We all have experiences with what we believe are unanswered prayers, particularly when someone we love dies, even after much prayer. When we hear that others are healed with prayer, we wonder why God didn't heal in response to our prayers.
I wrote about prayer in one of my stories, "Even Now/music video," and how it helped our family during mom's struggle with lung cancer.
Recently, I posted this story on several cancer support websites. On one of these sites, a lady asked me a very good question--where was God when her 25 year old daughter,Grace, died from cancer, and why didn't He listen to her prayers? I've been thinking often about her question, and how I should answer, while flying as an airline captain between Philadelphia and Boston in the aftermath of the recent blizzard that passed through the northeast.
This evening, after much prayer and re-writing, I posted my answer to Diane on the cancer family support website. I don't have answers to questions people have been asking for centuries, but I have discovered a few things that I hope may be of value to Diane during her grieving, and maybe they will be of value to some of you.
Here is "An Answer for Diane" and please pray for Diane and her family:
* * * *
Hi again Diane,
I'm a pilot for UPS and I've been out flying in the northeast U.S., between Philadelphia and Boston.
I've been thinking quite a bit about your question. I wanted to write something that could comfort you during your grief, however, I can't enter your grief because I never had any children, and I never had a family of my own. I'm 54 years old, and I was married once for a brief time, and then my wife left me for another man. I've been single for 20 years, and I'd guess I've prayed at least several thousand times to God for help in finding the love of my life. She has not yet arrived.
I watched my dad die a long, slow death from Alzheimer's disease. Until the last day, I asked God to heal dad. When he was suffering from a terrible bout of aspiration pneumonia, I felt like God asked me to let dad go as he fought for every breath. Pacing the halls outside dad's room, I found myself praying for God to take my father out of his suffering. In an hour or two, he was gone. The nurses were amazed dad passed away when he did. Normally, the other veterans in the veterans' hospital took much longer to die.
My uncle Seigle was a WWII veteran, and he saw horrible things during the Normandy invasion, and in the weeks following D-Day. Eventually he was wounded, and lost his mind for several months. They say he didn't recognize his family for months after his return to America.
Uncle Seigle never had a family either. He took great pride in my accomplishments, and I think he loved me as near to a son as he could. He developed lung cancer, it went into remission for about 5 years, and then came back with a vengeance.
The last days for him were terrible. I always thought the doctors could make you comfortable with all the wonder drugs, but I found out how wrong I was. People still suffer and die horribly. Uncle Seigle pleaded with me to pray to God to let him die because his digestive systems were not working, and his abdomen was swelling to abnormal proportions. The doctors wouldn't give him much pain medication because Seigle also had congestive heart failure. I almost came to blows with the oncologist in trying to get the doctor to prescribe pain medications. The doctor told me that this happened all the time; there was a daughter who had a father with the same problem down the hall from Seigle.
So, for several days I prayed for God to take my uncle while he thrashed around in the bed and tried to pull out all the IV's and the catheter. My mother was not able to spend much time with her brother because of his incredible suffering. I spent several days at the hospital to allow her to rest knowing someone from the family was with him.
Then one day, during a visit from mom and another sister, Seigle sat up in bed and started singing country and western songs, and laughing with his sisters. Was he getting better? That night, when no one was around, he passed away in his darkened room. It was the first night I was not there; I took the night off and didn't visit. I believe he knew that God was coming to take him away. Seigle had accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior several years before, and I believe Seigle met his Lord that night.
Now my mom has lung cancer. I'm her only child, and at times it seems like it's just me and her fighting this cancer. But I know God is helping us. I prayed for her treatments to be gentle and effective, and she gained weight during the chemo and radiation and was never seriously ill. Gustavo, and many others around the world, prays for mom. The cancer doctor gives all the effects of the treatment an "A" grade. The last three scans since the treatments were completed have looked good. I know there is a long way to go, and many things can still happen. Yet, I feel tremendous comfort in knowing I can approach God, through and only through, the precious blood of His Son. I have no good thing in myself, and there is nothing in anything man-made, or in any other man like myself, that allows me to approach God and ask for His mercy and help. Jesus says that nobody can come to God except through the Son.
Well, you may wonder what point I'm trying to make in all this talk about prayer.
Originally, I thought I'd compose a literary prayer masterpiece, and impress you, and everyone else, with my knowledge. I would list all the prayer promises from Scripture. But there are still mysteries in this life; the mystery of evil and why it was even allowed into the world, and the mystery of why some are healed and others are not healed.
