12.12.2011

How do you measure His faithfulness?

I have a dear friend who is striving to dig deeper in her faith...to figure out what she really believes and why she believes it. In the process, she is struggling with the ever-perplexing topic of prayer. After sharing some examples of conversations, I could completely understand why.

You see, in general, our culture has strayed from a biblical perspective on prayer. We've left behind prayer as an opportunity for worship and gratitude to the Lord and whittled the discipline down to supplication alone. In both the Old and New Testaments, God calls us to pray. Often He calls for us to "stand in the gap" and pray on behalf of others. Intercessory prayer is one of the most precious God-given opportunities to take part in His great work on earth. However, I think we've missed that God most often uses prayer to change and mold our hearts, minds, motives, and desires. Because of our genie-in-a-bottle mentality, we expect God to demonstrate His love and faithfulness through answering our requests. This "name it and claim it" approach is not new but seems to be growing subtlely in practice and popularity. (I can go into how this approach evolved from misinterpretation of several Scriptures, but then this post will become too long. Email me or comment if you want me to elaborate and explain.) Let me illustrate the problems this mentality and approach cause.

A particular FB thread shared the concern of a new mother whose baby may have some medical issues. Responses included promises that the baby would be healed because God is faithful, a statement to go and receive God's blessing of healing and that the infant would be healed, and celebration of what the doctor will tell them tomorrow at their appointment (predicting positive news.) There are some major issues here. First of all, they are giving this woman false hope. They are claiming to believe that they know best by saying that the baby will be healed. What if healing is not God's plan for this sweet infant? What if He plans to accomplish amazing things through the medical trials of the child and his parents? And is God only faithful if He heals? That seems to be the message implied.

I'll be honest in sharing that this thriving baby inside my womb has given me reason to celebrate and praise God. I feel loved because He blessed us with this miracle. And many have commented on God's faithfulness because He has sustained this pregnancy. However, would He be any less faithful if I had miscarried? Would I be any less loved if He had allowed this baby to join Him in heaven? Did He perhaps demonstrate His love and faithfulness to me even more by carrying me through our previous losses?

The truth is that God is faithful. Period. He is faithful through the good and the bad. When He answers our personal prayers, He is not any more faithful or loving than when He reveals a different path or plan. When He allows a tiny struggling infant or a cancer-stricken victim to pass away rather than be healed, He is not any less faithful or compassionate. As long as we're residents on this fallen earth, we will not understand the magnitude and scope of His purposes and plans for our lives. As singer Babbie Mason wrote in one of her songs, "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart." Remember who God is and trust His ability to lead us through the valleys. Some of the most mature and godly Christians I know say that they grew most in their faith and experienced God most intimately when in the midst of devastating circumstances.

I don't mean to sound so negative. There is much power in prayer. By all means, people should be praying for this particular family. Praying for the baby's healing is one request. Praying for peace, wisdom, strength, emotional stability, connectedness for the husband and wife during the wait, a feeling of God's presence, determination to trust Him no matter the outcome, wisdom for the doctor...these are all requests that can be lifted up to God's hearing ears. But we MUST not forget that, as Jesus taught us to pray, we ultimately ask for God's perfect will to prevail. And we must be careful what we say to others. We absolutely do not have the authority to make promises on God's behalf. And while healing is a miracle that will no doubt bring glory to God, potential bad news tomorrow is just as much an opportunity for God to reveal Himself.

The largest problem with comments such as I shared above is that a crisis of faith can result when circumstances don't end up as we believe they should. If we claim that someone will receive healing because God is faithful, what does this say about our faith and our Lord when He doesn't choose to heal? Do you see how damaging this can be for a young believer or a curious seeker?

So my question tonight is, "How do you measure His faithfulness?" Suppress the Sunday school answer that's popping into your mind and dig deeper into your heart. What do you really believe? I unknowingly struggled with this very issue a couple years ago (read post "A Beautiful Mess" for more details), so I now know that our hearts can harbor convictions that are contrary to what our minds "believe."

I think it's so important to encourage each other by sharing our own experiences of God's faithfulness, particularly during past times of hardship. I know my readers air on the private side given my ratio of emails to comments, but I ask that you please consider publicly sharing a brief experience in your own life of when and how God was faithful, through prayers answered to our satisfaction and through realizations that His plans were above ours. When outcomes didn't fit your expectations, how did God become more real to you? I pray our testimonies will bring glory to God and hope to those who may be enduring dark moments.

