Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spiritual Thoughts: "Facing the Giants"

A friend recommended Facing the Giants (2006), a faith-based movie. I enjoyed the film and its powerful message.  It was refreshing to watch a movie without profanity, sex, and violence.  (And I have since watched, and enjoyed, two other films produced by the same people.)

Because it was a low budget film, I expected cheesy acting... and there was a little bit of that... but what impressed me was the genuine emotion of the lead actors.  It takes a lot to jerk tears out of me while watching a movie, but the sincerity of the actors really touched me and I found myself bawling.

It's the story of a "losing coach and underdog football team" and how faith and prayers bring about mighty miracles -- on and off the field.  In one particular scene, the coach gives a dramatic demonstration of how the power of our thoughts and what we "think" we can (or cannot) do, effects our abilities.  That scene really packed a punch and I think of it often.  The film has many tender moments, tender mercies, and even touches of realistic family moments and humor.

With that said, though, I want to express my belief regarding prayer and blessings from God.  I feel like the movie gave the impression that with enough faith and prayers, people are blessed with everything their hearts desire.  By the end of the film, I found myself hoping they would not receive exactly what they prayed for but, rather, have at least one prayer that would seem to go unanswered.

Does that sound cruel and unbelieving?  I don't think so.  Because I believe God hears and answers every sincere prayer we utter.  But, I believe He answers in His own way, in His own time.  And sometimes we downright don't recognize the answer.  Why?  Because...

Sometimes the answer is "no."  Well, who wants to hear that?  We want what we want and don't want to be told "no" from God.  Face it... sometimes we don't want God the Father, we want God the grandfather. We want a being who is powerless against our cries of "pretty pleeeeaaase?"  But, He is a loving Father who knows what we truly need and knows what is best...and sometimes the best answer is "no."  He is omniscient, all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-wise.  He is the Perfect Father, so if the answer is "no," it is for a perfectly good reason.

Sometimes the answer is "not yet." Some prayers seem unanswered because we don't get what we prayed for right away.  It might be months, or even years, before the answer arrives.  There are times that our hearts are not prepared for the answer until we have matured, or reached a point of spiritual growth where we can recognize or understand.  And as I mentioned earlier, He sees the whole picture so knows the best time to deliver the prayed for blessing.

For example, a few months after getting married, my husband and I decided to start a family.  He was 27 and I was 23.  We weren't getting any younger.  Month after month, I bawled my eyes out when evidence proved I was not pregnant.  Friends learned not to ask me, "Well?  Are you...?"  We prayed and prayed for the blessing of a child, but it was three years before that blessing arrived. During that time of waiting, I matured.  I was far more grateful and ready to be a mother.

Sometimes the answer comes in a way that it doesn't seem like an answer.  For instance, have you ever prayed for patience but are greeted with crying children and filthy messes?  Many virtues that we pray for are like muscles that need exercise.  We already have those virtues deep inside, we just aren't using them.  When we pray for patience, we think we should suddenly be engulfed with the patience of Job, but instead, He gives us the situations that help us exercise and develop that virtue.

We get it in our heads that answers should come in the way we imagine. I recall a time when I needed to study for a major exam.  The week prior was extremely hectic and I realized the only quality time I would have to study would be on a four-hour flight the night before the exam.  I hoped and prayed that I would have the proper conditions for intense study on that flight, which in my mind meant plenty of space to spread my notes out (maybe an empty seat next to me) and no noisy people nearby. Well, the seat next to me was indeed filled.  And I do mean filled...to overflowing...into my space.  The large guy breathed loudly through his mouth, and (to put it mildly) stunk to high heaven!

At first I was miffed that my prayers seemed unanswered.  I was squished against the window, fighting for air, trying to "find my happy place."  I reluctantly pulled out my textbook, notes, and highlighters, and began to pour my thoughts into study... that's when I realized my situation really was ideal.  The need to zone out of my misery helped me zone into my studies.  I found myself totally absorbed in the things I read, and studied far more intensely than usual.  I was happy to study the entire time because it took my mind off my discomfort. The next morning, I passed the exam with flying colors.

As I took a realistic look at how things would have played out if God had answered my prayer in my supposed "ideal" way, I realized I would have tired of studying after a short while and napped instead.  Heavenly Father really knows me.

Garth Brooks sings:

Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers 
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs 
That just because he doesn't answer doesn't mean he don't care 
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers



So although Facing the Giants was a powerful movie, and illustrated how miracles follow faith and prayer, the filmmakers did a disservice by indicating all answers to prayer come exactly as hoped for.  Realistically, we needed to see at least one blessing in "disguise," because often that's when we can clearly recognize the hand of God -- our loving Father -- in our lives.

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