By MARIA SERMERSHEIM
As much as I love being surprised by grace, I need to stop being so surprised because it is a sign of my unbelief.
In the past two weeks, a slew of summer plans fell into place. I had been a little too fretful about the details before they were resolved, but then everything came together with such ease and simplicity that my head spun. When I told my friend about this wonderful series of events and expressed my shock, she affectionately scoffed and said, “Do you know how many people are praying for you?” I was humbled, and I realized two things. One, I had woefully disregarded my stellar friends and their intercessory prayer; and two, I was demonstrating my lack of confidence in God by acting as though it was “crazy” that he should answer my prayers and answer them so well. Oh ye of little faith; don’t you know:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:7-11).
How much more will God, who is Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, give good gifts?!
Of course, he is not a genie or wish-machine. James warns us that our petitions are not granted when we “ask wrongly, to spend it on [our] passions” (Jas 4:3). His ways are higher than our ways; and in our shortsightedness, we often don’t understand his plans (Is 55:8-9). But we should also recognize that it is silly of us to be surprised when he answers well and gives good things. God has a great track record of following through on his promises: “He remembers his covenant forever” (Ps 105:8). We, on the other hand, are repeatedly unfaithful and doubtful of his Goodness.
However, God is certainly not averse to providing signs! When he commissioned Gideon to lead the Israelite army, Gideon asked for three signs in order to be sure that it was God calling him (Judges 6). Unfazed, God provided all three—and then led Gideon to conquer the Midianites with a mere 300 men. In contrast, when Ahaz was king and Israel was surrounded by enemy forces, God declared that he would protect the kingdom if the people had faith in him. He invited Ahaz to request any sign, “deep as Sheol, or high as the sky!” (Is 7:10). But the faithless and prideful king refused to ask anything of God. He refused to rely on the all-powerful Creator and Father, so Israel fell. Yet God did not abandon his people. In the next verses, Isaiah prophesies about the Incarnation. In reply to Ahaz’s insult and infidelity, God promises to send us his Son.
In one week, we remember Good Friday. We remember that we crucified the Son of God, who offered himself for a faithless people. Christ came so that we might have life. He resigned himself to a brutal execution for our sakes, even though we spat on his gifts and refused his invitations; even though we nailed him to the cross.
Let’s not be incredulous when God fulfills his promises. We are the fickle ones; we break the covenant time and time again. When God answers our prayers…when he rises from the dead as he said he would…let’s not call him “crazy” and profess our foolishness. Let’s humble ourselves and respond in gratitude to the One who is, unsurprisingly, True to his word. When God is who He is, let us worship.