Got Questions? received an email from a reader with a question that everyone has asked at one time or another…Why didn’t God answer my prayer for _________ [fill in the blank]. Here’s the email we received.
I just lost my father-in-law and I know that he’s blessed to see Jesus face-to-face. My question is, why wasn’t my father-in-law healed? I know that if we have enough faith, just as a mustard seed, we can move mountains. I tried so hard during these difficult times to be positive and very supportive to my family by constant prayer and by reading Scripture. I feel I have a strong relationship with our Savior Jesus Christ and I try to do the right thing, being positive and praising His name to others. I’m not perfect, but God is an awesome and forgiving God. Why couldn’t God heal my father-in-law with my faith and the trust that I try to give Him. I know we can never know his plan, but sometimes it’s confusing. Please give me your opinion. Thank you.
While there are some answers to this question, none of them offer enough comfort to completely overcome the feelings of loss experienced by the death of a loved one. Answers will ease the questioning mind, but only time to mourn, the comfort of God’s love and His promises of hope will give rest to the soul.
It’s good that the person asked for an opinion, rather than an answer, because there really are no definitive answers. We can never fully know the mind of God–the reasons why He does things or does not do something. But we can understand a great deal about His will and His ways and we can find reasoning in His Word to assure us and give us hope. When we search God’s Word, especially in difficult times, we find strength to endure and opportunities to trust more fully and deeply in Jesus.
The reader mentioned Jesus’ words in Matthew 17:20 when He said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move a mountain. That verse is part of a passage of Scripture that tells about Jesus casting a demon out of a young boy. A man had brought his child to the disciples to seek their help, but they were unable to cast out the demon, even though Jesus had given them power to do so (Matthew 10:1). Since the disciples were unable to cast out the demon the man turned to Jesus for healing.
Matthew 17:14-18 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
After Jesus had cast out the demon from the child, the disciples asked Jesus why they had been unable to do so. Jesus answered them.
Matthew 17:20 …“Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Jesus used this opportunity to illustrate that there is great power in faith and in prayer. Jesus used the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds in Israel, as an illustration of small faith that has great power. The faith that “moves mountains” is a true and trusting faith…no matter the “size.” It’s a faith the flows from the heart. We need to understand the phrase Jesus used was a metaphor, being representative or symbolic of something else. Faith is not measured as a mustard seed can be. Nor can even huge faith circumvent the laws of creation and nature. We cannot move mountains and we cannot control nature. Jesus was simply giving an illustration that small faith can do great things. The reason is because of trust. When we trust, God can work through us and accomplish great things. Just as Jesus said, “… if you have faith as a mustard seed…nothing will be impossible for you,” Paul reminds us that we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us].” (Philippians 4:13)
Jesus taught the disciples about faith using a metaphor that related to the natural world, but in verse 21 He reminded the disciples that the child, who was in need of healing, was afflicted because of a spiritual battle. This battle, Jesus told them, required faith strengthened by prayer and fasting. It required strong faith and fervent petition to God
So the question remains, why wasn’t the “mountain moved,” that is, in this case, why didn’t God prolong the life of this person? Since God was honored by faithful prayer, the only reasonable answer is that it was not God’s will to prolong the person’s life on earth—and we do not know why.
That’s not a very satisfactory answer, but we must remember that God did heal the person completely–just not in the way prayed for and hoped (a prolonged life on earth).
God healed by taking the person to glory, to the heavenly home that Jesus promised to prepare for him (and for all of us! see John 14:1-4). There’s great comfort in that on a spiritual level, and yet it does not remove the sadness of missing a loved one.
Find rest in remembering that in the death of a believer there person is fully healed and taken to be with the Lord. The joy that gives creates another opportunity to thank and praise God. God is always with us to comfort us as we grieve and while we adjust to life without a loved one. When a loved one dies in the Lord, we have the joy in knowing we will see them again one day.
The Death of a Non-believer
If a loved one was not a believer, or we were uncertain of their relationship with God at the time of death, there is still hope.
We can find hope in knowing that our God is abundantly merciful, even at the last moments of life. If someone calls out to Jesus in repentance and faith, with their last breath, He is faithful to save them. That’s a great reason and a strong motivation to always share the gospel of saving grace with those who do not belong to Jesus. The more they know about Jesus’ love and grace, the more likely they will call upon His name when death is approaching (and hopefully long before).
Even if we don’t hear a public profession of faith, there is still hope. It is God who saves repentant sinners. Just as with the thief on the cross, prior to death there is always the opportunity to come to Christ and receive His grace. Sadly, if we are not a witness to the salvation of a lost loved one, we are left with hope alone. That may not be very comforting, but it does give us opportunity to trust that God is just and good and one day we will understand all things.
Take time to grieve the loss of a loved one.
Turn to God for comfort and peace.
Share the love of Jesus with someone today.
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Do not be anxious about anything. (Phil 4:6)
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must rightly remember who is in control. Our God is sovereign over all things, including COVID-19. As Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) said, “The sovereignty of God is a soft pillow on which weary people lay their heads.”
Remember also God’s gracious promise, and that it is true and He is faithful to keep it: Hebrews 13:5 …”I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” The next verse remind us of the power that comes in trusting God and how we can live: Hebrews 13:6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man [or COVID-19] shall do to me.
God loves us, and in Christ we find confidence and calm in times of uncertainty and trouble. When we trust in God, fear is replaced with faith, stress is replaced with strength, anxiety is gone and hope abounds, problems become opportunities, and we are able to receive the blessings God has for us in the midst of difficult circumstances. Turn to Jesus. He will lead you to the still waters and give rest for your troubled soul.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…Hebrews 6:19
Be Ready Always...
to give a reason for the Hope that you have (1 Peter 3:15). When you can’t share the gospel with your words, share it by leaving tracts that tell people about God's grace.
When leaving a tract, always be diligent to pray about the short gospel message. Pray that it be found by someone who is in need of Jesus’ saving grace, and pray that the person will have a tender heart and open ears to receive the gift Jesus desires to give them.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, even a small tract can help in turning a broken sinner from darkness to light.
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