We’re continuing our Summer Sampler series, revisiting some of our favorite posts from past years. This article was originally published in the winter of 1998. Enjoy! And please feel free to forward to a friend.
by Maggie Rowe
This morning I pulled a worn piece of paper from between the covers of my Bible. It is simply entitled “Missions Impossible” and it contains a succinct list of prayer requests for close friends. The concerns listed span the range of human need –– prayers for children and churches, marriages and money –– but they share one characteristic in common: each represents a seemingly “impossible” situation.
Last evening I sat in the middle of a small prayer gathering at my church and stared at another piece of paper. This one listed needs for which we had prayed just the week prior, although in some cases the requests went back many months or even years: a terminally-ill parent, a lost child, a desperately needed job. Those present studied the list and then each other, wonder on our faces. In just seven days time, we had seen God do the impossible: heal a parent, restore a child, supply a job.
The weeks of our lives are rarely like that, however. Though we are taught as Christians to persevere in prayer, sometimes it seems as if we are, in the words of author George Buttrick, “beating on Heaven’s door with bruised knuckles in the dark.” We cry and pray and plead for God’s intervention, but heaven is silent. We call out to Him as if speaking into a celestial telephone but we hear only breathing on the other end. The listener has not yet chosen to speak.
A friend whose husband is battling aggressive cancer recently told me that she broke emotionally just before Christmas. “I hate you God!” she screamed one day. “Why aren’t you answering us?!” And yet even as the words left her lips she was aware of being firmly held, flailing arms and all, by a Father who cared deeply for the pain of His child.
In our deepest moments we may even echo the cry of Christ himself on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46) Where are you, daddy? The enemy seems to be winning! Are you there? Do you care?
As I have prayed for the “impossibilities” in my life and in the lives of those I love, I have asked some of these questions myself –– the whys and the wherefores and the “what ifs” that we wrestle with in the wilderness. Yet it strikes me that the very first question asked in recorded history of the universe was not “Where are you, God?” but rather God’s calling out to Adam “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) Where are we, indeed? Sometimes, like our first parents, it is our own sin and shame that makes us turn away from the One who made us. Contrition draws us close again, and yet even when our conscience is clear our vision of God may remain blurred. We picture Him as a benevolent Father who is bound by His goodness to bestow only blessings on His children, but we fail to see that a loving parent must also permit the growth that comes only through suffering.
“Push through the pain,” the obstetrician urged me when our children were born. “Push through the pain.”
The discipline to push through the pain of seemingly unanswered prayer can induce spiritual growth beyond our wildest imagining. As David marveled in the Psalms, “Thou hast enlarged me in my distress.”
In the Scriptures, timing appears to be far more important to God than time itself. As we wait patiently, or even impatiently, in prayer, God is at work within us conforming us to the very image of His own Son. What he wants to do in us as we wait, it has been said, is perhaps even more important than what we wait for.
Dear friend, never mistake God’s silence for His absence. He has not abandoned you. Persevere in prayer. Continue to pray the impossibilities of life, knowing that nothing –– nothing! –– is impossible with God (Lk 1:37).
For you, too, one day will pick up that prayer list and discover to your delight that it had “Mission Possible” written on it all along.
Maggie Wallem Rowe is a national speaker, dramatist and author whose passion is to connect women to God and each other. She has contributed to over ten books including numerous devotional Bibles. As the author of several original one-woman dramas, Maggie has traveled extensively throughout the United States speaking at outreach events, conferences and retreats. She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wheaton College (IL) in communications and biblical studies. Maggie is currently writing her first book scheduled to release from NavPress in May of 2020. She and her husband, Mike, served in ministry in New England for 25 years. The Rowes now live in the mountains of western North Carolina and have three adult children and five grandchildren. Maggie enjoys chocolate, literary fiction, and mountain dancing but most of all loves people. You can visit her at www.maggierowe.com.