In the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, the widow approaches the judge relentlessly to receive justice for her situation. Though the judge is not a morally upright man, he eventually grants her justice just to shake her off his back. Jesus insists the Father Almighty will do so much more for us. Point being, we should be persistent in our prayers and petitions, and God will hear us. So, what do we make of it if we pray persistently, only for our petitions to go unanswered or be rejected?
Hope gained then lost
In Oct. 2019, we learned that, for the first time ever, a drug from a clinical trial was statistically proven to improve FA symptoms. Bear in mind that FARA (Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance), the organization that coordinates scientists researching treatments and pharma companies testing them, was established in 1998–so this outcome is born from decades of fundraising, research, drug trials, and fervent prayers.
We’ve been holding our breath for the last year in eager anticipation of FDA approval, which we were told would take 6 months to a year. For months and months, I’ve prayed, among other things, that God would help this medicine get passed quickly and be affordable and effective for patients. Well, about ten months later, we received a much-anticipated update. The FDA has declared the evidence “insufficient.” The pharma company has submitted a crossover study that would take place in 2021. If they don’t accept it, we might be SOL with this drug.
A lot of emotions and thoughts have circled my mind. Of course, I’m disappointed. At other times, hopelessness begins to creep in; when I’m sitting in the floor after falling, I feel bitterness that borders on rage. Why do You allow so much suffering? The day before writing this, as my fiancee helped me out of the shower, he twisted his wrist while sitting me in my chair. I joked that FA is painful for us both, and he responded, “FA is realistically one of the cruelest diseases.” Looking down to survey my weak left ankle that constantly rolls, my right kneecap that pops out of place if I’m not careful, and the band-aid on my foot covering a cut I got from a recent fall, I agreed. That sentiment is so mercilessly true that it might make me laugh or cry, depending on my mood.
Remembering spiritual truths
These moments of disappointment also remind me of some spiritual truths:
- The prosperity gospel is an inadequate shell of Christianity.
- One needs to be biblically literate to hold on to faith in the hard times.
There’s a gospel song I love called “Blessings on Blessings” with lyrics like “Every time I turn around/ blessings, blessings” and “Only speakin’ blessings for the rest of the year.” Though I enjoy jamming with the upbeat song of praise, I hope listeners don’t take it too literally. When I play it, I think of all the ways I’m so privileged. I was born in a first world country, I’ve never been homeless or hungry, I have a loving family/fiancee/church/etc, I have a car and a small writing job, I live in a nice house. But all my little nicks and bruises testify to my disadvantages in life. Prosperity doctrine instructs that, basically, we will receive it if we believe it. As long as people have pretty good lives, I suppose this kind of religious faith is sufficient. But when that scary diagnosis comes, or when you get laid off from the job you thought you’d retire from, or when your child gets in a bad car accident, or when your spouse passes away…you realize life, even life walking with the Lord, has a lot more in store than just “blessings, blessings.” And when I pray for all those who were dealt a far worse hand–abused/neglected children, human trafficking victims, those in war-torn countries, those in detainment camps, those in extreme poverty…my list goes on and on–I feel the rage again. Why, God, why do You allow this suffering?
The point about biblical literacy naturally follows, since biblical literacy allows us to grasp the full spectrum of Christianity, rather than an idealized snapshot. Yes, we Christians will always “prosper” in life, but that prosperity looks less like great wealth and health and more like strength to meet the days and a peace that passes understanding.
Biblical literacy has helped my faith and devotional life in countless ways. I know so many comforting verses. The ones that come to mind immediately are Romans 8:28 (“God works all things to the good for those who love Him.”), Philippians 4:13 (“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”), and 2 Corinthians 12:9 (“His grace is sufficient because His strength is made perfect in weakness.”). Some of the truths I cling to pertain not to a particular passage but to overarching themes. Knowing the general notions that God cares for and greatly values the poor and the needy, how humility is exalted, how He always offers mercy even in the midst of the darkest times…having this broad understanding of God’s heart towards the lowly also reassures me.
The Psalms and other parts of the Bible have bolstered my prayer life. With their boldness sometimes bordering on audacity, the Psalms have taught me how to cry out to God, literally and figuratively. WHY, GOD, WHY DO YOU LET ME AND SO MANY OTHERS SUFFER? But the boldness of the Psalms is balanced by the continuous acknowledgement of God’s steadfast love and mercy, even in the worst circumstances. So I’ve learned to lament and look to the Lord simultaneously. Jesus’s prayer life also inspires me. If even He had to make time to get away and relay His burdens to the Father, of course we need to do the same. And when He prays in utter anguish before His crucifixion that God would take the cup from Him, I am reminded that the savior of the world can relate to unanswered prayers…and to suffering.
Who knows what lies in the future? Either way, I trust God to bring me through it.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever had a prayer go unanswered or rejected? Tell me about it in the comments.