The life context of the question is all too familiar. The issue arises in our darkest hours—in the hospital ward, in the doctor's office, when the unfavorable test results return. Our need often arises unexpectedly and then consumes us.

Embedded in the question are two key assumptions. First, that ours is a God of miracles, including healing. A quick evaluation of Scripture attests that miracles display God's power (Jer. 10:12), arouse wonder (Exod. 4:21), and function as a sign to confirm his message (Matt. 12:39-40).

The second assumption is that believers are instructed to pray fervently. The Thessalonians are commanded to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17) because habitual prayers express dependence on God. And positioned as little children, we anticipate "good things" from our heavenly Father (Matt. 7:11). Yet three additional points are critical.

First, God does not always respond to our desires, and he frequently allows circumstances we wish he would not. Theologically we call this sovereignty. Inherent in our faith is the scriptural truth that God is in control. This includes the events he directs and the circumstances he allows. He has the power and responsibility to exercise his right over creation according to his will (Ps. 50:1 Ps. 115:3).

Yet God repeatedly chooses to veil the ways in which he exercises those rights. Hence our requests will not always coincide with God's response. Peter understood this as it applied to suffering: "So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good" (1 Pet. 4:19).

Second, our tendency is to doubt God's sovereignty in the midst of tumultuous times. Unfortunately, when we doubt we presume to comprehend ...

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September 2004

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