Over the past eight years, I have had the privilege of studying under some great professors – men of God who are passionate about helping students learn, grow, and prepare to lead well in churches and other ministry settings. One of the best is Dr. Gerry Breshears, a pastor, scholar, theologian, counselor, and lifelong learner. I love that last part, especially. I remember one class during which this wise, learned, always-studying professor admitted that his theology and teaching (in a particular area) had changed markedly over the last thirty years. I love, too, that Gerry asks questions – except when what I want from his is answers!
Recently on his Facebook page, Gerry posted this question:
In John’s gospel Jesus makes the bold promise ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. The condition is if you remain in me and my words in you in 15:6 and if it is in My name in 14:14. HUGE promises that surely don’t seem to be happening. Am I just not obedient enough?
That’s what I wrestle with. What keeps our prayers from being answered? What about all those times that we pray for what certainly seems to be in God’s will, but God doesn’t answer them? Or when we really do delight in God, but we don’t receive the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)? Or when we so desperately want to see God, to hear his voice, to know him – to have some sense of his presence – and yet he remains distant and silent?
Job experienced the agonizing silence of God, piled on top of the tortures he’d already felt in the loss of his family and wealth and the torment of the lesions covering his body from head to toe. At first he pled his innocence and almost arrogantly demanded an audience with God. Later, though, his pleading was simply to face God, to hear something, anything from the One who could take up his plea.
In the end God did speak up. Not, perhaps, with the words of comfort Job wanted, but with the booming voice that had spoken creation into existence. And without answers to his many questions, Job was satisfied. “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6, NIV)
Am I satisfied simply with faith that God is present? Or do I demand answers to my questions?