new three-month visas on the spot.
Alex got one week.

Nothing is random.
Brett and I have been talking about that this week.
God does not sleep; He doesn't slumber.
He never lets anyone else take Creation's wheel.
And He doesn't share His glory with another.

How do open theists get out of bed every morning serving their weak little god? 
Anti-depressants, I guess. 

So this dream-big adventure of Alex's may be coming to an early close. Scuttling home to stay in the good graces of the international community? That was not part of the plan. It was supposed to last for three more months. She was supposed to keep learning Hebrew and befriending the locals and walking where Jesus walked. She was supposed to keep meeting new people on her team from all over the world and serving people from all over the world. There was more to do, more to see, more to minister.

Nothing is random.
Not visa agents or application windows.
Not well-intentioned advice.
Not breast lumps.
Not cancer.

All prayers get answered. Can I really charge my Creator-Redeemer with deafness, as if He's a doddering old man? or hardness, as if He's a tyrant?
It's just that sometimes God says no.
That's not random. That's sovereignty.
Too, sometimes things just come to us without our even seeing them coming.
Those, as well, are not random.
They are God's providence.

We have often heard, DeYoung reminds us, that God is our Father, which is true, but we don't always remember that the opposite is true: your Father is God.

Do we trust our Father with the what-just-happened-here's?
The aborted dreams and the I-didn't-see-that-coming's?
Those no's dressed in Divine Silence,
even if we asked nicely.

Q. How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from His love. All creatures are so completely in His hands that without His will they can neither move nor be moved. 
(Lord's Day 10, Q and A 28, Heidelberg Catechism)

You can accuse me of being a theology nerd.
But it is times precisely like this, that what I believe about God anchors me.
Sometimes God brings us to the brink of danger--like cancer.
Sometimes God brings us through disappointment--like interrupted adventures.
But He always brings us through His plan.

Today, this pilgrim is going to lay her weary head on the downy Heidelberg Pillow,
'Cause while God is the Author of Calamity,
He also happens to be my Dad.

1 comment:

  1. You're an awesome writer, Noelle. I loved your piece.