It was a bold declaration. The man said that one day in the near future, the center quad of our university campus would be packed to overflowing with students gathered to pray. That was 2006.
A few years later, as I was about to graduate, I lamented to my friend, who had been there that night, how I was sad to not see God fulfill that prophecy during my years enrolled there. With surprise in his voice, he answered: “Oh, but it did happen. Don’t you remember?”
I looked at him like he was crazy. Did I have amnesia? I’m sure I would have remembered a revival in our student body so large that many hundreds, if not over a thousand students came together to pray in such a public area!
With sadness in his voice, he said almost in a whisper, “after the shooting that happened on Valentines Day, 2008. There was a prayer vigil for the people who died.”
I started at my friend in disbelief. He was right. There had been a huge crowd of students gathered to pray. God had not forgotten about us in the midst of that painful tragedy.
But I felt cheated, because it wasn’t the victorious and jubilant prayer gathering I had imagined. Instead it was grief and fear that drew us together to seek God.
For God speaks in one way, and in two, though man does not perceive it.” Job 33:14 (ESV)
I think there are times when God answers our prayers in a similar way. We occasionally get the mighty, joyful miracle we ask for. But at other times, God gives us something deeper, perhaps more painful, but still overflowing with His grace.
For example, when I was pregnant this past summer for the 4th time, I clung to the truths in Daniel 3. Daniel’s 3 friends boldly declared that God was able to save them from the fiery furnace… but that EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, they will still worship and serve the Living God.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18
After having my 4th miscarriage, I accepted that God had chosen not to rescue me out of this personal fiery furnace. I assumed I fell into the “even if God doesn’t answer” category. (Just like years ago when I assumed God had not fulfilled the prophecy about a prayer gathering of epic proportions.)
But recently, as I was reading Daniel 3 again, I cried out to God- asking Him why He had not saved me from my circumstances last summer? In the stillness that followed, memories from the weeks after my miscarriage came weaving back into my mind… memories of faith-filled words and actions I had expressed during that time.
This was vastly different from the way I had lashed out in bitterness toward God after a miscarriage 8 months earlier. Instead, this time I had found myself saying and living with a deep conviction: “I trust You God, even in this pain.”
I thought God had not rescued me, because I had a miscarriage. And yes, I did have to walk through that pain. But in regards to the testing of my faith in the midst of that loss? … I came out of that furnace unharmed, and as if it was without even a smell of smoke on my faith. (Daniel 3:27) And that realization brought a healing peace of recognizing God’s love, in seeing ways He is caring for me in the midst of these difficulties.
Friends, before we jump to the conclusion that God is not saving us out of the fire, my challenge to you and to myself is to look a little wider, for ways He is answering our prayers outside our expectations. Even as we walk around in the furnace with our God.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)