Thursday, January 10, 2013

IS GOD ABLE?

We are told that our concept of God as Father is tied to our concept of our own physical father.  If our father was gentle and kind, we think of God as gentle and kind.  If our father was cruel and abusive, we think of God as cruel and abusive, and so forth.

My wife Uni is the oldest of nine children, raised in a home where money and material possessions were often lacking.  Her father worked in a blue collar job to provide food and shelter for his family and there was usually enough to go around -- but sometimes barely.  Though Dad Cook was the most loving man one could ever meet, he usually couldn't provide for his children's desires, and sometimes even for their needs.

Uni went to work at an early age simply to provide clothing and a few extras in her life.  She started baby sitting at 11; of course, by that time she had had some training  in this at home.  At the age of 12 she began to deliver papers in partnership with her brother, the second-born in the family.  This was a radical thing in 1950 -- not a child delivering papers, but a girl.

Nobody complained; that was just the way things were.

There were times when matters got serious.  When she was about 14 and sitting in class crying because of a severe toothache, a caring teacher asked who her family dentist was.  When Uni replied that they didn't have a dentist, they'd never been to one, the teacher called a dentist whose office was within walking distance of the school and Uni worked out a payment plan with him.  (She suspects that she was severely undercharged.)

Again, no complaints.  Dad did the best he could and when he couldn't, the kids had to find their own way.

So, later in life, when she'd pray she was always troubled by nagging doubts as to whether God could answer her prayers.  We had many long discussion and it took years for Uni -- and me -- to even recognize that she thought of God as she thought of her father.

He loved her deeply.

He also had others in the family whom he had to take care of, whom he loved deeply.

He had limited resources with which to respond to her needs.

The answers she heard to her prayers were not "yes" or "no" or even "wait a while."  What she heard or thought she heard God telling her was "I love you and really want to help, but I'm just not able to right now."  And so many times she did not bother to let God know her needs or desires just as she'd learned to not bother her father.

Yes, Uni knew the promises in the Bible.  She had read them many times and could recite them from memory.   But for years the lessons she'd learned in her youth superseded those in the Bible.  She never doubted God's love -- she doubted His ability.

But gradually, over the years, I began to recognize a change in her attitude toward prayer and toward God.

It was those times, she told me, when God supplied a desire she hadn't even asked for (at least verbally).  Especially, when we had left behind good-paying regular jobs and I had gone into the pastorate -- when our financial situation was approaching that of her youth.  When she would just wish we had more money, or even cloth to make new clothes, or even (at one time) a ham.  God would through friends or circumstances supply even these simple desires.  He heard the prayers that she wouldn't even bother to ask.

Somewhere I read that God doesn't answer our prayers because of the greatness of our faith, but because of its smallness.  I wouldn't be dogmatic about this one, but we've seen this happen frequently.  It seems that often when we are not quite sure of God's desire or even His ability to answer, this is when He clearly does come through.

Like Dad Cook, God cares deeply about His own children and desires the best for them.  But unlike Dad Cook and unlike me or any earthly father, God both loves His children and has the resources to supply all of our needs, and occasionally even some of our desires.

(P.S.  Uni collaborated with me on this post.  She supplied most of the thoughts while I simply supplied the words.)

"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.  So let us approach with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of need"  (Hebrews 4:15, 16).

9 comments:

Canadian Atheist said...

"God would through friends or circumstances supply even these simple desires. He heard the prayers that she wouldn't even bother to ask."

I think your friends supplied the means. God just takes the undeserved credit.

Personally, I think Uni was on the right track - every study has shown that prayer has no effect. There was even one that showed patients who went in for major surgery, sometimes did worse if they knew they were being prayed for than the ones who weren't. That little voice in your head is you. The same voice that answers when you talk yourself through a problem.

Just my thoughts. I enjoyed the article very much.

Bill Ball said...

CA:
Yes our friends did supply the means, but they didn't know what her desires were; she hadn't expressed them. I think that both they and God deserve the credit.
I'm sorry but I don't put much stock in studies such as you mentioned. They seem to be more subjective than objective, and I suspect that God doesn't take too well to them either.
I hope you don't take offense, but I feel that trying to explain a relationship with God to someone who doesn't believe in Him is sort of like trying to explain love to someone who has never been in love.

Canadian Atheist said...

No offense taken, Bill. However, that statement isn't really true. Most atheists believed at some point. I'm one of those. I was raised in the church and believed what my parents and community told me.

Then I grew up and really examined what I believed.

Anonymous said...

Good post, Bill (and Uni). The story of Darlene Deibler Rose at the below link is a bit long, but well worth the read. It is a story of faith and prayer and provision. I still tear up every time I read it. God is able.

http://www.johndubler.com/Darlene_Deibler_Rose_Part_II.pdf

Bill Ball said...

Thanks for the story. It puts everything in perspective. God is able.

Sherry said...

Good post Mom. I knew these stories of your childhood but not about how it had affected your view of God.

There are things that believers interpret as being from God that non-believers will see as just part of life. While a non-believer can't see why I see God in something, I can't see how s/he doesn't. We each have made a choice about what world view we will hold based on what we knew and that world view then influences how we interpret what we discover going forward.

azlan said...

there's no GOD except ALLAH and MUHAMMAD is HIS Messenger ...
Pls learn about ISLAM and you won't regret ...

Bill Ball said...

Azlan: No thanks! My God is real! Bill

Dennis Cook said...

Love it brother. She was a very good sister too. She was a very good babysitter, just ask me. Love your answer to CA and Azlan. MUHAMMAD is still dead and Jesus LIVES!