What happens when you don't receive the answer you wanted to a prayer? I've been thinking lately about what constitutes a victory when we pray and believe for something. When I, and so many of you, prayed for my husband to live and he didn't, did that mean our prayers failed? I struggled for a really long time with the answer to that question. Initially my honest answer would be, yes they did fail. That's wholeheartedly how it felt. I was confused for so long at how I could believe so completely for God's promises and they didn't come to pass. If you would ask me if it felt like we obtained a victory in our prayers I would have answered no. I lost my husband and best friend and have to live the rest of my life without him. My son lost his father. I have to raise a child alone. I have to live life as a "widow" a term I despise. I have to learn to live without my best friend and greatest companion. No part of that sounds like I was victorious in my prayers.
But then I think of Joel and how the answer of our prayers looks from his perspective.
He is totally and completely healed. He is no longer stuck in his failing and mortal body. He is no longer sick. He is with Jesus and has never felt more alive. He is no longer struggling or in pain. He knows God and His ways with the greatest of intimacy. His story was a light in the darkness to literally thousands of people around the world, and continues to be. The only downside I can see to where he is, is those he loves are not with him. But to him it is only a little while until we join him, so that downside disappears.
The more I thought about it I understood God did not ignore my prayers. We were victorious in what we asked of Him. God gave us a victory. He just took what many see as an earthly victory and instead gave Joel the eternal victory.
We long to keep our mortal bodies chugging forward as long as they can. We long to keep our loved ones here with us. We long for more time on this earth. We long for more worldly experiences. We long for a world that is broken, full of sickness, pain and disappointments. We long to be in a place that is truly not our home. We long for "time" that is fleeting, instead of a destiny that is eternal. We are missing it. We are longing for the wrong things. We should really long for a Heaven where death has been defeated and tears are no more. In that place there is life to the fullest. In that place sickness is defeated. In that place death is overcome. In that place life truly begins, not here. There. Yet we long for this world. We believe true victory is staying here just a little bit longer. When that doesn't happen we concede defeat when in reality we should be proclaiming victory.
The token question is always "how could a loving God allow something like this to happen?" The only answer I believe is because He saw a greater purpose in the end result. He saw greater purpose for me. He saw greater purpose for Joel. He saw greater purpose for our family. He saw greater purpose for Joel's story. We haven't quite seen it or understood it yet but one day we will. One day He will make everything known and everything new.
It has changed the way I view the answer to the prayers for my husband. God answered me when I called. He bestowed not upon us a tragedy but a triumph. A triumph given to us by the One who understands a victory more than anyone else. He who conquered death and gave it to us eternally.
When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:54