Instead of writing a masterpiece, I must confess I will never be able to explain these mysteries to you. People much smarter than me have been trying to figure them out for centuries. There are a few things, however, I have learned that I hope may somehow, with God's grace, may be of some value to you.
The first thing is, no matter how bad things get in our life, we have nowhere else to go but to Christ. When Jesus asked the disciples if they would leave when many others were leaving, Peter answered for the group and said, "Lord, to whom else will we go? Only you have the words of eternal life."
Job lost all his possessions and all his children were killed. God allowed Satan to do this to Job. Through it all, Job said, "Though He slay me, yet I will trust him." Eventually every material thing was restored to Job, with Job having more children, and being assured he would see his departed children in Heaven.
In my own mind I have said, "Though He never helps me find love, though he takes my father and my mother, though he slays me, yet I will trust Him." We must believe, or else we will go mad, that God does love His people. We must believe our times are in His hands, and everything He allows to happen to His children in Christ will, in eternity, work for our good. Our faith will certainly be tried here, and believe me, I have times when I wonder where the "good" is in my and other's afflictions, like yours.
Diane, sometimes I start to feel sorry for myself, and then I see a story like yours. Or, on February 7, 2007, I saw the news reports of a U.S. medical evacuation helicopter shot down over Iraq, killing all seven young crew members. They were transporting blood supplies. The pilot was a young woman Marine captain, Jennifer, about the same age as Grace. Jennifer’s nickname was "The Dove," because she was so calm under fire.
The people who shot them down filmed the crash and posted it on the internet. The video was played on news broadcasts around the world. What was it like for the families of these seven U.S. Marines and Navy sailors to watch their children fall to earth in a burning helicopter, and then die as the aircraft exploded a few feet above the ground? I think about that and don't feel so sorry for myself anymore.
I wrote some lyrics for a song for this crew called, "Seven Died Today," and my friend Gustavo composed the music and recorded the song in his home. I also made a music video using the film the terrorists posted on the internet. Everything we did, and the crew's biographies and photos, can be found at www.sevendiedtoday.com. I don't know if anyone outside their families and friends cares about the crew, but their deaths seemed to go particularly hard with me. Maybe someday people will care, I don't know. I believe God has this crew safely in His possession. I wish I could do something more significant for their memories, and to call our nation's attention to their sacrifice and the sacrifices of all the others who have died.
A famous pastor, Ray Steadman, said he would have quit praying if not for one verse in the Bible--Luke 18:1, where Christ says pray and don't quit, or don't faint, or don't lose heart, depending on your translation. Jesus knew we would have questions about prayer, and that's why he said this. And so, I try not to quit praying.
C.H. Spurgeon, one of the most popular preachers of all time, writing in the late 1800's, said that God's Holy Spirit places prayers in our hearts (See 2 Samuel 7: 27). That means if we have a desire to pray about something, we should pray because the Holy Spirit put that prayer in our heart. When dad was struggling to breathe on May 15, 2006, I did not find a prayer for healing, but I did find a prayer for mercy, and God quickly answered.
I'm always on the lookout for prayers in my heart.
So, I'm always searching, praying, trusting, falling, doubting, getting back up again, falling, praying, falling, praying, back up, crawling, walking, running, falling, praying and so on. In many dark nights of my soul, I could only pray the shortest prayer in the New Testament, "Lord, Save Me!" This was Peter's prayer when he sank beneath the waves after walking on the storm-tossed water to Christ. So far, it has been enough. He always pulls me back up again.
Someone said the Christian life is a series of new beginnings. I've found this to be true in my life.
I try to obey what I read in the Bible, I try to live the best life I can, I try to pray whenever I find a prayer in my heart, I try to trust even when life is black and filled with despair, and I ask Jesus to pick me up when I fall. I have studied prayer for years, and I try to believe the Biblical promises about prayer, which are astounding. I have seen incredible answers, and I have been disappointed many times with a definite "NO." I'm still waiting for an answer to many prayers. I do the best I can with the light God has given me.
The old-timers called what I have described as "praying through." You just do all you can, believe all you can, pray all you can.
Praying "in Jesus' name" means praying through, and believing in, the power of the precious blood of Christ, and nothing else--no good works, no giving of money, no prayer to another human, no angels, no spirits. Praying "in Jesus' name" also means we are completely surrendered to Him alone, and have trusted our souls with Him alone.
