Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It Depends on How One Defines "Good."

We continue Hannah's story in this morning's Old Testament lesson (1 Samuel 1:21-2:11). Although we looked at that story yesterday, when I read Hannah's song this morning, I discovered another way of looking at her prayer for a child. Her willingness to give up Samuel to the Lord is a sign of her willingness to accept God's sovereignty, which is reflected in the words she sings: “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord…The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts.”

Usually, when my prayers are answered the way I want them to be, I take it as a sign that God has given me what I asked for--and I give thanks for that. It would be better for me to take it as a sign that God is in control--and give thanks for that instead.

The other day, we hired someone who has titled himself a "handy man" to do some minor work around our house. After even a short conversation with him, I could tell that he is a man of deep faith--so much so that, as a prophet of sorts, he made me a little uncomfortable. While he was out in front of our house, someone drove by and called out to him, "God is good!" to which he replied, "All the time!" I didn't think much of it then, but that moment has come back to me this morning. If God is good all the time then he's just as good when my prayers go unanswered as when I get what I want. Of course that's true. But it doesn't always feel that way.

Hannah's witness--her willingness to give up the son she long prayed for--reminds me that God is indeed good all the time and that a simple call and response can be both a testament to God's eternal goodness and a reminder that I should trust in that fact. After she received her son, Hannah chose to view it not as a sign that she had received the answer she sought but as a testament to God's never-failing providence, hence the line, "The Lord kills and brings to life..." Shouldn't I be viewing the answers to my prayers not in terms of whether they conform to my request but as examples of God's preeminent will?

My prayers often go unanswered--at least the way I want them to be. But, as I mentioned yesterday, God is in control. And, when I can accept that fact, I discover that my prayers are always answered regardless of the outcome. My job as a Christian is to rejoice either way because God is God.  

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