stories of our life together on the road home
The Risk of Uncertainty
It is remarkably more safe, I think, to not pray than to pray. When I was in my early 20s, my brother called me urgently from his college to tell me that a fellow student and acquaintance of his, Ian, had been in a tragic and terrible sports-related accident. Ian was in the trauma ICU fighting for his life with a very grave outcome. My brother called home to ask us to join him and his classmates in urgent prayer for his life to be saved. Despite not ever meeting this young man, it was devastating to me. Maybe it was the desperation and tears from the brother I loved. This gut punch drove me to deep prayer, asking for intervention from God as if Ian was my own brother.
Then came the unexpected refreshing, like cool water quenching parched lips, when God answered me! The God I had prayed to for years of dinner times and bedtimes gave me a response. I heard God say to me, “I will heal Ian.” My prayers bubbled over in response. With greater fervor and joy, I prayed into Ian’s healing now that the God of life had given me this word, this word of Life. I prayed with my faith overflowing, asking this thing in His name knowing He would do it, as Jesus said to His followers before He left them. Written in my journal from that time was this prayer:
I pray for resurrection for Ian’s brain. I pray that a resurrection of his brain would also resurrect the faith-dead around him. I trust. I believe. I trust. I believe… Because You love to bring life where there was once death.
Two days later came the news I never expected to hear. Ian was declared brain dead, wheeled to the OR not to have his own life saved, but to donate his organs to others.
It was simply devastating. I had the loss of this life to grieve, as well as the loss of my certainty in who God was to me. I was left confused and disappointed. I had been declaring He was the God-that-saves to myself and to the people around me, the people around Ian. And I was left wondering, had I not heard God speak to me?
My questions were not unlike the Psalmist who wrote:
My eyes are blinded by my tears… Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead? Do the dead rise up and praise you? Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love? Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness? O Lord, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading, day by day. O Lord, why do you turn your face from me?
Over time, my prayers of request tapered. They lost their riskiness and courage. They tended towards prayers I knew God would answer, for I could be certain they would happen for me whether God intervened or not. My prayers against death never asked God to stop it: if they did, it was halfheartedly. “God does whatever He wants.” I became a trauma ICU nurse and saw, day in and day out, tragedies like Ian’s. I saw every patient’s family praying against death, with fervor and boldness and faith. God saved the day and worked miraculously for some. And for others, He didn’t. I found myself unable to pray for anyone much more than “Heal them God, if it is Your will.” It perplexed and saddened me that some could walk out declaring “God is Mighty to Save!” while others never walk out.
It became easier to tell myself “things are the way they are” than to ask God to change things if he might not. Unanswered prayers stirred up questions in my heart about His care, His involvement, His existence. It was easier for me to move on down the road and accept what is than to ask the all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God to intervene and risk Him… not. Instead of becoming evidence of His faithfulness to mark my life by, my unanswered prayers became stumbling blocks that tried to build a wall in between me and God.
This hopelessness is one way to live. But God would not allow me to stay there. I went face to face with God by lamenting to Him that the world was not as it should be. I’ve seen hospitals full of examples day in and day out of unanswered prayers. He started reminding me that He too wept over things that aren’t yet restored. He wept, then He walked towards, and then He conquered death so that one day it would be no more.
In my depths of disappointment that all is not yet restored, I choose to take my lament to the Father, alongside Christ. And when I do, I am in good company. I am imitating Christ. My heart on the matter is aligned with His. I am acknowledging before the watching world that this world is not as it should be, or as it will be.
Father God, as I imitate Christ
You will watch me weep
and ask why
and ask if You will
Until the day you finally declare
“Behold, watch me:
I have come to make all things new”
Let us risk crying out to God with all that we hope will be, so that the world can hear us. And then, one day, our laments and tears will find their rest. We will fully know God’s answer to our prayers. That mysterious veil between us will be no more. And there will be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain.
Grace Stueve longs to know God deeper all the days of her life and treasures following Him in the Sojourn East family of believers, especially amongst the women’s ministry. When Grace is not working as a trauma ICU nurse, she can be found “puttering” and diving into silly or deep conversations.