14 comments:

LB said...

hey Kellie,

I have been reading your blog for a while, but I have never commented. I love keeping up with all that is happening in your family!

This particular post really resonates with me in this season of life, so I decided to "go out on a limb," and post my recent experience with God's faithfulness.

My family is coming off of a particularly hard year--lots of little things, too many to name, really--but after praying for months for God to provide a new job for my husband that would provide a way for us to get out of debt, save, and give in abundance, my husband lost his job due to downsizing, and we were forced to foreclose on our home. Clearly, God did not answer our prayers the way that we thought he would, but we have experienced God's faithfulness in HUGE ways. We have experienced unexplainable peace in the midst of this--we have seen our family and friends rally around us in huge ways--and our faith has been strengthened. I think that money was an idol of mine in that I thought if we "followed all the rules," then I could control our finances. Obviously, that it not the case, and only when, financially speaking, God took everything away, was I able to experience the reality that God's grace is sufficient.

At this point, my husband has a great new job, and we are living in a tiny rental home that works for our family during this season of life. We are still praying to get out of debt, save, and give, but I have a better understanding that God is in control and money is just money.

Sorry for such a long comment, but I just had to share. During the past year when it was up in the air about what would happen with our house, it bothered me when people would say, "oh, God will provide," but instinctively I knew that God is faithful, but that he might not provide a way to keep our house, and obviously he didn't. His faithfulness didn't depend on whether or not we kept our house, but that seemed to be the implication at times. All of that to say, I hear what you are saying in this post, and I absolutely agree.

thanks for your blog. I really do love reading it!!

Laura Beth

Ruthie said...

When our family started thinking about adopting we didn't know where we wanted the child to be from, how old or anything. We knew a healthy child would take a long time so we decided to go with minor special needs. So, we talked to many different agencies and every. single. one. told us no. No. NO. NO. NO for all different reasons. We decided God was closing a door so we moved on from adoption. I was heartbroken. Little did we know God was opening a window. Later that year, our friends came to visit us from China and they told us they were adopting. We asked them what agency they were using and they told us one we had never heard of. When they left, we called the agency and asked them about minor special needs adoption. They said yes. YES?! We were amazed! Along the adoption process, God led us to a 2 year old girl. Now our sweet little girl is finally home!

-Ruthie from www.joymontague.blogspot.com

Tamara ViAnn said...

Sometimes the most powerful witness to me has come to me when the answer to prayers has been "no". We have struggled with infertility throughout our marriage which eventually led us to the decision to adopt domestically. I am SO thankful that we were able to go through the trials we have, because we were able to adopt our daughter and she has brought joy like no other child could have. It truly was one of the most difficult things I've ever been through, but I'm confident that God knows us entirely and can direct our lives if we allow Him to. We have since had a successful pregnancy, but I will always be so grateful that our answer was "no" that wasn't going to happen at that time for us.

I think it can be a dangerous to assume that XXX actions equal an YYY result. I've heard of fellow suffers of infertility being told at church by other members that certainly that "if you were more faithful you'd be able to get pregnant". Clearly we were sent to earth for many purposes, but among them are to experience living in a fallen and imperfect world. Some of the most spiritual, upstanding people I know have experienced extreme hardships regarding their health or the loss of loved ones. I'm sure it could cause quite the crisis of faith if one believes that surly God will answer my prayers and the answer is not what they hoped. Proverbs 5-6 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Love for Lilly Yin said...

We knew that God was calling us to adopt again. But honestly we were coming off a really hard time financially. How in the world we would come up with 30k AGAIN, was beyond my scope of imagination.
We toyed with selling some Gold and valuables, we scraped about 7k up to get started....but the travel was my big concern. I prayed earnestly to God, but I am sad to admit even though I knew that he called us to this particular child, I did not trust that he would give us the rest of the money to do so. For our first adoption, we had tapped out all of our resources. Low and behold, God worked a huge miracle. Our family business is roofing. Its been a little slow with the economy, but a hail storm came, then a wind storm came, and about everyone in our little town needed a new roof, thanks to the insurance company. Before long, instead of 2-3 jobs to do, we had over 50!!! We had MORE than enough to travel!
ANother thing that happened is that we found out our past adoption credit would be refundable. 12K more!
God had this ALL figured out. I am sorry I spent so many sleepless night, when God had a plan all along.

