BUTTERFLYINTHESPRING (BITS): What encouragement can you give to someone who feels let down in their faith in the word, when no breakthrough seems to happen for their prayers, for example to verses like “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4)”
PASTOR ANN CHAN (AC): When we look at verses like that, these are timeless truths of God. In its context, it’s not what you desire. If you and I desire a million dollars, will God give that to us? If we want a husband or five children, will God give it to us? We can not take a verse like that and apply it universally on all situations. In its context it says, “You delight in the Lord”, the Lord will give you the right desires in your heart so that you will delight in that (God-given) desire and God will give it to you. It goes through the process of surrendering. God will put those delights in us so that in our prayers and longings, we will delight in those things from God and God will give it to us.
The psalmist who has God in mind knows the process. But today, you and I interpret the verse differently. We interpret it as God saying “Ask what you want and I’ll give it to you.” We think it’s like “God, I want two Lexus, a rich boyfriend, this and that.” It is not to our own motives. To delight in the Lord means to surrender. Then God will also cause us to surrender our desires to Him. When that happens, we will delight in the things of God, not the things of this world. Sometimes we think God is not answering our prayers because we actually misinterpret a verse like that.
BITS: What about prayers like healing for children or that their faith will not break, that they won’t be disillusioned, restoration of a family, these seem to be prayers according to God’s will and design
AC: It is according to God’s design, that’s true. But God doesn’t work against the free will of man. He didn’t chain us and program us to respond a certain way. We are not robots. We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Healing is threefold:
1. The Triune God heals us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
2. The Ministry of Healing from other people heals us, when people pray for healing for you, when elders come and anoint you with oil that heal you, our spiritual leaders heal us as agents of healing.
But don’t forget…
3. Healing is also our part. The bible says that you get rid of these things that hold on to you.
Hebrew Chapter 12 talks about that: let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, that make us stumble as a result.
Some of the things, you do NOT do in order for you to once again seek God. As a result, we begin to realise, “Yeah, if I want God in my life, then I will not do this. I will not sin against God. If I’m single, I won’t live as if I’m married. If I’m married, I won’t live as if I’m single. So these are the things I won’t do, the loving boundaries we set for ourselves. On the other hand there are things I MUST do which is to go back to the Word, to practice solitude, to practice surrender, to practice study, to practice devotion. So healing is also one third responsibility that is mine.
So we can not continue to sin and pray that God will heal me. Doesn’t work that way. We can not make up in prayer what we lose through disobedience. I can not go and have an affair with a man and everyday I go back to God and say, “God heal me. If you want, take me away. If you want take him away.” God gives us a mind. A will to choose to walk away. And if we don’t choose to walk away, God can’t heal us. He can’t work beyond our willingness to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. So when we don’t cooperate, we are quenching the Spirit and saying, “Look God, I’m not willing to walk according to Your Word.” So if a person is like that, how can you blame God for not healing and not restoring?
BITS: What about if someone is having the right desires and being obedient and yet, she is not getting a breakthrough, how do I encourage this person?
AC: You see, each one of us has a journey of discipleship. By many accounts, we can say that this person is going through a very difficult time. Why does God allow something like this? I think in various countries, in various settings… for example, a woman in Calcutta has never slept a single day on a bed or never had a single meal, or has sores all over her body, we also ask the same question. It’s not just abandonment. In the Middle East, India, Africa, they are not abandoned but they are being abused and caned, eyes gouged out. In India, the wife is buried alive with the husband who is dead. So when we look at life and generally, we need to turn our focus away from what I do not have to what I already have. The focus of praise and thanksgiving is important. At least we have family, a roof over our heads, some money, I’m not like the women in Calcutta who sleep on the streets, left dying with open sores; and they are not given burials; they are just swept up and burned together with the garbage when they die. When we ask, “Are we really the worse in society?” No. There are many things to give thanks.
A spiritual friend’s response is that we can not always shield or protect people because God has a journey for them. It is their journey of discipleship (following Jesus). In the suffering church of China, one missionary said, “Don’t pray that the persecution is taken from us. Pray that despite the persecution, we will come forth as gold.” And I really think that some of us have to walk the journey of discipleship like that, that despite what we are going through— pains of betrayal, abandonment— that we will look to God because He is the ultimate Provider. He will never fail. When we taste that the Lord is good, we realize we have so much. Every year, in India, Pakistan, Africa, at least ten million women suffer from female genital mutilation or circumcision. The clitoris is being cut because [some] men [in those cultures] have the idea that they will enjoy the pleasure but not women so without anesthetic and clean machine, they are being cut.
We always compare ourselves to those who are better off than us. Why don’t we compare to those who are worse off than us. And then we really give thanks. Those women will say, “It’s so unfair.” It’s true. Each one of us have our own journey.
Where God put us is where our mission field is, our furnace of fire.
BITS: How would you pray for such a suffering woman?
AC: I pray that there will be thanksgiving. Despite the circumstances.
God always draws us to Him through pain. Sometimes, to get to the Promised Land, we have to pass through the wilderness. We should not shortchange the journey for others because they will not grow as the Lord wants them to grow. We will not try to play hero for people. By all means, we help, we pray, we support. But it is a journey that the Lord wants them to got through. Help them to rise up, feed themselves, get a job and trust God. Surround them, give monetary support, but you must help them to help themselves. In turn they will turn from the dependence upon people to the dependence on God.
Previous post with quote from Pastor Ann Chan: http://butterflyinthespring.com/2013/05/15/life-is-unfair/