Thirteen. An unlucky number, some people say. I wonder where they got that from. Why is thirteen supposed to be a worse number than twelve or fourteen? And it’s not just the ignorant and superstitious who fall prey to the dread of that number. Have you ever stayed in a hotel room or hospital room numbered thirteen? Or even been on a thirteenth floor of a high rise building? I’d be willing to wager that you have not. It’s a very curious matter and I would be inclined to dismiss the whole thing as fairy tale hocus-pocus, and I am still open to that possibility that such is the case, except that this thirteenth day of Lent finds me very much on a downer.
My granddaughter is sick, and nobody quite knows what is going on. The helplessness that I feel watching this process play out is infinitely worse than the helplessness that I felt while awaiting an operation for three clogged arteries on the back of my heart. In that case I knew what the problem was, even if I had no idea why I had the problem in the first place, and what would be required to fix it. In the present situation I can only wait to hear about test results and pray that God will intervene and secure a complete healing, and pray is exactly what I have been doing along with a whole lot of other people.
But why is it that this still leaves me nervous, unable to sleep well at night and distracted at work? Prayer changes things, right? Well, maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. The two hundred Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by the nutbag group Boko Haram have not been released, and I have prayed for that. And what about North Korea? I’ve prayed that the suffering people of that country would be given relief from rule by a family of madmen, and millions of Korean Christians have prayed the same prayer as well, and for many years. Nothing yet! Let’s face it: praying for something does not mean that what you or I want to see happen will happen. God, it seems, has His reasons why one prayer appears to be answered in the positive and another prayer does not.
This situation then inevitably leads to the pain of doubt, in my case at least. Why don’t the suffering minorities under the bloody thumb of ISIS get relief when I and millions of other Christians pray for it? Is God not listening, or doesn’t God care? I do not and can not believe that this is the case. There is too much evidence to the contrary for me to believe for a minute that God is on an extended coffee break and cannot be bothered with insignificant affairs down here. Any God who takes a vacation would not be much of a God at all.
I believe that God cares. God hears my prayers and the prayers of everyone in this particular situation, and if I could only see the problem from God’s eternal perspective it would all make sense. I believe that God will answer our prayers too. I cannot see the answer now but I will, just as I will someday see the answer to all of those prayers about the Nigerian girls, North Korea and ISIS. When I finally see those issues in their entirety it will all make sense, and so will the globally small but personally huge issue of one sick little girl in a corner of the United States of America.
In the meantime I must lean on faith. I believe with all of my heart that God hears our cries and is working in His own perfect way to bring things to a conclusion that we – I – will see, from that eternal perspective to be, in fact, perfect. It gnaws at my heart that I do not see God acting as I would have Him act, but maybe that is for my own good. A god who acts as I direct when I whistle him up with a nicely constructed incantation wouldn’t be much of a god either.
God is good. God hears. God cares. God will act and in fact is acting. This I know because God told me so and I believe it to be true. I have faith that it it true. That must, for the moment, be enough.