Gretchen said...

What a wonderful post.

I can't tell you how many times I've seen on FB where someone would post "SoandSo was in a terrible car accident and God is so faithful and loving that SoandSo walked away without a scratch". Does that mean because my sister died in a car accident we weren't loved?

OR.. "Praise God. God heard our prayers and loves us so much that Mrs. X has been healed of her cancer. Thank you for being faithful to us". Does that mean because that we aren't loved and God is not faithful to us because my sweet sister-in-law died from breast cancer? Were my prayers and begging for healing not enough?

The answer to all my questions is repeatedly "NO". God loves me and he hears my prayers, worshipping, cries, anger, etc. God has a different plan for my sister and sister-in-law and ME. In all the hurt of losing these two beautiful people, God WAS faithful. God did love me. God never left me.

I cringe everytime someone puts a expectation on God. We will pray for you and you will be healed. That's not the way God works..you cannot predict what he will and won't do. Through every season, good and bad, you rejoice in the love that God has for you. Not just if things go your way and He answers your prayers in the way you want Him to.

Ashley Matteo said...

amen sister. what a great post. i am only on the computer for a moment so am not going to post a long comment but thank you so much for giving me and all others a great opportunity to truly think about God's faithfulness and how i/we do measure it. He is Faithful!!!

Momto3 said...

Kelley, I love this post! I pray regularly for your family and read your blog often. Our family is in a very difficult season of life now, but I can say with full assurance that God's faithfulness is so real to us in every way. I measure His faithfulness by simply this: He loved me when I was unloveable, gave me life, clothed me in the righteousness of Christ, and adopted me as His daughter, although I did nothing to deserve his favor or love. Any blessing or gift He has given me on this earth is more of His grace heaped upon me, but He is no less faithful if some or all of my blessings in this life were taken from me (although I cannot imagine walking that out in my life). He is faithful. Period. Life is painful and hard sometimes, but He remains and He is Good. I don't say those words flippantly, but with much fear and trembling as I know that sometimes He asks us to walk the hard road with faith and hope in Him, even when we have no assurance that everything will turn out in this life the way that we pray. But we pray, because we know He loves us and hears us and sustains us by His very presence, even in our darkest moments.

Momto3 said...

Kelley, I love this post! I pray regularly for your family and read your blog often. Our family is in a very difficult season of life now, but I can say with full assurance that God's faithfulness is so real to us in every way. I measure His faithfulness by simply this: He loved me when I was unloveable, gave me life, clothed me in the righteousness of Christ, and adopted me as His daughter, although I did nothing to deserve his favor or love. Any blessing or gift He has given me on this earth is more of His grace heaped upon me, but He is no less faithful if some or all of my blessings in this life were taken from me (although I cannot imagine walking that out in my life). He is faithful. Period. Life is painful and hard sometimes, but He remains and He is Good. I don't say those words flippantly, but with much fear and trembling as I know that sometimes He asks us to walk the hard road with faith and hope in Him, even when we have no assurance that everything will turn out in this life the way that we pray. But we pray, because we know He loves us and hears us and sustains us by His very presence, even in our darkest moments.

Rebekah said...

I think Gretchen hit the nail on the head, when she stated, "God WAS faithful. God did love me. God never left me."
I used to feel that when bad things happened to me or that my prayers were answered with a "no" that it was because I wasn't good enough.
I was given the opportunity to change this thinking 3 years ago, when due to my quickly deteriorating health and that of my unborn daughter, we had to make the decision to deliver her at only 21 weeks. It was a decision that no parent should ever have to make - saving your life or saving your child. I spent the next 3 days in the ICU, and then 3 more days recovering before I was finally able to go home.
I have never felt closer to God than I did during the time in the hospital. I remember singing the lyrics from Matt Redman's song "Never Let Go" over and over during my time there.
"I will fear no evil for my God is with me. And if my God is with me, who than shall I fear? Who than shall I fear?"
God did not answer our prayers exactly the way we prayed them. Our daughter went to heaven one hour after her birth. We wanted her to live on earth with us. But, the Lord spared my life. He carried my through those dark times of grief. And He made his presence known to me.
I can think of no better word to describe Him, than Faithful.

