It was my own fault for bringing God into the conversation as I did. So when I told my child (I’m keeping this gender-neutral to respect some privacy) that we had reached a hard decision, a hard and big decision my child had prayed wouldn’t come to pass, I should have expected what followed:
“So is it that God just doesn’t care about us? What good is God if he doesn’t help us when we ask him to? Why would he make us do something we don’t want to do? What kind of God is he?” And on and on the questions went.
I wished in that moment I would have had some great answers, some comforting mother-to-child, perfect-pitched “theology for grade-schoolers” rhetoric to offer. But all I had were shrugs, and “I don’t knows.” While others may have offered chastisement for blaspheming or being self-centered or whatever, I wasn’t in a place to do that.
Instead I confessed that I had asked all these same questions.
Just that morning, I had gone straight to God with these same concerns, my fists shaking a bit in God’s face. I wanted to know why he wouldn’t just answer a few simple and repeated prayers that could so easily “solve” some problems my family seemed stuck on. I wanted to know why God wouldn’t finally answer these prayers I had been praying every day for years and years or years, why he let us wallow in so much silence, so many no’s. I was as desperate for a “yes” or some good news from God as my child was, and I was as dismayed about why he made us wait so long.
So I told my child I understood and that it was okay to question, to get mad at God, to feel disappointed, even to question his faithfulness. But then something came out of my mouth that jolted me — as it didn’t match anything close to what I was feeling.
“But these are the times,” I said, “when our faith’s rubber meets the road. When we have to decide if we believe God is God, if we believe he is good, and if we believe God is faithful even when we don’t get the answers we want. We need to figure out if we believe God may be working in this for our best or whether we really think he’s just out to get us.”
The words startled me because I realized they came from either a long-forgotten, deeply sealed place within me or they came straight from the Holy Spirit, placed on my tongue not even so much for my child’s benefit — but for mine.
I faced the same choice my child did: I needed to decide if I really believed God was good when he forced us to wait — increasingly and desperately — when he walked us through fires and raging rivers, when he allowed difficulty and bad news to prevail in our lives. I needed to decide if God really was faithful: was he really walking with us? Was he really using this hard time for our best?
Just days after this conversation, our family watched Nik Wallenda tight-rope walk across Niagara Falls. Throughout the walk, we heard the mic-ed Wallenda praying to and praising Jesus. Rather amazing. When Christianity Today ran a snippet about the prayer-walking and the ultimately triumphant trek, one commenter wondered what CT’s coverage would’ve been if Wallenda would’ve fallen, if God wouldn’t have “helped” him.
It was in reading this that I realized my own answers to the questions I had posed my child — well, that the Holy Spirit had asked me. Because, yes, if Wallenda would’ve fallen, if his safety harness snapped, if he had plunged into the roaring falls even as he praised the name of Jesus, God would still be good, still worthy of praise, just as God is still good in every “no” or “wait” he tells me. God is still good when he is silent, when I feel his face turn away from my requests. God is still good whether we understand or not. God is still good when the horrible happens.
Even if…, even when…, God is good. God is faithful. So even when I do not feel it, I choose to believe it. I hope my child chooses to, too.
Image credits: flickr.com/photos/ruap and flickr.com/photos/canadiantourism