Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Does God Take Away?

Church people really like to preach about how God answers prayers.  We love to tell stories of how God provided.  Miracles and angels.  The bigger, more amazing story the better.  I have to admit that I did that just the other day in Sunday school. 

Our lesson was on the coming birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).  His parents were old and wanted children.  An angel came and told them they would have a son.  I wanted to use a more modern example, so I told the kids about Jenna and the kitten.

She had been praying for a baby animal to take care of and last week there was a lost kitten under our deck.  What a great story!  God answered the prayer of a young girl for an animal.  It fit perfectly with the lesson. 

The kids wanted to keep the cat.  But since we found the kitten, we’ve been asking our neighbors if they are missing a cat.  Jenna put up a sign at the gas station.  I could just tell that with every neighbor that said it wasn’t theirs her hopes grew.  She was hoping that the cat could be hers.

Sunday night we heard from a farm down the road.  They were missing two cats.  Their daughter came down to look at it and it was hers.  She was so happy that she was a little teary.  The kitten had been gone for three weeks so they figured it was gone.  Jenna gave it back and I think she was happy for them.  We knew that it might just be our job to take care of it for a little while.

After she had been in a bed a while, she came back out crying.  I had to wonder what kind of answer to prayer that was.  We love the dramatic stories and concrete answers to our prayers.  That didn’t seem like a very good ending to answered prayer.

Why would God answer her prayer in such an amazing way only to have to give it back a week later?  Come to think of it, I wonder other things about God.  Why doesn’t he answer my prayers?  Why does it seem so easy for everyone else?  Where’s my dramatic story?  Or my concrete answer?

I think more people probably have questions like that than dramatic miracles.  Deep down we all know prayer doesn’t work like that.  God is not a vending machine.  So what’s the point?  Why bother?

Certainly God does answer big at times.  It shows his power and glory.  Sometimes he doesn’t answer in a way we think makes sense.  But He hears our prayers. 

I think a lot of Job and his misery.  He was a Godly man and yet he had everything taken away from him. It comes to mind even more because his words are in one of my favorite songs.

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job 1:20-21

Prayer can be a matter of trust.  So often I use my prayers to try to control God.  To get what I want.  What seems fair.  Or what others have. 

It’s wrong because that is such a small view of God.  He owns it all.  He loves me so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice.  He gives, he takes away.  Do I trust Him?  Do I have faith in the fact that He is good and all-knowing?

Sometimes he takes things that are much more difficult than a lost little kitten. 

I went to a funeral for a young man recently.  When I saw his little six year old son crying his eyes out I thought my heart might break into pieces.  Where is God in that?

I’ll never understand.  The pain on this earth can be horrendous.  But if we trust Christ, it is temporary!  We’ll leave this world and enter into eternal glory.

For an eleven year old, giving up the kitten she thought was God’s answer to her prayers could be a faith buster.  But it can also be a faith builder.  In little things, we learn to let God reign.  We can learn to trust.  We can learn to love and take care of what he’s given us while we have it.  To praise Him.  And let go, when he takes it.