by C Michael PattonSeptember 12th, 2012 71 Comments
The other day I was asked by someone if I would try to raise a cat from the dead. After being asked, the look on my face told the story of my faith. If I could translate my face into words, it would be, “What in the heck? Are you serious?” My faith does not include such acts. I have experienced a lot of death in my life. Too much death. Too many dead bodies of friends and family have I looked upon in the last few years. But I have never once tried to raise someone from the dead. Is this evidence of a weak faith? Should I? Should I be attempting such things? Should I express my faith with this kind of assurance?
In a moment of intense transparency, a young missionary friend of Tim Kimberley (executive director of the Credo House) told Tim a story just a few days ago. The story was about the death of an neighbor’s infant child. I am going to post this story and change the names. Please read it carefully. We pick up after they heard about the death.
My wife went over to the neighbor’s house to pay her respects. She came back weeping. Just seeing the baby lying there dead, seeing the mother sitting there alive yet devoid of any real life, any real hope, that is enough to make anyone weep, especially those of us who have the life of another and the hope of heaven. Next it was my turn. I went over to the house and saw the people gathered. It’s very reminiscent of what I’ve thought it would have looked like in Jesus’ day. Some people were surrounding the baby and others were attending to the physical needs of those gathered by cooking food. I shook hands with the men and then went in to see the dead baby and her mother. My heart broke. No, it shattered. Then, I prayed. In fact, I started praying once I heard the baby had died and kept praying up to that point.
My prayer asked God a simple question, “Should I?” Should I pray that this baby would be raised from the dead? After all, Jesus told us we would do greater things than He did. Miracles would be done according to our faith. So, my “should I?” was really a question about my faith. Do I have faith enough even to stick my neck out there and ask this woman if I could pray for her dead child to be raised to life??? We’re not talking about a pray-in-your-head thing here. I knew that wouldn’t do. So, should I? While standing there with tears in my eyes, I felt the Spirit say go ahead (or what I thought was the Spirit). So, after a moment’s hesitation, I spoke to the mother. I told her I believe there is a God that can raise the dead. I told her there is power in the name of Jesus. I asked her if she believed too and if I could pray for her baby. She said yes. So, with everyone looking on, I knelt before this beautiful, lifeless child and begged God to raise her from the dead in the name of Jesus. You know what happened? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I was left with only being able to say that no one understands the mind of God or His will…truly empty words in my mouth and heart (not to mention the mother’s).
So, here is where I am. I’m left with doubts, fears, and even anger. I prayed. I trusted. I put my neck out. What’s more, I put Jesus’ name out there and He didn’t show up. Yes, I’ve heard from others and even my own western theological mind to remember all the reasons we give why God doesn’t answer our prayers. ”It wasn’t His timing,” or “It wasn’t His will,” or “He has something better in store,” but all I hear is the scream of my heart asking, “Why didn’t You hear me?! You said You would! Where are You? Are You even there?!” The baby is still dead. The mother is still lost in hopelessness and despair. And now I look like a fool and the name of Jesus is a joke.
Is the problem that I don’t believe God can do those sorts of things? No, I think I still believe that. Do I believe God isn’t real or, as Nietzsche said, that He’s dead? No, if I’m honest, I don’t think that. The real issue is I wonder why God didn’t do what He said he would. I think I’m mad at Him and not about Him.
This email is raw. I usually don’t write things like this. After all, there are unwritten rules in our faith. But my faith has been rocked to the core and I know, regardless of where I end up, I will never be the same. So, I ask you to pray. Pray for me? Sure. But I’m not even sure how to ask you to pray. Please pray more for this baby and mother. These people are dying…literally and spiritually. They need to know, just like my heart needs to know now. It’s just my biggest fear is that an answer will never come. Where is Jesus when you need Him?
Friends. simply put, this is as real as it gets. Don’t laugh, jest, or judge, just learn. What do you think? Should we pray with faith that God will raise someone from the dead? If so, what does this look like?
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- The Anatomy of Belief (9): Forensic Conviction