Amy Jacobs said...

Kelly,

I so enjoy reading your blog! I am one of those who reads and never comments on your posts. But your post last night really struck me. I so often hear others saying "we are believing God will heal _______." I always cringe when I hear it. Thank you for being faithful to write what is on your heart! Here is my story.

About 2.5 years ago, I graduated from PA school. I sat for national boards the next month. I am a good student and really love school, so I was shocked when I got the news that I didn't pass boards. For a few days, my life was turned upside down....or so I thought. God used this incredibly hard time in my life to draw me closer to Him. I realized that this was in His plan for my life, even though it wasn't in mine. His was is always the BEST plan for me! Due to not passing and having to wait another 3 months to take, I was able to attend BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). I was able to truly learn how to study God's Word and apply it to my everyday life through BSF. I am so grateful to the Lord for this time in my life! The next year I was called into Children's Leadership and I passed boards. My husband and I knew that God had used the study of His Word to grow me and I desired to be in His Word through BSF. We both prayed and knew that if God wanted me to have a job, He would provide one part time for me, where I could also attend BSF. Well, again, I am so glad the Lord knows what is best for me. He provided a part time job for me, but not as a PA, as I thought it should be. He provided a part time job for me where I could work from home for a ministry. I am so thankful for this "trial" and that now I can look back on it and know that God's ways are BIGGER and HIGHER than ours!

Laine said...

Oh Kelley...such a timely post on this eve of some big cardio appointments tomorrow for our heart boys. God is faithful...never changing...no matter what. Thank you for this much needed reminder!
And I have some magazines for Caroline!
So thankful to hear you and baby are doing well...we've been praying!
I'll email you...

Jamie said...

I really appreciate your honesty in this post. I'm not sure how I found your blog...I've been reading for a while but have never commented until now :)

One of my favorite quotes I've heard about God's faithfulness came from a young dad dying of cancer.. he said, "if God chooses to save my life then God is good, if God chooses not to save my life and I die from cancer, then God is still God and God is still good." It's from this perspective that I really began to understand that God's faithfulness has nothing to do with His works. Regardless of the outcome of situations God is still God and God is still good. :)

www.southernsimplicityjlb.blogspot.com

Kelley Brown said...

Thank you to all of you who shared your experiences! I teared up reading every comment, and I've had several people tell me how encouraged they were by your stories.

xoxo,
Kelley

Erin said...

I haven't ever left a comment, but I think your blog is wonderful and I love that you share your love of the Lord in it and through your lives. I do know that we, in our tiny human minds, can ever comprehend the complexity of God and why and how he chooses to answers prayers in certain ways- ie: in the case you were talking about why some people are healed and others are not.

I used to be someone who thought that it was always just best to pray,"God your will be done." Then hope for the best, prepare for the worst kind of mentality. But after really digging in to the Bible it tells you exactly what God's will is and why you should pray in faithfulness for the things he has said. The Bible says, "By His stripes you WERE healed." The physical pain that Jesus bore was for every physical ailment any person would ever suffer. He paid the price for not only our sin and salvation but for our healing as well. He already paid for it and so we can pray in faithfulness to receive the blessing he paid for for us. It is God's will to heal. There are many many other scriptures to back this up as well. Only the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. That doesn't mean that God can't take any situation and turn it around for his good and glory though. But I think that we are called to pray for others in all of our faithfulness knowing that our God is completely and fully capable of doing anything. We pray in faithfulness and then wait upon him. We do not always know why he answers or seems to not answer certain prayers, but he is always faithful even if we can't see it. Healing does not mean that someone will necessarily receive an instant miracle either. The Lord can heal people in a progressive manner or through the use of physicians and medications or completely on his own or in a miraculous instant. And ultimately, although it is sad for us on earth, God can heal people by not healing them here and bringing them home to him.

All that so say I know it is not necessarily right for people to name it and claim it, but I do think we have to pray every prayer with all our faithfulness in the fullness and the truth of the word. If you ever question what God's will is, go to his word because it will tell you. And that is what you pray.