By, Joanna Alipalo
Why do so many of us throw in the towel and give up on Jesus? In my life, God has done many wonderful things–and I praise Him for it–but I also have been painfully aware of the many situations where God has not answered my prayers in ways that I expected Him to.
I had faith and good intentions, but the answer remained different. I prayed for lost people to know Him, but some have remained lost. I prayed for broken relationships to be restored, yet they still ended. I have prayed for healing, but seen some end in death. And if we are honest, our disappointments could lead to resentment and bitterness.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20,
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”
Pray and ask for God to work–and He will do far more than what you ask! But what did Paul really mean here? Wasn’t he the same man who asked God to remove the thorn of his flesh – and God refused to do so? Beaten and imprisoned – and God allowed it? In this verse, Paul encourages us to have faith in God and pray big prayers, but not to gloss over the struggles we could encounter in our lives
Sometimes, there is a false “advertisement” about Jesus - that if I follow Him, He will fill the void that’s in my life and things will go as normal. Follow Jesus and every problem will be solved, every wound will be healed. Oh, God is able to work miracles–there is no doubt about that. He is the only One who has the power to calm the waves and remove our pain, but He doesn’t always choose to do so. And when it’s OUR problem, OUR health issue, OUR financial burden, OUR broken relationship that He decides not to intervene or solve based on our expectations, we get shaken. Does that mean that we’re overlooked? That His word is not valid? That He has failed at being God? No. He has a plan and I need to have faith in how He sees the bigger picture and how good He is at being God.
In 2 Corinthians 11, we see the same person who challenged believers to expect great things from God, get to the nitty-gritty of things —
“in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent,
in deaths oft….In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often,
in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”
Paul learned to worship and follow God beyond his own comfort. Oh, I’m sure he struggled, but He loved God for who He is and not for the good things He can do. Paul’s prayer for God to do more than we could ever imagine goes beyond the material things or physical comfort we desire on earth; it is also a prayer for Christ to dwell in our hearts so we could grow in spiritual maturity and deeply know Him. And so even in the midst of a lost liberty, lashings, or a cold prison cell, Paul believed that he’s just a grain of sand in what makes a beautiful shore.
The story is not about us, but God’s work in and through us.