Wonderful Things by Paul Dallgas-Frey

How to Make Your Prayers Work

How to Make Your Prayers Work Part II

(Illustration: Running from a T-Rex!)

What if it isn't true?

All this talk about God's love sounds good. It sounds wonderful! But what if it is just pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking???

I was all excited about posting what I had written, when a series of events left my heart aching and my soul crying out, "God, where are you?!"

To be honest, it was nothing major. Just a string of things going wrong that made me wonder where God had gone.

But that's just what I do! When things don't go the way I think they ought, I immediately throw up my hands, "All is lost!" ( I don't know WHAT I am going to do when faced with a REAL crisis!) "Who am I kidding??? There is no God! Everyone knows that!" All this talk about God and his love, it all looks good on paper - or these days, in photons and pixels - but when you put it up against the hard edges of real life, it just evaporates into nothing. I might just as well believe in a fairy godmother, or a leprechaun living in our basement (though, there is so much accumulated stuff down there, who would know! There very well may be!). Or the atheists' favorite, The Flying Spaghetti Monster (it really is a thing! There is church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and everything!).

If faith is trusting in God even when circumstances say you are crazy, I don't have much.

And neither, apparently, did the Israelites.

You know the story.

With their own eyes the Israelites had seen God act in mighty ways. The had seen the 10 plagues of Egypt; the frogs, the gnats, the flies and all the rest. They had experienced for themselves the night of Passover. They had seen Pharaoh do the thing that seemed most impossible - he let them all go! And then... when it looked like the caper was up, and Pharaoh and his army were going to drag them kicking and screaming back to Egypt, they crossed through the middle of the Red Sea on dry land - and then watched the sea swallow up the pursuing Egyptians.

They had seen God go before them as cloud by day... Okay, clouds in the day, not such a big deal... AND a pillar of fire by night. Now THAT is a big deal!

And then the moment things started to look a little uncertain - when they ran into the hard edges of life; they started to grumble! "We are in the middle of the DESERT. Where are you supposed to get FOOD????" All their faith and trust in God evaporated in the dry desert heat.

And I have come to realize that I would have been the first one tugging on Charlton Heston's - I mean Moses' - robe and wailing, "Why did you lead us out into desert JUST SO WE COULD STARVE TO DEATH???!!!"

The Israelites had no faith.

But then, I am thinking, Why should they?

All they knew of God was God acting in mighty ways. They didn't NEED faith. But they were going to need it... and maybe that's why God led them into the desert. To grow their faith.

To learn that God can be trusted. Always.

So there I am...

...once again lying in bed in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, certain that all that I had said I believed in was a bunch of make believe. I couldn't post what I had written, because, clearly, it was all a fairy tale. Though I am not sure what I was more upset about; that everything I had believed in wasn't true - or that I wasn't going to be able to use the really fun dinosaur drawing I had done!

And so through most of the night I wrestled with God.

And then I came to this.

If faith is trusting in what you KNOW to be true, even though everything around you seems to be screaming that it is not...

If that is what faith is, then... what do I KNOW to be true?

Jesus rose from the dead.

And the simple reality is, either that is true, or it is not. Either he did. Or he didn't.

If he didn't, then it really doesn't matter what I believe. It really IS all a fairy tale.

But if he DID...

...then in a way, it doesn't matter what I believe either! If Jesus truly rose from the dead, then it IS ALL TRUE. God is real. God's love is real. God loves me, no matter if I believe it or not. He just does. God loves US, with a love beyond imagining.

It just IS.

And then there is the story...

...of Jesus calming the storm. The poor disciples cry out to Jesus in the middle of the storm, "WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!" Just like the Israelites, they had seen Jesus do mighty things with their own eyes. But then circumstances seemed to be screaming all was lost - even though Jesus was right there in the boat with them! Their faith evaporated like wet tissue paper in the storm... just like mine!

And when all is calm, and Jesus says to them, "Oh you of little faith!" I don't think he was scolding them or judging them, so much as saying, "You make it so unnecessarily hard on yourselves! You get yourselves all worked up so needlessly. Don't you get it? I am always with you! TRUST me!"

It's as if Jesus were saying there is no denying the storm is scary, and it is perfectly natural to be afraid - but in the middle of the scariness and uncertainty, stop and KNOW that I am with you!

Growing in faith is CHOOSING to trust that God is there - even when it doesn't look or feel like it.

I guess it's pretty simple, really. How can I come to know that God is trustworthy if I never have to trust in him??? How can I come to know that God is faithful if I never have to trust and and then wait?

And then...

...in the wee hours of the morning I had to laugh. One of the little things that had gone wrong was that our AC had breathed its last. Not surprising, since it was about 140 years old. Well, in dog years anyway. But if course, it had to die on the Friday before the 4th of July weekend, when nothing was going to be open for the next three days... on the hottest, steamiest stretch of the summer so far!

So there I am, soaking in sweat... and I have to laugh. God must have thought it would be amusing to remind me of the Israelites in the desert by recreating a little desert of my own! Although , for the Israelites I imagine it was that dry desert heat the people in Arizona are always trying to convince us it's really not so bad when it's 110! Midwest summer heat is not that! It is steamy and sticky!

But God is a pretty funny guy!

Summer 2020

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