“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not …” – Daniel 3:17,18a
Without a doubt, one of the times we need “divine perspective” the most is when the answer to a fervent prayer is “No.” It is especially troubling when that answer – or non-answer – comes with no explanation. We look around us and see others getting instant answers to requests for a parking spot or something equally trivial, while our desperate pleadings seem to drift off into space, unheard.
And yet, we can be like the “bug in the rug” I wrote about in another post, daily crawling through light and dark, pleasant, unpleasant, and downright miserable. Then one day, like the bug sprouting wings and looking down on the whole rug with its colorful patterns, we can look back at all we’ve been through and see that God, the Master Designer, has been in control all along, even on those days – or especially on those days – when He seemed most distant. There is a “Big Picture” – God’s plan – and whether we see it now or not, it’s beautiful.
This past summer I was privileged to have a ringside seat for one such journey, one that began as an absolute nightmare and, in the end, showed God had a plan that could only be appreciated in hindsight.
Last fall I was visiting my old Michigan stomping ground and staying with my friend Kelly for a few days. One of those days a young couple came by, and Kelly introduced me to them. “T” and his wife “C” were the kind of people I greatly admire but would never attempt to emulate. They had six children – four biological and two adopted. Their youngest child was an infant, and the rest were home schooled. (I got tired just thinking about what they did.) As I recall, for most of the visit Kelly, T and I talked, while C was in the yard keeping tabs on the lively kids and making sure they didn’t fall in the lake.
Not long after that day, I got a text from Kelly, asking me to pray for this family. She didn’t go into why, just that they were in a major crisis and really needed the Lord’s help.
I was later to learn that one of the adopted children had fallen down a flight of stairs. She had suffered a brain bleed and needed surgery. When she was questioned about what had happened, she had said, truthfully, that she had fallen when her mother was in the breezeway. Later, after CPS had taken her elsewhere to live, she had been questioned again and again told what had happened. But after repeated questioning she had changed her story to say C had pushed her, and so had begun for T and C a parent’s worst nightmare.
There were months of being investigated, waiting to see whether there would be charges, and the constant uncertainty of whether all of their children would be taken away from them. I prayed and enlisted the help of my church and other “prayer warriors” I knew, and we stormed heaven’s gates and waited for updates. Through Kelly I heard about the agonizing wait for court hearings, only to have them postponed time and again. When finally formal charges were filed in the spring, C learned that if she were to be found guilty by a jury, she could face up to twenty-five years in prison. For this reason, her lawyer advised her to avoid a trial by not pleading “not guilty.” If she were to plead “no contest,” she would be sentenced by a judge with a penalty anywhere from five years down to probation. As much as C knew she was not guilty, the thought of spending half of the rest of her life in prison, never seeing her children grow up, in the end she and T decided to take the lawyer’s advice; she pled “no contest.”
Next came the sentencing, and again it was an agonizing time of “wait and see.” The two adopted children had been taken and placed in another family, but the foster father soon concluded that the one child was “a habitual liar,” and was afraid to keep her, lest he end up in the same predicament as C. (As of this writing, the children are somewhere “in the system” and could no doubt use our prayers, too.)
Meanwhile, we were all praying for favor from the judge, that she would discern the truth, and that if there still had to be a sentence, it would be the minimum, so the four children who were left wouldn’t be deprived of their mother for any length of time.
When the sentencing finally came, C was given four months in jail. She and T were crushed. Although I knew it could have been much worse, that was easy for me to say, sitting in my comfortable house with loved ones within reach. One of my praying friends responded by commenting, “Paul did some of his best ministry in prison.” But I wasn’t sure how much encouragement that would be to C and T at this point.
TO BE CONTINUED …
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for coming to earth and suffering for us. You understand when our own hearts cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We know, of course, that You haven’t forsaken us. Help us to hang onto Your promises when times are dark and we see no light at the end of the tunnel. And when we have come out on the other side and can see what You had planned all along, help us to tell our stories and encourage those who are still seeking You in the darkness, in Jesus’ name. Amen.