Faith Matters

Faith in the tough times: Facing up to unexpected answers

Continuing his Lent reflections, the Rt Rev George Davison, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor, asks if we are ready when God gives unexpected answers to our questions

Prayer isn't always answered the way we expect

HAVE you ever found your life taking an unexpected direction? In our current circumstances that's a question that hardly needs answering.

A year or so ago, I don't imagine that any of us could have anticipated the way that our lives would unfold over these last months as the result of, what was then, a little-known virus.

Such situations undoubtedly result in us asking questions and trying to make sense of what is going on.

For the person of faith, that will often mean asking what God is doing in and through our lives.

We might wonder why a God who is in control of the world allows difficult things to happen in the first place.

Perhaps we may pray and ask him to act to change the circumstances that challenge us. But are we ready to consider that God's answers to our prayers might take us in unexpected directions?

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk felt helpless in the face of the lawlessness that had arisen in Israel in his day and had complained honestly and directly to God about it.

Did God not care? Why wasn't he doing something about it?

Habakkuk got an answer to his prayers, but the first part of the answer that God gave was to warn him that he was in for something of a shock.

God was acting to make a difference in the life of his people, to restore them and return them to a life-giving relationship with Him, but not at all in the way that anyone might have expected.

God's answers may not always come in the shape that we expect...

He was making the kingdom of Babylon strong in order to teach Israel the value of being His chosen people.

In the Bible, from beginning to end, Babylon symbolises what it is to be a people who reject God's way and live a life without reference to Him.

And yet God's almost unbelievable message to Habakkuk is that He will use Babylon to help bring Israel to their senses.

What Israel would experience as a result of what God was doing would be life-changing - it would challenge, chastise and restore them. His love for his people meant that he would not let them go.

When we ask questions of God about our own experiences in life, are we ready to listen for his answers? They may not always come in the shape that we expect.

In challenging times, God is still active in the world and the person of faith will be ready to look round about and ask, "Lord, what would you have me learn today?"

Bishop George Davison's Lent reflections can be found on Facebook.

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