Weeks ago I became ill with an obstacle to functional existence, the culmination of long years of trouble with an unidentified pulmonary issue. My first impulse has been, at times, to pray the problem: “Oh God, heal these lungs. Get me back to work. I have a family to support. Don’t You understand that with good health and being clothed and in my right mind I’m much more useful to You, able to accomplish more for Your glory? Don’t You see how depressed and fat and angry I’m getting down here, how tired I am of the seclusion in my bedroom, how these meds are clouding my thoughts and making me useless?”
It is right and proper that we get our problems out on the table when we go to Him. We’re His after all — we belong to Him. We’re told to “cast our burdens on the Lord,” throw them onto His shoulders rather than try to solve everything with logic and reasoning and strength and fleshly fixing that further drains and damages us and gums up the works with fig leaves where there should be leather (Adam), Ishmaels where Isaacs should stand (Abraham), and brass shields in place of gold (Rehoboam). And it’s just a sad fact that much of the time we don’t seek or find God unless there’s a goad back there somewhere poking our posteriors, moving us from glory to glory onward and upward into Him. I assure you that’s true of me.
The recent exhortations of our pastor have to do with refusing to take up residence in the middle of those problems and patterns of prayer, of allowing ourselves to be blinded and halted by the great limitations and concerns of our encompassing circumstances. After we cast our burdens on Him as a starting point, we must move on to seek Him. It is in seeking God for HIMSELF that we find satisfaction, resolution and change, in seeking to know God because He is mysterious and wonderful and loves us, and not foremost because of all the great things He can do for us.
Steve’s Problem: a bodily ailment the medical community wonders over, cannot explain, cannot answer. They’re guessing diagnoses, predicting prognoses, taking expensive shots in the dark at treatments. They’re marveling. They’re excited, even. They say, “You’re just so young to be having problems like this!”
Now I haven’t been feeling too godly these past couple weeks. To tell the truth I’ve felt like a grouchy old ogre gnawing bones in his cave. I’ve felt angry and alone and far-away from my wife. I was up late recently with insomnia because of the meds and watched the old horror movie The Shining. I thought, If something doesn’t change soon I might start living out this plot. What I’m saying here is that for the last couple weeks I’ve been pretty much the frigid polar opposite of golden heaven-born spiritual ecstasy. I’ve been a sodden heap of bottom-feeding, self-pitying, wheezing flesh.
In spite of this horrible outlook, seven weeks into this obstacle — this limitation, this problem — our Father says, “Sit down, young man.” (Perhaps you understand the relevance of the number.) He doesn’t give me a lot of time and space to freak out and have a colossal tantrum. Just seven weeks. Maybe it took that long for me to grow ears. Then He says, “Come here, now, I want to show you something.” And I think, Praise God! The healing has started to flow, the solution is coming into view!
So what is Steve’s Solution? Instant healing? Quick deliverance?
No. Here’s what He says:
For years your wife has suffered in her relationship with Me because of wounding you inflicted in the earliest days of your union. She’s angry with Me and hampered in her relationship with both of us because of your callousness and impatience. You hold the key of authority to her heart, yet you have not been one with her before Me.
Excoriating, penetrating truth, cutting like a diamond scalpel. Imagine thinking for years that your spouse isn’t spiritual enough or doesn’t have the same heavenward desire or faith or ability and then finding out you — YOU! — are to blame for the whole mess, the whole sense of disconnection. Truth, a doubled-edged sword, dividing joints and marrow, soul and spirit, facts and horse hockey. It wasn’t something I could have identified through my efforts, or read in a book somewhere, or arrived at by focusing my prayer on the physical problem. The problem with praying the problem is that we don’t even know what our problem is.
Son of man, Can these bones live?
Oh Lord GOD, thou knowest.
Sikki and I talked on Monday night, the day after Pastor reminded us that we carry others with us into God’s presence. I held her and confessed my sin and asked her forgiveness. We prayed with tears as one heart before Him and marveled at the undeserved goodness of God, because He went right past my petulant attitude and put His finger on a real and devastating issue that made us vulnerable and hurt us both, of which we were totally ignorant. Her words afterwards: “I didn’t even realize that this was something that needed to be healed.”
Thanks be to God, He knew. The Lord is a God of knowledge, said Hannah. The Lord is good, and His love endures forever.
Praying the solution is seeking the One who manifests Himself in our lives in ways like this.