Have you ever had God answer a prayer, but you didn’t understand what he was saying to you? Maybe you have experienced this, where you feel like you only have part of the answer, and maybe the other part will come later? Do you ever struggle to understand how the answer could possibly fit or work out in your life?
I prayed for my brother for 10 years to be set free from alcoholism. Ten years of praying that God would intervene, that God would get his attention. I spent ten years of praying, “God whatever it takes” turn his heart back to you and free him from alcoholism.
Maybe you have prayed a similar prayer, a thousand times over, longing and hoping for the answer to come. Then the answer comes. But what happens when the answer comes with more questions.
The answer, God’s response, I do not completely understand. His answer is not the ending to the story as I would have written it. My ending to the story would not have included loss.
God’s answer, even God’s laws, and how he moves and works in our lives, I do not always understand. My lack of understanding comes from my inability to see things from His perspective. We are told that our ways are not His ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts in Isaiah 55:8-9. I have heard this verse most of my life, and in my mind I know it, I know that God’s ways and his plans and thoughts are far greater than mine. I can even come to grips with the fact that I am not owed an explanation for why and how God moves and does what He does.
A few days ago I was reading my daily “One Year Bible” reading plan. I was on Chapter 9 of Mark. It is in this chapter that Jesus tells the disciples what is going to happen in the coming days.
Jesus said to the disciples, “The Son of Man will be handed over to those who will kill him. Three days later, however, He will rise to life.” (Mark 9:31)
Jesus laid out the plan. The statements on this side of His death and resurrection seem perfectly clear. Knowing how the story turns out we have the privilege of reading this verse with understanding.
The disciples however, could not receive the plan. They could not fathom the meaning behind these simple sentences, yet these sentences would change everything. Even though they had walked with Jesus, they were blind to the true purpose of His life, what it would cost Him, and what we, as believers, would gain because of His sacrifice.
Verse 32 of Mark 9 goes on to share with us the disciples’ reaction to Jesus’ teaching. The scripture says, “But they did not understand what this teaching meant, and they were afraid to ask Him.”
Can you relate to the disciples? Can you see yourself in their shoes? I can. How many times have I not understood what God was saying or doing, and yet instead of pressing in and asking Him, I have stood back in fear and in wonder. I have been afraid of understanding God’s “why” for the situation.
I just wonder what Jesus would have done if the disciples had stopped him and said, “wait a minute, can you help us to understand what it is you are teaching us? Jesus can you help us, in our small-mindedness grasp what you are trying to teach me.”
Is it just easier to live life without understanding? Is it easier to wrestle with the hard moments and seasons of life without understanding? My gut instinct is that it would be far easier to live with understanding, yet would require far greater responsibility.
Gaining the understanding of God’s teachings comes with it a responsibility to not only know the teaching, but then to live life differently because of it. Perhaps not understanding is somewhat of a self-protection mechanism. What would Jesus have done if the disciples asked him to help them understand? It would not change the outcome, Jesus would have still gone to the cross and three days later be resurrected. The outcome would not have changed, but the disciples’ lives would have.
In my imagination, I see Mathew, Mark, James, Luke, John and the others sharing hope with people before the crucifixion. I see them saying, “don’t worry Mary, Jesus taught us what was going to happen and gave us understanding. Even though this situation looks grim now, He will have the final say. Jesus will be resurrected and reign on high forever and ever. It is not as it seems, He is in control.”
I am preaching to the choir here on this one. So many times God has been trying to teach me something, and I just simply don’t get it. I don’t get it and in my fear of how this new teaching may cause me to have to adjust my comfort, my lifestyle or how I spend my time, I take the teaching and bury it in my heart. I bury it in fear and wonder, instead of asking God for understanding.
I have been afraid to ask God to give me understanding for my brother’s passing. I am working to gain boldness and confidence to approach the throne of God and lay before him to ask “what is it God that you are trying to teach me through all of this?” And “Lord, please do not waste one ounce of this, allow me to understand and be transformed through the understanding.”
Here’s the thing. On earth, we may never know or understand completely, but we will when we get to heaven. I believe God wants to plant in our hearts pieces of heaven that will demonstrate to us just a glimpse of what we will experience when He returns. I may never understand completely, but by God’s grace I can understand more today than I did yesterday. And I can allow that understanding to change me from the inside out.
If you are wrestling with a situation you just cannot understand – and you are struggling to see God’s hand in it, I want to encourage you with this: 1. Sometimes, like the disciples, we are too close to the situation to be able to see or even know what to ask, or how to pray. 2. We can pray for understanding. We can pray to have a heart and mind that is able to receive what it is he is teaching us amid the tumultuous days we find ourselves in.
Seek His face. Seek His comfort. Seek His peace. Seek His plans and thoughts. Seek His guidance and wisdom and council and leave the fear of the cost of understanding behind.