When God Says “No” … Again Part 2: Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee Beans

Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21

In America we don’t expect innocent people to go to jail, certainly not a good Christian mom living out her faith by loving her husband and raising six children, including two adopted. But my newest acquaintance, “C,” had been accused of child abuse and sentenced to four months in jail. It was summertime in Michigan, and instead of looking forward to taking her kids to the park or the beach, this mom was facing four months locked up and away from her family until fall. What made this outcome especially disappointing was that many, many people had been praying fervently about the situation.

When God Says “No” … Again Part I: The Nightmare

What happened? Was God taking a vacation?

Although I was as baffled as anyone, I wrote to C to try to encourage her. I shared with her a story that I had read that morning that had made me think of her:

A mother was teaching her little girl about responding to trials, using three pots of water to illustrate. In one pot the mother placed some eggs, in the second she placed some carrots, and in the last one she placed some coffee beans. Then she turned up the heat. After the pots had been boiling for a few minutes, the mom turned off the heat.

Fishing an egg out of the first pot, she showed her daughter that although on the outside it looked the same as it had before, inside it had become hardened, just as some people let troubles harden them. Next the mother took out the carrots and showed her daughter that they had become weak, soft, and mushy, like people who let hardships weaken them. Finally, the mom poured out some of the water that the coffee beans had been in and showed her daughter that the beans had actually affected the environment around them, just as in the heat of trials some Christians cause change in their world, rather than letting the world change them. These saints infuse the atmosphere around them with “the aroma of Christ.”

A few days later I got a long letter in response. C was struggling to keep her faith, as I’m sure any of us would have been in her situation. Everything we had asked for had been denied, and what we had prayed wouldn’t happen had happened, even details such as her family’s not having to see her in shackles after sentencing. But she had been led down the hall past her family and friends. Then, after another person was picked up, she was led past them a second time on her way to the jail.

C’s first five days in the jail had been spent in “quarantine” (a.k.a. solitary confinement), which I think would have had me fighting depression right from the start. C had then attended a “Bible study,” but said the leader didn’t seem to have a lesson plan, wasn’t sure what the “fruits of the Spirit” were, and didn’t know where in the Bible to find the Ten Commandments.

C had then looked for some encouragement by attending a “church service” in the jail, but the perspective was not biblical Christianity, so again she came up empty.

In spite of all these discouraging circumstances, C tried to be faithful, although a little nagging voice in her head kept asking, What’s the point? The “church service” and the Bible study, as discouraging as they had been, had offered some opportunity for discussion, and some of the other women were already asking questions of a spiritual nature that C responded to, although she felt her heart wasn’t in it. She told me she had even shared the parable of the egg, the carrot, and the coffee beans with the others in her unit.

Alluding to the parable, C expressed the desire to be a “coffee bean,” but confessed that she was more like either the hardened egg or the mushy carrot, feeling betrayed by God.

I wrote back to her, pointing out (reminding her) that what she was going through Jesus Himself had endured – falsely accused and condemned, the shame of public crucifixion, and His cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I tried to encourage her not to be too dependent on emotions. As I have often written, faith and obedience can come with or without emotional confirmation – although feeling it sure does help! As bad as she was feeling, she had not lost her faith – the fact that she was struggling was a sign that she still had faith, a faith worth fighting for.

It then occurred to me that C might be interested in my book BARRIERS, especially since the subtitle is “So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?” It’s a question I think all Christians ask at one time or another, even non-Christians.

Then, thinking of the women who were already being drawn to C, I wondered if any of them might want to read the book, too. I offered to send her as many copies as needed and allowed. I told her I thought she would be a good Bible study leader – and yes, BARRIERS has a study guide!

I asked if there were Bibles in the jail and offered to send some along with the books. (Everything I assert in BARRIERS I back up with Scripture, and I want my readers to see first-hand that the Bible teaches the lessons they’re reading.)

As I waited for C’s response, I tried not to let my imagination run wild with the possibilities of what the Lord could do in four months …

Prayer: Father, thank You for Your Word that promises us that all things work together for the good of those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. Thank You for calling us. May we never lose faith in Your plan, even when we don’t know what that plan is. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

34 thoughts on “When God Says “No” … Again Part 2: Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee Beans

  1. It’s disappointing when we see injustice so close to home. It’s frustrating. But I know that in experiencing the injustice your friend will remain faithful. I believe that all people who are praying will remain faithful. These are tests we all must pass for more are coming. In the midst of weakness the strength of the Lord will come through.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would not dare think that I’m equipped to lead a Bible study. However, I am quite enjoying the one I am currently attending as a participant. I don’t think the ‘leader’ has all the answers. They do prep ahead of time on the topic/books that are to be discussed, but that does not mean that they know everything about the Bible. I have no issues with that. Together, as a group, we search for answers, we help one another with what we already know.


    1. Good point, Goldie. I was wondering if we were being too hard on her. At the same time, I think we need to cut C some slack. I usually have no trouble jumping into a Bible study and “sharing” or asking questions, but when you arrive empty and desperately looking for encouragement as C was, it’s frustrating to leave feeling hungrier than when you came came.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I am SO glad that God led you to share that story with C so that she could share it with others. I am eager to read next week’s installment to see how God used your book in these ladies lives. You are such a blessing, Annie!!!! πŸ€—πŸ€—πŸ€—πŸ€—

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  4. Ann, I cannot imagine what she felt but can understand that C’s faith was quite challenged in those circumstances. Your response to her was good. The egg, carrot and coffee beans in boiling water is a great way to look at trying situations. Looking forward to reading the next part.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. To put it as Paul Harvey did, I’m anxiously awaiting β€œthe rest of the story”…love that the title of your book is spot on for the reality of C’s circumstances. Looking forward to read what’s to come! God is faithful even when it doesn’t look the way we think it should!

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  6. I remember your part one of this story. Sad indeed and although we thing, β€˜all things work together for good,’ I am sure that this Mom can’t see any good coming out of a prison stay. Although we walk through the fire, we will not be burnt.


  7. I loved this even more the second time I read it and I know it’s the kind of story that is timeless. The best kind. Every reading offers new insights. All I wanted to say at this point in the story was go ahead! Let your imagination run wild! The possibilities are so exciting amd limitless. I’m always inspired by the work God is doing through you, Annie. ❀️
    Your soul sister,

    Liked by 1 person

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