Can You Return to Joy When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?
Can You Return to Joy when God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?
My world was rocked four years ago when my husband, Gary, was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, a rare eye cancer that has no known cure and typically metastasizes to the liver. After consulting several well-known specialists, he chose to have his right eye removed and went through a clinical trial at a reputable cancer center. We breathed a sigh of relief with each clear liver scan in the following years and our “scanziety” was finally diminished. Friends and family all over the world had been fervently praying for us, so clearly God was answering our prayers for a miraculous healing…or so we thought. My breath was taken away when Gary’s oncologist gave us the news that his latest scan revealed a suspicious spot on his liver.
After an MRI and biopsy, our greatest fear was confirmed. Gary’s cancer had traveled through his blood and metastasized to his liver. Knowing that statistically this meant that he only had a 10% chance of survival in the following year, we wept in each other’s arms. My heart was broken as I wondered how I would be able to survive without the love of my life (who is a bigger than life man). Gary was deeply troubled because he longs to care for his family, minister to his flock and be with us in the good and bad times to come. We’d spent our lives sharing the joy of the Lord with countless people all over the world. But with this news, we wondered if we would ever be able to experience that joy again.
In my book, Return to Joy, I state:
“The strongest force in the first two years of a child’s life is the desire to experience joy in loving relationships. Finding comfort from a nurturing caregiver in the midst of pain brings restoration to a child’s emotional balance, and the child is able to get down and play as if nothing painful ever happened. Psychologists call this returning to joy.”
After several years of counseling and working through painful memories from my childhood, I had found healing from traumatic physical, emotional and sexual abuse. During that journey, there were times when my pain was so excruciating that I felt like I would die. But as I worked through the baggage from my past, my hardened heart slowly softened as God replaced the lies from the evil one with His truth. As I drew near to His heart in worship I began to nestle into His embrace and find comfort that I’d never known before…and like a small child who finds comfort from her loving caregiver, I was able to return to joy.
But that was healing from past hurts, what about my present situation? Had God’s character changed overnight? Was He still the loving Father that I’d finally learned to trust?
After the initial shock of Gary’s metastasis, I considered my fear and asked myself a hard question:
What attribute of God am I doubting?
Was I doubting that God was sovereign and that this incident happened without His knowledge? Or was I fearful because I didn’t think He was big enough to carry us through whatever the future might hold?
In desperation, I fell on my face before the Holy One and thought about how He had been faithful to me in the past. I remembered that He was with me and would never abandon me and slowly my fears were relieved. And miraculously, I found comfort in my heavenly Father’s embrace and was able to return to joy… even though He didn’t answer my prayer for my husband’s healing.
But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness in You. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The Lord is great!’ (Psalm 40:16)
Like the Psalmist, when we seek the Holy One in worship our hearts are strengthened as we use our spiritual eyes to see the Lord in all His power and holiness. And when we’re in this place of refuge our joy doesn’t depend on whether God answers our prayers the way we want Him to.
In God’s glorious presence our joy is based on who our heavenly Father is.
So when, not if, your prayers aren’t answered the way you desire, will you choose to doubt God’s attributes and become fearful and downhearted…or will you go into His presence and worship Him? You will find divine comfort in His embrace and be able to return to joy, no matter your circumstances.