I’ve been thinking some more about this “rain thing.”
I recently wrote about rain—specifically, the heart-breaking, soul-sucking, economically disastrous lack thereof.
And, not long ago, I wrote a column about faith and healing, centering on the wonder-filled account in Mark 2. Jesus is teaching, and a paralyzed man is brought to him, carried on a mat by four friends. The room is so crowded that the only way they can get the man to Jesus is to cut a hole in the roof and lower him down. (A mess, I bet.)
What Jesus does is amazing on every level. First, he sees the faith of the “friends.” And then he says to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The toxically religious leaders, always ready to throw cold water on any spark of joy lest a fire of it break out, immediately begin to grinch and grimace and, ironically, hit the nail on the head: Who does this guy think he is?! “Only God can forgive sins.” Bingo!
Then Jesus raises the ante. I paraphrase for brevity: “Which is easier? To forgive this man’s sins or to heal him and let him dance out of here? So you’ll know that I have authority to do the former, I hereby do the latter.” And he did.
In the column I wrote, I wondered what most folks might choose if we could only pick one: forgiveness or healing. Jesus asked, “Which is harder?” We might well ask, “Which is more important? Which is better?”
I know. So do you. If you think that means for sure that I know which I’d choose, your opinion of me is higher than my opinion of me.
This brings me to a little thought (maybe thin on a point or two) about rain, faith, and healing.
But, in general, it seems clear to me that God has set up the physics and biology of this world to work pretty predictably and well, though not always as I like. If I kick a door frame and break my little toe, both physics and biology are at work. Not God’s fault. But that my toe heals is his blessing and design. And the rain? It “falls on the just and the unjust” and follows the physical laws of creation. Most often, we’re blessed by it. But hail, floods, and such? Not so much.
Most of the time, I think, God chooses to answer our prayers by helping us deal with what is. And that is a very real answer, though I’d usually prefer “what is” to be changed to “what I want.”
But the fact is, Jesus prayed. He taught us to pray about any concern, any need. He taught us that prayer matters. Relationship matters. We’re kids. God is our Father. We can, we should, ask, and trust that our Father will answer by giving us what we need, what is the very best for us, now and forever.
And so, I pray. For others. For myself. For our world.
When I pray about health situations faced by my family, my church family, and others I love, I pray for healing, and I shoot for the moon, assuming that, since God invited me to ask, why not ask big?
And what about “answers”? That term seems subjective, but you know what I mean.
Do I sometimes get the answer I want? Yes. Always? Not even close. What about “flashy” answers? Rarely. The vast majority are, in my opinion, just as real but without obvious fireworks. (If I always need fireworks, is that less faith or more? Less, I think.)
Do I sometimes pray and then watch the health situation deteriorate, and then hate what looks like the end result? Of course.
But that I don’t see the whole picture, and that I too quickly assume that answers must be obvious to me in the “here and now” to be answers—well, that just proves my nearsightedness and that my basic assumptions about “effective” prayer are often quite wrong.
Am I assuming that great health and longevity here are always the best for me and those I love? I probably am. Is that correct? I doubt it.
But is that what I want? Yes! And I can be white-hot-angry when folks I love are hurting and my prayers seem to be bouncing off the ceiling.
God wants us to be honest about our feelings. Read the Psalms! Am I sometimes angry and disappointed? Yes. But I often need to be reminded that the Bible portrays God as the Father who loves us with a ferocity we can hardly imagine and who knows what needs to be built in us that is a much better “end product” than constant doses of health, wealth, and prosperity could ever produce. In my better moments, I know that I can trust him completely, even if I’m shooting up a hot prayer to heaven’s Complaint Department and my eyes are red with angry tears.
And now, let’s pause to pray for rain. Rain. Right now rain. Lots of it. Now. Please! Has it not been dry long enough!? Would rain right now not be among the very best blessings God could give us? Oh, yes!
I hate this drought, as my Father well knows. I’ve shaken my fist in the dirty face of the wind and used words saltier than “Peace! Be still!” To no avail.
But could it be that in the face of some deplorable meteorological physics, God can teach us something and build something in us that “rain on demand” could not? (Not that we’ve been anywhere close to “rain on demand.”)
One day, the rains will come (the real thing and not blowing mud), and I will thank him. But even I know that faith which just shows up when I’m in good health, enjoying a nice annual rainfall, and feeling warm, fuzzy, and (I’m afraid) spiritually a cut above my fellow mortals, is cut-rate faith. Not much faith at all. And not the kind my Father knows I need.
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent