A friend on my job came to me with an interesting problem this morning. Her 5-year old son has been praying for their chickens. She has been trying to get him to pray for their other animals, but he has been consumed with the welfare of the chickens. Unfortunately, a wild dog killed 5 of their chickens yesterday afternoon before my co-worker could get the dog away from their property. Her son was at school, so he did not know about the fate of the chickens this morning.
Now she is concerned about how to tell her son that the chickens had died despite his prayers for them. She is frightened that his faith in God will not survive this crisis. She said, "How can I explain to a 5-year old why God said 'No' to his prayers when I don't understand it myself?"
I sympathized with my friend. I want my son to grow up with a strong faith in the Lord too. And I don't have a good answer for why God answers prayers in different ways. I tried to help her to understand that she could trust God even when his responses to her prayers were not what she was expecting. It's a hard concept to understand, but it is reality. We do not always understand why God responds to our requests in unexpected ways. We can't comprehend why he would tell us "No" sometimes. However, from our knowledge of the Scriptures and from our personal histories, we can see that God is trustworthy. He does what is right even when we don't understand it.
After our conversation, I felt like I needed to say a little more. She was still in tears, and I did not feel like I had helped enough.
I pulled out my Bible and wrote her a note, because she had left already to deliver her route. This is my note to my friend who was struggling with God's answer to her son's prayers:
"'Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior' (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
"The verse could have just as easily said, 'Though the chickens die...'. Habakkuk did not understand why things were not working out as he expected from God. But he knew the character of God and placed his faith in the God of complete integrity. He did not understand God's responses to his prayers, but he was determined to live by faith in a God who could be trusted even when his actions (or lack of action) could not be understood. He was determined to stick with God even if more difficult times came his way. Trust God's character (which you know) rather than trying to figure out the specific reasons for his actions (which we may never know fully in this life)."
I don't know whether I was able to encourage my friend, but I hope it was helpful. Her struggles with faith are not uncommon today, nor were they uncommon during biblical days (as Habakkuk demonstrated). However, like Habakkuk, she and her son can survive this crisis of faith.