As a remarried widow, Tricia Lott Williford is closely acquainted with the greatest tension of all: believing God can do anything and yet knowing that he might choose not to. Take a moment to read her honest words on how we can still believe God is good, even when he says no. It is a grace to welcome Tricia to the farm’s front porch today…
I don’t like the theology that says healing depends on my faith. What does that mean when God doesn’t say yes? Does it mean I didn’t have enough faith? And is a “lack of faith” my fault?
My husband (Peter) and I have two vastly different stories of faith miracles. He begged and pleaded with God from a desperate place in a jail cell, and God told him yes. The miracle is that he was set free.
“How do we learn to hold both sides of that equation, the belief that God can, but the understanding that He might not? It’s the greatest tension of all.”
I begged and pleaded with God from a desperate place on my bedroom floor as my first husband lay dying in my arms, and God told me no. The miracle is that my faith stayed intact at all.
When Peter and I pray together, when we ask God for things, it sounds different. He prays for miracles in the hope of a heart-stretching yes; I pray for comfort in the likelihood of a heartbreaking no.
If faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, then is it his job to grow it in me? If I don’t have it, then how in the world do I get it? And is it my fault that someone is sick—or dying—because of my “lack of faith”?
That really doesn’t feel good to me. It makes me feel like I didn’t study hard enough for this test, as if I’m being overlooked by God.
How do we learn to hold both sides of that equation, the belief that God can, but the understanding that He might not? It’s the greatest tension of all.
Although it doesn’t give us an answer for the tension, the Bible helps us sit in it. It shows us the heart of God, the deep love and grief and profound power, the mystery of how He thinks and acts and is. The Bible doesn’t give us a reason for suffering. It gives us a God who is over it and with us in it, even as we live in the ache.
“The Bible doesn’t give us a reason for suffering. It gives us a God who is over it and with us in it, even as we live in the ache.”
A trio named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, all the way back in the Old Testament, shows us how to hold the tension with both hands.
Their friend Daniel is best known for his time in a lions’ den, and these pals of his are known for making a stand in a fiery furnace.
Both these Bible stories got some airtime in Sunday school, in large part because Daniel and his friends were young men who demonstrated that there is more to being young than making mistakes.
Adults are quickly won over by young people who show wisdom and discernment, and Daniel’s friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—show us the power of their convictions. Together they silently defied King Nebuchadnezzar’s order to fall down and worship his gold statue, a tower that was taller than the White House. They chose God, even in the face of certain death.
The king gives these guys “one more chance” to bow down to this statue: “But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Daniel 3:15
But the three friends hold their ground. They will not bend their convictions.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reply, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
They knew what they had asked God to do, and they believed He absolutely could do it. They even said He would. And then they finish the sentence with the giant caveat: But even if He doesn’t, we will not bow to any other god.
That’s the balance right there, resting in the tension between the first sentence and the last, between the left hand and the right.
“When we know what we want Him to do, we believe He can, and we might even say that He will. And we choose this day to remain faithful to this God. Even if He doesn’t.”
When we know what we want Him to do, we believe He can, and we might even say that He will. And we choose this day to remain faithful to this God. Even if He doesn’t.
Listen, I believe God can do anything. That is a complete sentence, with nothing added.
I believe He can perform healing miracles. I just haven’t seen it in my life.
I believe He can, but I cannot say that He always does because you and I both know that sometimes He doesn’t. (Otherwise, probably every person any of us have ever loved would still be alive.)
When someone tells me I need to have enough faith in order for God to bring healing, then I feel like they’re telling me I must have pure faith without any doubt.
I feel like I have to put all my faith in my left hand and hold it open to receive the gifts God’s waiting to give me, and I should put all my doubt in the right hand, lock it up tight, and throw away the key, just to be sure there’s no whisper of question.
But I’m looking at those same two hands, and I see different choices.
In one hand is faith: I believe He can do anything.
In the other hand is sovereignty. Even if He doesn’t, I believe He is still good.
Tricia Lott Williford is a writer, blogger, teacher, cohost of the podcast Let’s Talk Soon, and the author of five books. Tricia has recently released This Book Is for You: Loving God’s Word In Your Actual Life, a book about falling in love with the Bible, even if you have long felt like it was written for someone else.
With raw transparency, honest grief, laughable joy, and a captivating voice, Tricia shares how God’s words have become her daily lifeline. Tricia will surprise you as you engage in an unexpected dialogue with God and His word.
With slice-of-life stories, humor, and charm, Tricia Lott Williford will help you discover that the Bible can be your lifeline, too.
[ Our humble thanks to NavPress for their partnership in today’s devotion ]