When God’s Answer to Prayer is No

God's Answer to Prayer is No Gray Shadows, Woman's Back/Head DownIs there any grief greater than a mother grieving lost child? I can imagine nothing. Nor do I want to try. Even the thought of it makes my stomach turn, and I have a very hard time offering forgiveness and not promoting the death penalty to anyone who intentionally (and sometimes even carelessly) causes significant harm to a child. When the loss of a child is disease or accidental there may be no one in particular to be angry at, but the pain is not lessened, and the crying out to the Lord, the questioning of the Father’s involved and Loving Goodness must be intense in both circumstances.

This Sunday’s first reading from the Old Testament and the Gospel both show a woman who has lost her child and the intense grief she experiences. In the Book of Kings, we read of a woman  whose son has fallen sick and stops breathing. I can almost hear her voice as she, in deep mourning and not thinking of the sadness of those around her, scornfully asks the prophet Elijah if he did this purposely to, “call attention to my guilt.” (Kings 17: 17-24) I can almost see the stunned look on Elijah’s face as he wonders how she could think he would do such a thing!

In the Gospel of Luke, we see a situation which may be even worse, a man has died but not just any man. This man was the only child of a widow (Luke 7: 11-24). His death meant not only devastating emotional losses for the woman but very possibly financial and subsequent physical losses as well. In a world where welfare does not exist, the loss of one’s only male relative means a loss of protection, a loss of safety, and a loss of one’s ability to feed, clothe, and house oneself. It is very possibly a death sentence.

In both cases, the Lord cures the child. The Mother’s emotions are unfathomable, but what happens to the women in the crowds who have lost children and who did not receive the blessing of a child returned to health? What happened to them? How did they feel?

My heart breaks for those mothers, fathers, and siblings who have lost a loved one, and I cannot begin to imagine the loss of a child and will not pretend to. I will be eternally thankful the Lord has spared me that agony because I do always think of those families when reading stories like the ones this Sunday.

Why Does God Save Some and Not Others?

When my husband left, I begged God for help. I know God hates divorce, but imagine Him was standing idly by and letting this happen with no good reason. My husband and I had hardships of course. Financially we had struggled for a long time, but many couples do when they first start out. It’s often not until the mid 30’s or later that finances begin to get easier for many, and our lives were right on course with that.

Parenting four active boys ages six and younger certainly wasn’t easy in the beginning, but they were now 11 to five. The thought of adding one more to the mix threw us for a loop, but our kids were really great kids. They were altar servers at Mass and involved Boy Scouts. They played sports. They did well in school. They were kind, compassionate, silly, and thoughtful. They were liked by everyone. We had it easy compared to many parents with two children!

My husband and I both brought in scars from past relationships and wounds from family history, but no one gets married with a blank slate and how we dealt with these had ups and downs, but nothing worth causing either of us to give up on the other, to turn our backs on the vows we gave, or to choose our own temporary happiness rather than give our children the security of one loving home where the parents find love for one another even when it was not deserved.

No one ever acts in a way that is deserving of love all the time. It is against human nature to do so and part of why we must commit to Love, Honor, and Cherish.

The inability to commit says more about the person who walks away’s inability to Love completely than it does about the abandon’s inability to be loved completely.

Not long after my husband left, I had to go food shopping for my boys. I was eight months pregnant and barely able to swallow food for the lump in my throat. I felt sick all the time. I worried about what would happen to my baby, but the thought of food often made me want to throw up.

One day, about a week or so before he was born, I fell – HARD – and landed flat on my belly. The other boys had just left with their father and I was alone. I lay on the floor rocking and hugging my protruding stomach, sobbing and speaking to my unborn child and to God, “I’m sorry Baby. Please be okay. Please be okay. I Love you so much. Please be okay…” and “Dear God, please don’t let anything happen to this Baby. Please protect him. Please Lord, please…” I don’t know how long I lay there before I was finally able to grasp the dining room table and pull myself up. I may have wanted to die, but I had to get up and live for my baby. I had to protect and care for him.

It was those same thoughts that kept me doing things like shopping for my boys, and I remember being in the grocery store that day and watching an older couple. The woman was letting the man have it, calling him all sorts of horrible names and cussing at him openly. The man said nothing verbally, but his expression was loud and clear. He was filled with sullen anger, and I could see him silently seething.

I could not stop myself. I literally stopped my cart mid aisle and watched with red-rimmed eyes and open mouth. I wondered how God had allowed them to stay married and had allowed my marriage to crumble? How could they stay together while we could not? I had never treated my husband so badly and would never have humiliated him publicly in such a way.

When God’s Answer to Prayer is No

I wondered why God had not saved my Marriage when he had saved others? Why, when we had so much, had my husband kept only the bad and been unable to hold the Good? Why was he unable to believe there was Hope for tomorrow when others, with so much less reason to Hope, were? Why did God say no when I begged Him to restore my Marriage, when I would have offered my Husband unconditional forgiveness for his infidelities and asked for forgiveness again for my transgressions? Why was the answer to my prayer no?

They are questions I couldn’t answer then and don’t think about very often now. I now have different questions I’ll discuss another time. The answers I did come up with though are simple, but not easy, and generically applicable to all of us, but not in a cookie cutter solution. It takes hard work many are not willing to put in to make them understandable and acceptable to our limited human comprehension.

First, we are given free will. Free will is the freedom to do as God would choose or as Satan would choose. There are no in betweens. Every decision we make is something God would do or something Satan would do. We tend to think most of our decisions are inconsequential. It’s true that most are not weighty enough to get us to Heaven or Hell, but they are not insignificant and little choices move us slowly in one way or another. Satan would never succeed if he moved only in giant leaps. He is patient and takes slow steps, calling us cookie by cookie toward the Hell of obesity, by short skirts and low cut tops toward being desired rather than loved, and by video game and youtube videos toward isolation and sloth rather than fellowship, intellect, and Joy of living.  We can watch another’s free will crumble, but no one has the power to control another’s free will.

Second, God uses all things for Good IF we invite Him to. This is entirely based on our understanding and embracing the first point. God has infinite power and ability to use all things for Good, but we must use our free will to invite God into our minds, hearts, words, and lives time and time again. It is not a one time invitation we offer to make our lives better, but a continuous reminder that He can do so. It is not a reminder for Him, but a reminder for us. God needs no reminder of His ability or of His Love for you. He needs no note taped to the mirror in the morning. He needs no bouquet of flowers on an anniversary. He needs no gold ring on His finger to remind Him of His faithfulness to you. You need to invite Him to use your circumstances for Good because you need that reminder over and over again.

Sunday’s first reading and Gospel message show not just a child brought back to life. They show the Hope that exists even when all seems lost. They show life where there is only death. They show God is not a God of death but of Life. He is a God of compassion. He is a God of Love. Sometimes God’s answer of No is really an answer of Yes to something bigger because He sees that we cannot. Other times His answer of No is really an answer of, “No, not right now. Wait for renewed life,” and sometimes we think we will never understand. What Good can come from pain and suffering, from a lost Marriage, from the death of a child?

I can’t imagine in some cases, but I’ve seen it too often in my own life and in others’ to believe it Good cannot come from all circumstances. I know it can. I know God is always there for you. I know God will work in His perfect timing when you invite Him to. I know God needs no reminders but that you must remind yourself of that and of the fact that this is not the end. We will be reunited in perfect Love one day.

God Bless…

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