Then, we watch and see what God does. If he brings healing and renewal and an obvious "YES," we praise Him and thank Him. If it is "NO," but we find a different or modified prayer in our heart, we pray from another angle. If we lose a loved one, we ask God to help us say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." This was Job's praise and lament during his trials. And, we mourn and weep for a time, because we read Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus. Then there was a resurrection, and so we can eventually replace sorrow with hope for a reunion.
Gustavo, who sings "Even Now" in the music video I wrote about in my first post, has two children, a young boy and a little girl. His daughter, Aldana, has cystic fibrosis, and her life expectancy is 35 years old. At any moment, she could have a CF attack and be taken away from Gustavo. He understands your agony much better than me, and Gustavo has written a message just for you, Diane.
Before I post Gustavo's message below, I must tell you I believe God is speaking to you now. I believe He moved you to ask a very good question in response to my writing on prayer. I believe He wants you to know He has Grace, and she is enveloped in His love right now. I believe He wants you and your family to make your salvation sure by believing in His Son, and then, in eternity, He will restore all the years you, and your family, lost with your lovely daughter, and many, many more. God promises this in His Word, "I will restore the years the locust has stolen and the years the cankerworm has taken."
One of the best verses in the Bible is one of the last verses. He says, in Revelation, at the end of this world, "Behold, I make all things new." That includes all souls who belong to God and His Christ, and that means we will have a wonderful second chance at the life we missed here, including Grace.
I have prayed for you, and I have prayed for God to give me the words you need to hear. May Gustavo's words below give you comfort. He is from Argentina, and a Hispanic worship minister and missionary. *Dewayne*
From Gustavo to Diane:
Where was God when sinful men sacrificed His only son at the cross?
As a Father God had the same feeling...but He let it happen with a purpose.
There was something extraordinary behind this terrible scene, and it was
the most extravagant proof of love for us.
When someone dies, it is terrible, even more when a loved one dies.
It is such a terrible thing to watch our children die.
There is no a simple explanation or words to fill such a loss,
and for me as a father of a sick child with a life threatening condition, I have no explanation for her disease.
She was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when she was only 4 months old, and
there is always a terrible fear, pain for my daughter's condition because
anything can happen at any time...
and there is nothing I can do about it physically, except give my daughter all my love.
But there is only "one thing spiritually powerful."
Believe in His promises.
There is a powerful scene in the Bible when a close friend of Jesus,
Lazarus, died, and Jesus felt deeply hurt about it. At the tomb of his friend,
Jesus released a powerful word of encouragement:
"I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?"
Lazarus was another example of a believer living in a "Fallen World."
"Sin" is the cause of every evil, and that affects us directly.
Even as Christians we are not safe against it, yet His Grace is beautiful.
But always remember God will allow things to happen with a purpose.
The Bible says because of Sin
the door to Death was opened Wide...
As for one man (Adam), through him, sin conquers the world and for another man
(Jesus), through Him eternal life and freedom were established.
While we live this time in the flesh we are still under Adam's judgment.
But if we believe in the words of Christ we are able to be under Christ's Grace,
and our sins will be washed away forever.
Death doesn't have
any authority in us eternally, and after "this life" we will enjoy Eternity
in God's presence.
We must understand this present life is just as a brief moment...
This is not the real life for us, we are conceived as an eternal creation.
Satan has tried to break this "privilege" with sin,
unsuccessfully for those who believe in Christ: Do you believe this?
God had a wonderful idea, in Christ's sacrifice.
To Diane, who lost her beloved daughter:
I don't have words to describe my feelings for your loss.
I am so sorry for your loss, God is not turning His back on you
beloved friend, He loves you and He wants to heal your heart.
I am with you 100% as a father, but please remember
God didn't want this to happen to you.
I will pray for you my dear, for you to understand
and feel the love of God again.
I might not be the best writer
but if you just believe in what I have expressed in my words,
I am sure you will find Hope, and at the end of the road,
then you will receive the Eternal hug of your Daddy
who loves you very much
Believe in His Promise my dear, Believe
(See Diane's reply below)
* * *
Its Diane, I just want to thank you for taking the time to reply to me, it means a lot. I also thank your friend Gustavo for his kind words. I had tears in my eyes as I read them. As you can imagine I am still very angry that my darling Grace was taken from me and wish so desperately that I could have taken her place as Grace had so much more to give to this life. I miss Grace more and more every day and go to her grave quite often to just sit and talk to her, Grace was one in a million. I truly thank you for taking such time in writing your reply. For someone I have never met to give up so much of his time to write such a reply means so much.