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be careful what you pray for… or, pass the snake bread, please

A teenager at a youth group meeting prays, “God be glorified in me. Show all the world through me that you are real and you love them. Even if it takes my life or my death, I want the world to see you.” A month later, playing on a basketball court he played on hundreds of times, he drops dead of a massive heart attack. All his friends from church remember his prayer.

A church planter, in the early stages of a new church, growing, vibrant, healthy by all accounts, yearns to be used fully in God’s kingdom, and prays on a leadership retreat with his core group for all to hear, “God, do whatever it takes to make me more fully dependent on you alone.” Two days later, the pastor gets a call that his wife has run off with a man she’s been having an affair with.

Is God handing us snakes again? Feels like hell doesn’t it? Sure doesn’t feel like His favor. Sure doesn’t feel like the answer we were hoping for.

And like my little daughter who doesn’t understand why she needs to be strapped into the carseat, or just how long it takes to pour milk into an empty bottle, or why it hurts sometimes to bang her head, we get answers we don’t want, we aren’t prepared for them, and we are learning the painful realities of life that make us squirm and kick and scream and weep.

If you offer your all, God will take your all. The promise we got was troubles. The promise was life will be hard and it will suck at times. The promise was if you follow Jesus, you will have a cross to bear, just like he did.

How thankful am I that the promise didn’t stop there. How thankful that God promises us His strength – not just when ours fails, but before we even try our own strength. He promises us His peace and comfort and rest. He promises us that He is working and moving, first within our own hearts to conform us to His perfection mold, and then He is working all things together and making all things new. Even when we don’t see it or feel it, especially when we don’t feel it, God is giving good gifts.

So I don’t get away with writing about how content I am or how I trust in God to give me all I need and then get to skip away with glee. It’s like Satan says, oh yeah? Prove it. And God allows these trials to come and the storms rage over us. We are woken up in the middle of the night for an ER trip. We get a frustrating and painful letter in the mail. We hear of possibly more frustrating and painful news regarding an upcoming meeting. We have worries. We have cares. Why would we not? The Christian life has no magic wands to wave it all away.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress;
     I shall not be shaken.
– Psalm 62

But we do not have nowhere to go. We do have magic, if you will, that doesn’t necessarily wipe all our problems away, but it does heal our hearts and protects us in the midst of the storms. It’s our only hope. It’s our Rock and fortress. We have to run to it. We have to stay in it. We have to.

So when we pray, Thy will be done, we brace ourselves. His will takes mysterious forms. He sets about His work in ways we cannot see some times and don’t understand most times. We know, we try to know, that all He does is for our good and our benefit. We believe, we try to believe, that He is faithful and His love will endure long enough to hold us through it all. It’s the ultimate “Come what may” love. The Forever Love that binds itself a hundred times over to our souls, making promises only It can keep and has already kept a hundred times over. And we wait for it, once again, with patience, to do its magic, to set our hearts free from the reign of sin and deceit, to first make us more pure and more beautiful, and then to set our world back aright in His time.

Free us from our stupid arrogant pride. Cause us to see where we are blind. Restore our vision, dear Lord. Make us holy. I pray this for Rob. I pray this for all those I love most. And I pray for me that You will do what You must in and around my life. I pray I will welcome every trial. I pray I will not grumble or question Your methods. I pray I will meet the days ahead with confidence and true joy even in the midst of pain and heartache and frustration. I pray I will remain in Your fortress and cling to Your Rock, never wavering, never breaking, all because of Your hands around my soul, for all my days.

Oh, help my unbelief!! Lord, deal with me as one who has Thy word believed. Amen and amen.

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