By Shawn McMullen
I was asked to speak to a men’s prayer group on the topic, “How a Man Prays for His Family.” In preparing for my talk, I pulled a folder marked “Journal Notes” from my file cabinet. It contained entries from prayer journals I’d kept through the years along with several lists of prayer concerns.
Opening the folder, I took note of several requests I had been bringing to the Lord for more than 30 years: health and protection for our family, salvation for our children, godly mates for our daughters, and the well-being of our future grandchildren, to name a few. As I reviewed the prayer lists and read my journal notes, I silently thanked God for the gracious ways he had heard and answered the prayers I had prayed.
At the same time, I realized some of my requests had not been answered as I anticipated. In the 30-plus years I had been praying these prayers, we had lost members of our extended family unexpectedly. We had faced trials and experienced setbacks. We had known our share of disappointment and discouragement.
To be honest, I hadn’t expected God to say yes to my every request. I don’t always know what’s in my best interests or what outcomes will bring him the greatest glory. But even as some of my prayers were not answered as I had hoped, it was clear God had intervened in marvelous ways throughout the years, in answer to specific prayers I had prayed, to bless and protect my family and me.
This reminded me of something Job said in the middle of his turmoil. God had allowed Satan to rob Job of his possessions, his servants, and his children. Then, as if Job hadn’t suffered enough, God gave Satan permission to afflict Job’s body. Overwhelmed by her husband’s misfortune, Job’s wife pleaded with him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job responded, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (v. 10). The verse ends, “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”
Can we accept good from God, and not trouble? That’s a question we should ask ourselves when we suffer. When we’re in the thick of our dilemma, it can be hard to think about anything but the pain we’re feeling, the hurt we’re experiencing. But like Job, it would be wise to keep our suffering in context—to view our current difficulty in light of the many good things God has brought into our lives. We should look to the past and recall the many ways God has dealt graciously and compassionately with us. And we should look to the future—to the glory that awaits us in Heaven.
The apostle Paul did. That’s why he could write,
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).