I previously wrote that Christians aim to live a life that is centered on God, but you can also avoid one. I want to discuss this by looking at the life of Jonah so that you won’t avoid a God-centered life but cultivate one. You can avoid it for a...
God is a God of miracles. Tumors miraculously disappear. A hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ. A child declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy. Hard-to-reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.
Many of us likely haven’t seen a life-altering miracle outside the miraculous regeneration of our hearts. Similarly, there are seasons when it seems like God is answering everyone’s prayers but ours.
Over the last decade or so, my family has known one of those seasons. When I see others around me praising God for his healing touch or powerful answer to prayer, I’m stirred up with mixed emotions. Although I’m encouraged to see God at work in a way that brings him glory and relieves someone’s pain, I’m tempted to wonder, Why not me? Why does God seem silent to my prayers? Am I doing something wrong?
Thankfully, God speaks to us who are battling these questions. If you are long-suffering and have wondered if your trials will end, Christ gives you two encouraging commands in Mark 4:21-43.
When Jairus’ Daughter Died
A ruler of the synagogue, Jairus, had come to Jesus, imploring him earnestly to heal his daughter, who was on the verge of dying. Immediately, Jesus began following Jairus to his home, but was interrupted when a woman, who had been internally bleeding for 12 years, touched the edge of Christ’s garment. As power went out from him, she was immediately healed.
Meanwhile, as Jesus is conversing with the miraculously healed woman, Jairus’ daughter is dying. By the time Jesus moves on, others from Jairus’ household inform him that there was no longer a reason to bother Jesus, for the ruler’s daughter had died.
Can you imagine what must have gone through Jairus’ mind? Along with grief over his daughter’s death, he may have struggled with confusion, even anger, at Jesus’ delay. Why did he stop to heal that woman when he knew my daughter was dying? Didn’t he care about my need as well? Maybe I didn’t plead earnestly enough with him…
No matter what questions and emotions Jairus felt, Jesus knew them. And he also knows our questions and emotions when we feel like our prayers are falling on deaf ears. Jesus speaks to these questions and concerns when he says, “Do not fear, only believe” (Mark 4:36).
Do Not Fear
Don’t fear how your circumstances may appear. Don’t fear that God has forgotten or doesn’t care. Don’t fear that God is listening to other’s prayers, but not yours. Don’t fear that your circumstances haven’t changed because you don’t have as much faith as others. Don’t fear that your trials are beyond the strength, control, or wisdom of God.
It is God’s undeserved grace when he answers our prayers for a change in circumstances, and it is equally his undeserved grace when he allows our circumstances to continue for his good purposes. Because we are so naturally drawn to worldly comfort, difficult circumstances can be God’s severe mercies that keep us near to him. Unfulfilled longings can actually protect us from living independently, as though this fallen world was our home.
When God answers someone else’s prayer, our joy for them (if we have any) will often be mixed with a fresh blow of grief and hurt over God’s silence toward our own trials. Or if our eyes are fixed on suffering people, rather than on Christ, the heaviness will tempt us to despair and question where God is.
Therefore, Christ commands us not to fear. Rather—
Only believe “is a command for present, continuous action urging us to maintain the faith we initially demonstrated when coming to Jesus.”¹
When circumstances weary you from praying and enduring after years of unanswered prayers, or when you see Christ work powerfully in someone else’s life while he continues to allow pain, trials, or sickness in yours, fix your eyes on Christ and the faith that initially drew you to him. Remember what Christ did for you on the cross, pardoning your sins, and be encouraged that, no matter how circumstances may seem, your suffering is never meaningless.
Reclaim the promises that are yours in Christ Jesus:
- He promises to be faithful by sanctifying us completely and preparing us for our eternal home (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24).
- He promises to hear and answer all of what we ask that is in accordance with his will (1 John 5:14-15).
- He promises to give us his strength, wisdom, and power to accomplish all that he calls us to (Philippians 4:13).
- He promises to lead us in paths of righteousness, restore us, be near us, comfort us, and fill us with himself (Psalm 23:1-6).
- He promises to use our suffering as we trust in him to produce endurance, character, and hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1-5).
- He promises to work all things together for our good (eternal good), even when we can’t see or understand it (Romans 8:28).
- He promises to use this momentary affliction to prepare for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayer?
“Do not fear. Only believe.” Brother or sister, Christ has a purpose in your pain, sometimes through long-suffering rather than deliverance.
He may choose to be glorified through your enduring faith rather than your desired circumstances. He may choose to magnify his worth in your heart and to the world around you by causing you to love him more in the pain, rather than freeing you from it. He may choose to use your suffering as a ministry to a hurting world rather than allowing you do to ministry in the way you had expected or desired.
Christ may choose to bring a powerful and miraculous change in your circumstances for his glory, but if he doesn’t, he is no less God and you are no less loved than those for whom he does. A miraculously answered prayer reveals God’s power, but a long-suffering believer, steadfastly trusting in Christ, reveals his worth.
Christ was certainly glorified through his healing touch on the bleeding woman (who had also endured her own 12 years of long-suffering). However, he cared no less for Jairus and his daughter. He used his delay to reveal his power and glory in an even greater way: restoring life to the dead.
For us, our prayers may not be answered in the way we desire on this earth, but we can press on in confidence that Christ is always at work in our circumstances, even if we can’t see how in the moment.