Believers love to tell stories of how God miraculously intervened to save someone from tragedy. It’s good to share these stories. However, they’re also one of the reasons why some non-believers reject Christianity: because they know that’s not what life is like at all.
If you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, and you’re also honest with yourself, you have to admit that’s now what life is like for you either. So let’s get real. Until the day my father died, I prayed that somehow God would touch his heart so that I could be reconciled with him. It never happened. As a child, I remember my mother praying to God that he would spare her from dementia. She prayed that prayer all her life, and yet I saw her die from it after years in a nursing home.
I certainly believe in the power of prayer. However, I don’t believe that God necessarily answers us in the way that we think we need. No matter how much we pray, none of us are exempt from the tragedies of life. For every miracle story there seems to be a hundred stories of endurance in suffering.
One of the powerful ways in which God presents himself throughout the Bible is as a “Redeemer” (Isaiah 44:24; Isa 48:17). The idea of redemption comes from the practice of ancient slavery. A slave was redeemed when someone paid the price for their freedom. That’s why God says that he “redeemed” the children of Israel, from slavery in Egypt (Ex 6:6).
A redeemer sees value in what is seemingly worthless. A redeemer looks at a slave and sees freedom. A redeemer transforms reality by paying the price that makes a new reality possible.
The way that God redeems is difficult to explain to people who aren’t followers of Jesus. God takes weakness and turns it into strength. He takes sorrow and turns it into joy. He takes limitations and turns them into possibilities. He turns suffering into glory. That’s what redemption is all about. God takes your present reality of that person and transforms it into something that is not only worthwhile, but precious. That’s why the Apostle Paul rejoices in his sufferings (Rom 5:3), and attributes them to the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10).
God often saves us through the trouble, and not from the trouble
It’s true that God may choose to work a miracle for you, but that’s not, at its core, what redemption is all about. Even with Israel in Egypt, God didn’t take them to the Promised Land right away. They had to learn to trust him.
God is the Great Recycler. He recycles the rubbish of your life and turns it into something beautiful. The Bible teaches us that we have been redeemed because of Jesus’ mighty act at the Cross (Eph 1:7). That’s where he paid the price. Every experience in our lives must be seen in the light of the cross.
Although the Son begged the Father to spare him from the cross, the Father did not answer that part of his prayer. Instead, he allowed his Son to go through the Cross, and he turned it into something magnificent and glorious. The truth is that God won’t always deliver from every trouble in this life. He doesn’t always just make the rubbish go away. Instead, the recycles our rubbish in the furnace of trouble, which is the furnace of his love.
God wants us to learn to hand our broken lives to him. That’s when our healing begins. We must allow him to gently lead us through the process of turning our pain and anguish into something beautiful. That really the greatest miracle of all.
Those who have been redeemed will always have a story to tell. It will always be a miraculous story, but it won’t always be a story of how God saved us from the trouble. Often, it will be a story of how God saved us through the trouble, and sometimes not in this world, but in the next. And our story is precisely what the Lord wants:
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story (Psalm 107:2).
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.