Do I Lack Faith?

I’ve been reading this devotional book that was written by someone who is really big on faith promise stuff. Now, before I delve into this any deeper, let me just say that I do believe faith is important and there are tons of scriptures about having faith and living in faith and speaking in faith. And I believe in every single one of them. I believe in claiming God’s promises and speaking life over my loved ones.

So my problem with the faith promise stuff isn’t a lack of belief, but more of a disappointment in the way that it is presented. Because when you tell a story about standing outside your house reciting Psalm 91 when a twister is headed directly your way then tell me that God can vanquish my storms just like He did yours… It’s not that I don’t believe it; it’s just that I question the sanity of staring down a tornado. And I don’t doubt that this family was clearly instructed by God to pray over their house. I don’t doubt that God worked this miracle for them. But you can bet I wasn’t standing in the rain this week, telling Hurricane Sandy to bypass my house in Jesus’ name.

There’s a difference between acting in obedience and asking God for a miracle. If you strongly feel that God is telling you to do something that doesn’t make sense in the natural, by all means, step out in faith. But don’t tell me that if I have faith, God will do X, Y, Z. Because He doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been there. I’ve been the ten-year-old girl, standing in her grandparent’s bedroom and watching the last shred of life slip from her grandmother’s lungs.

Looking back, I know that there wasn’t an ounce of my ten-year-old body that didn’t believe God could heal her. I was young and innocent and didn’t have reason to doubt that God would do anything BUT take that cancer away from her. Instead, that cancer took her away from me. And in the months that followed her death I started to wonder if maybe I had done something wrong. Maybe I didn’t pray hard enough. Maybe I didn’t believe deep enough. And maybe God would have healed her if only I had gotten those things right.

That’s a terrible thing for a ten-year-old to believe. For anyone to believe.

So I said to God, “I need answers.” Then I picked up The Cross Examination of Jesus Christ and started to read that instead. I came to this part that tells the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof to meet Jesus (Luke 5). In the book, the story cuts off at the part that said the man’s sins were forgiven. Then the author grudgingly fills in the rest of the story before posing the question: “If the story had ended without Jesus providing physical healing, how would you feel about it?”

And I found that God provided my answer in the midst of Randy Singer’s musings:

“But at the end of the day, we must get comfortable with an unyielding truth: Jesus will always answer our prayers for forgiveness, but he doesn’t always answer our prayers for healing. At least not the way we want them answered.”

I think this passage of Scripture makes it pretty clear what God’s priorities are. When God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him to, it’s not that He’s punishing us for a lack of faith; it’s because He is busy healing a much deeper hurt. And maybe that’s the greater miracle.

Maybe that’s what our hearts were really asking for all along.

The Miracle of Unbreaking

If there’s one thing I’ve learned with certainty in the twenty-one years I’ve walked this earth, it’s that my world is broken. And my greatest fear in this moment is that you may be broken, too.

I know far too many people who have been crushed by the weight of this world. Sometimes I look at the pieces of their shattered lives and nearly fall into despair. Because there behind the haunted eyes, I see a trace of a girl I used to know. And I remember that she was all smiles and potential then. Now she has a past with the potential to drag her down as she drinks of a sorrow so deep it only leaves her empty.

But somewhere beneath the pain and the lies, her true value remains. She’s every bit as beautiful as she was five years ago… only a little less innocent.

And I know that when she looks at her life, she doesn’t see what I see. She doesn’t see the potential that remains in the depths of her soul, begging for release. No, what she sees is a disaster—a disaster so overwhelming, it leaves no room for believing in starting over and second chances and a God who makes all things new.

Because she’s broken.
And I… I don’t just want to fix her. I want to unbreak her. I want to restore the life and beauty that once was.

If I even half believed she would hear me, I’d tell her that the potential is still there. That life is still fresh and bright and beautiful on the other side of the darkness. But her ears are closed to me right now. They’re closed to hope and faith and the impossible things that are made possible through the God of impossibilities.

If I could rewind time, I would go back to the place where she was still impressionable—back to the place where a word I said might have made all the difference—and I would say all those things that I forgot to mention. I would breathe hope and instill courage and whisper syllables of impossible dreams fulfilled.

I would unbreak her.
I would keep her from falling or at least be there to catch her when the ground shifted from underneath her feet.

But I don’t have a time machine, though I am still a firm believer in second chances. So maybe my second chance comes in the form of someone else.

Maybe my second chance is you.

And maybe these are exactly the words you needed to hear at exactly this moment.

Maybe this is the start of your unbreaking.

And maybe there are others who are still waiting to be unbroken. So I’ll look for the girl with the starry-eyes—the one with impressionable innocence that screams of potential—and I’ll take her by the hand and walk with her into the life my first friend forfeited. Because if I couldn’t keep her from falling, maybe I will have at least learned to catch someone else.

And maybe it’s not too late to be part of the miracle of unbreaking.

The Miracle Business

I met Mahek on her 17th birthday, but I never would have guessed she was that old; she was so thin and frail. Mahek was an AIDS victim, wasting away in an Indian children’s home. The doctors had given up hope. There was nothing that could be done for her. My eyes stung with tears as I joined the other children in a chorus “Happy Birthday,” for I knew this birthday would probably be her last.

But God… 

Today I received a Christmas letter from the ministry I visited in July. The first thing I saw was a picture of Mahek, face fuller and healthier than it was this summer. And there I read in her own words that God healed her of the disease I was certain would take her life within a year’s time.

Working at a mission’s organization, I hear miracle stories often. But this one was different. This one was personal. Because Mahek is more than a story; she’s I person I physically connected with. I saw her, I spoke to her, I touched her. I met this miracle.

Today Mahek is a reminder that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Today her life bears witness that Jesus is still in the miracle business. Today Mahek serves as an encouragement to those of you who are waiting for your own miracle.

I’ve been in that place of discouragement before. I’ve waited so long for an answer that I’ve forgotten what it is to hope. If you’re in that place today, I pray that Mahek will serve as an inspiration to you. May her story breathe hope into your heart, and may you believe in miracles once more.

The Beauty of Redemption

I returned to the United States with India temporarily tattooed on my hand, but permanently ingrained on my heart.

Meeting up with my brothers in Mumbai was definitely a highlight of my trip, but the real miracle happened when our team left the city. After spending a few days amidst the poverty and pain of Mumbai, the lush, green haven called Ashagram washed over me. I sensed immediately what one of the former street boys confirmed only a few hours later: “This is a healing place.”

I know that it’s a healing place for those who were rescued from the darkness of the streets of Mumbai, but I also believe that each one of my team members experienced that healing in one way or another.

The term “beauty from ashes” has never meant so much to me. The hungry street boys I saw in Mumbai… I met them at Ashagram. Their eyes were aglow with the saving power of Jesus’ love. The prostitutes I saw lingering outside the brothels… I met them too. They smiled, they laughed, they praised the God who rescued them from darkness. And as I entered into a beautiful night of worship while a young man named Sunil played his guitar,  I discovered the true meaning of the word redemption. How was it possible that this extravagant worshiper could be the drug addict he claimed he once was?

Just when I was wondering if the hand of God was so clearly seen in my own life, one of the boys slipped me a note that read:

Do you know that you are my very close friend i ever have. Friendship is like love. and love never end. an love not take record of rong. you are love.

Though I wished I could have stayed much longer, I’m content to leave on that note. I figure that if that was the conclusion Santosh came to after my nine-day stay at Ashagram, I did what I went there to do. And I experienced the beauty of redemption in a way I never knew that I could.