Sometimes you pray, and pray, and pray, and then you pray some more. You throw yourself down, face to the carpet, begging God for the deepest desire of your heart, crying what seem like tears of blood into the fibers that brush your face. You ask others to pray with you, believing, trusting with everything in you that God will answer.
And then He does.
You’re beside yourself with joy! You understand the scriptures anew that claim to praise His name from the mountaintops, and if you had a mountain, you would do that, too. You spread the news of His marvelous works, and rest in awe at the gift you’ve been given. You plan and dream and hope for the future of that gift, celebrating with every beat of your heart.
But then, when the gift finally arrives it’s…different. It’s not at all what you thought, and it comes as a blow, even as you hold the tangible answer to your prayers in your hands.
This scenario happened to a friend of mine yesterday. She and her husband have prayed for seven years for a child. During that time they lost a pregnancy, and later became foster parents to two children who lived with them over a year. It even began to look as if those kids might become their forever children, but in the end, and quite suddenly, they went back to their biological mother. The loss was staggering, as they’d already loved those children as their own, but a new pregnancy was announced. A sweet gift from God in their eyes, and a balm to their hearts and empty arms in the wake of the childrens’ leaving.
They decorated a nursery. There were showers from all the friends who had stood with them all those years, trusting and believing for this miracle. This sweet couple who had so longed to turn their two into three cradled her swelling belly with profound hope. Then he came, this son of theirs. Held up for them to see, slick with the coating of his former home, they saw his face.
And it was different.
He was whisked away to the NICU to be checked. Prayers for his heart and liver and kidneys were urgently lifted, and when those were pronounced in good order, the official news came.
Their baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
Emotions ran high. Even while they knew that every child is a gift – every child – this child was completely different that what they had anticipated. The dreams they had for the son in their minds were not dreams that applied to the son in their arms, and lost dreams often require grieving. “Why?” they whispered? “Why, after all this time, after all these other losses?”
While I don’t, for a second, assume to grasp the mind of God, I would venture to propose this answer:
His allowance of the other losses, and their obedience to continue trusting Him through them, prepared them to be the best possible parents for this particular little boy…a boy who would need a mommy and daddy that could still see blessing in a gift wrapped differently.
If we, too, would accept God’s gifts however they come, we would stop asking why and starting saying thanks. We would look back over the thread of our lives and see where the knots and tangles have strengthened us, preparing us for the answers to prayer that will come – even answers that are completely different from what we expect.
We would find ourselves a mountain and shout out some praise.
Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
you islands, and all who live in them.
Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices;
let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
let them shout from the mountaintops.
Let them give glory to the Lord
and proclaim his praise. ~ Isaiah 42:10-12 NIV