For as much as I wasn’t a giant fan of “God’s Not Dead” for reasons we can talk about in person…I will confess I have something in common with the young college student. I have a desire to prove God. It’s not that I want to prove His existence, or even prove to someone that Jesus was divine. It’s not an intellectual debate I want to win. I want to prove to my children, the goodness and faithfulness of God, in the midst of a world where such testimony may be hard to hear behind other noises.
It struck me in a particular way recently, as I was praying for our adoption. You may have something else weighing on your heart. Something your family is praying fervently for. Something you and your children name regularly every night in family prayer time, and the main thing your kids might mention if they’re praying before bed at a friends house. Whatever that thing is, beyond praying for that “thing” itself….as a parent we also find ourselves praying it for the sake of our children. That they will experience God’s hearing of the prayer, and be able to celebrate together as a family when He responds.
So what happens, when that “main family prayer”, becomes the one unanswered? The one a family is left to struggle with. What if our children grow up praying about it, almost as a reflex, but slowly and accidentally learn never to actually receive a response from God on the issue?
In my anxiety and frustration, God calms me down. Hand on my shoulder, tears welling up in his own eyes, He speaks with love. “You and your family are not the beginning, or the center of what I’m up to, Chadwick.” In a moment of humility, He reminds me of where I sat just a few weeks ago, at a Seder dinner with my children. From my own lips, my children heard God’s story as one we are now the continuation of. That His people lived for hundreds of years in slavery, and have faced suffering and death for millenia. That the story of God’s people is one of embracing what it means to suffer in a world that is not yet made right. What it means to not pretend everything is easy or can make sense. Imagine what it would’ve been like for an Israelite parent to teach their children the goodness of God, in the midst of generations of slavery. God calls us to live uncomfortably in a world that idolizes comfort and ease. We are a people who have been crying out to God for thousands of years, and God has been/continues to respond to that cry. He invites us to actively participate in that response as well. Not by denying or avoiding the brokenness of the world – but by how we suffer as those who know God is with us.
His was a reminder – one of the greatest things we do as a parent is to give our children, and younger generations a context for their struggles/doubts. A safe place to express suffering…(any youth pastor who’s heard a teenager lament at a broken relationship can understand this)…and a larger view/context that helps to bring genuine perspective and comfort knowing God is with us even in these moments. Not promising to make everything better for every individual who comes to Him like a genie inside a magic lamp. Yet….not like a removed deity who has nothing to do with the world He set in motion, either.
God is at work. In faithful and world-changing-ly large ways. But also in small, thankful whispers of reminder. We know that His heart is seen being revealed in “Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.'”
All of that to say, be encouraged. Even when it seems our prayers aren’t being responded to. Not because “God’s working it all out to be even better than you would’ve prayed.” But because, God is with us. Always. Has been, and will be. That’s the story we invite our children to live within. That’s the story that invites them to prove God…