Peace When We Don't Get the Answer We Prayed For

I had enlisted an army of people to pray for the request.

Surely, the more people praying, the more likely God is to grant the request, right?

Everyone had been praying for my fourteen month old son’s surgery. We knew the day after he was born that this surgery would most likely be a requirement for him, and now the time had come.

I was petrified. I had never even had surgery before, and now I had to let my barely walking-and-talking little boy be put to sleep in a stark white room, bright lights shining down on his little body to be cut open.

One of our main petitions was for God to give us an early morning surgery time. We had dozens praying and pleading for this. This is because he couldn’t have food or drink before his surgery. I couldn’t imagine waiting until after an afternoon surgery to feed him, especially since he was unable to understand why.

More than just not understanding, Camden gets HANGRY. If his food isn’t served within a specific time frame, he will become inconsolable. I was already so nervous about the day that I just couldn’t add anything more nerve-wracking to it.

Please, God, please answer this request.

The phone call came two days before surgery. I clicked the little green button full of faith that we would be given that morning time we had been praying for so diligently.

“We’ll see you tomorrow at 1:30, Mrs. Smallwood.”

“Are you kidding me?” I thought. “We’ve had all these people praying. You can do anything God, which means You chose not to intervene and give us the morning time.”

My soul raged. The questions surfaced. Fears mounted.

Why would God do this? Would He also ignore my other requests for a successful surgery?

Is He good?

We come to a crossroads when we don’t get the answer for which we have pleaded and prayed, don’t we?

Will we continue to sing praises that He is good when what has happened does not seem good?

This is where it gets tough to trust.

When my boys were napping, I went into my closet and cried and prayed. My anger at God had turned into a sadness I could share with Him, and as I conveyed my feelings, a willingness to believe truth sprang up from the parched places in my heart.

I was never really mad at God. I was afraid. Afraid that He would choose not to honor my requests and would let something awful happen to my son. I was embarrassed to tell my friends that our request for the surgery time had not been answered because I feared squelching their faith by saying, “God chose not to answer our request.”

But as we trust, He fills our hearts with peace. I knew I had to go back to the foundation, what I knew to be true of God. What is true of God does not need to be validated by every little thing working out the way I ask it to.

I picked up the pen and wrote these words on paper:

“We must choose to elevate our hope in God’s character and sovereignty more than our hope for a preferred circumstance. If He chooses not to grant a request, He has a reason.

He won’t withhold a good granting unless a greater glory is at stake.

Psalm 84:11 says, “The Lord is a sun and a shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.”

Withhold means to “refuse to give.” Let me say this loud and clear to all my people out there: GOD DOES NOT REFUSE TO GIVE GOOD THINGS. That is completely against His nature.

He chooses to give the best things.

And sometimes the good thing received at a different moment of the journey can actually be better because of the glory that comes along with it-the glory of being able to believe God despite circumstances, the glory of God making something impossible a reality, the glory of God using time as an aid to His miracle-working in our heart.

Romans 5 says that “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of the God.” The deepest hope of our hearts must remain the glory of God.

If our hope isn’t rooted in the glory of God at the bottom, then our hope cannot weather the unfavorable circumstances.

Biblical hope is anchored in God’s glory, and thus our ultimate good, because His glory is our good. Our hope in God doing what is necessary for His glory must trump our hope of favorable circumstances if our faith will ever be characterized as unwavering.”

Here’s a little thing I’ve learned about not getting the answer we prayed for: God is desiring to make a us a people of hope.

Let’s return to the verse highlighted in the first post of this peace series:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“So thats” are some of the most important words in Scripture. “So thats” gets to the why of the matter.

The reason that God sometimes doesn’t answer our requests is because He desires for us to overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

If things always went our way, we’d have no need for hope, no need for the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hope belongs to God.

That’s what the text means when it says, “the God OF hope.” Hope belongs to Him, and it is a part of who He is. Only in God can the people of God have any reason to look expectantly toward the future with optimism.

More than just a wishful optimism, or hope is rooted in our faith that God’s Word is true.

We can believe good is coming because God has promised it is.

And all of a sudden, I realized that unfulfilled requests are not a reason to despair, but an opportunity to hope. Really hope. Biblical hope is most often paired with some sort of heartache, when all reason to hope seems lost.

I typed out a text message to all those dozens of people who were praying, and I was no longer sad to say that God had not answered our requests. I was hopeful that God’s glory would be seen and known.

I was at peace that God’s decision was different than my desire.

Only God can do something like that. Only the Holy Spirit can produce this unshakable hope.

I sent the text message, full of these thoughts I’ve just shared with you, and continued to ask people to pray for the other specific requests I laid out. I was anticipating a great surgery day, despite the late appointment.

The next morning, the day before the surgery, my phone rang. I saw the number, and I just knew.

She said, “Mrs. Smallwood, the appointment before you had to cancel because their baby got sick. We’ll see you at 8:30.”

I barely got out a thank you.

I looked up and said, “You didn’t have to do that, God. I trusted You either way. What You did in my heart yesterday was enough.”

And then the tears fell as I thought about how personal and loving this God-gesture was to me. I realized I wasn’t any happier at this moment than the moment the day before when I chose to believe God.

Not only had this unanswered request become an answered request, but it gave me something of greater value. It stirred up in me the kind of faith that can move mountains. If I had gotten the answer to my prayer right away, I would have missed out on one of the biggest blessings in my life. The blessing is in the belief.

That preferred surgery time was no more for me than a false place to put my hope. But now, my hope was in God, my ever-faithful God. I was more ready for the surgery than I would have been had He answered my request immediately.

He may not always give us our requests at a later time. He doesn’t always work that way.

But we can trust that He will give us the best things. Even if our hope is not realized until heaven, we can trust that if every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father, then every good and perfect gift will be ours when we are with Him.

Thank You God that you don’t withhold good things. We trust You to give the best things. Amen.