Back in April I noticed I had an abscess on my chest. It was very small, smaller than a dime, but you could feel it when you touched it. It felt like a pimple or ingrown hair. I did not think much about it. I noticed a week or so later it had not popped but seemed unchanged. I decided to go to the Urgent Care Clinic as I could not get an appointment with my GP. I went and saw the on call physician who prescribed an antibiotic and said if it remained unchanged in a week then we would need to take another look at lancing it to remove the fluid. So a week later, and nothing had changed, so knowing what the on call physician had said, I made an appointment with my GP who looked at it and confirmed the same as the on call physician. By this time it had been over five weeks. He asked me to just keep the area clean and to wait and see if it popped on its own in the next couple of weeks and if it did not, then we could arrange to have the abscess drained. Those two weeks passed, and I again saw my GP and this time he gave me a referral to a surgeon. I waited and waited to hear back.
During the time from when that little lump was seen by Lori and myself, the one constant was that we prayed on a daily basis. They were simple prayers of faith asking the Lord to intervene and heal that area of my body. It is not as if I am a foreigner to the moving of God upon my body. I was raised from a young child to pray and to have faith that God would act upon my prayer of faith in His goodness and mercy.
Answering the Prayer of a Child
I have seen numerous answers to prayer throughout my life, and the earliest that I remember was being around four years old, and my mother had a fever and lay on the bed and could barely move. I had my younger brother Paul, who was not even two years old at the time, who was in the bassinette, beside my mother. I remember my mother looking at me and asking me if I would pray for her. In the words of a child, I asked, “Jésus, s’il vous plaît touche ma mère et fait la fièvre disparaître. Amen [Lord Jesus, please touch my mother and make the fever go away. Amen.]” In seconds my mother brightened up, wiped her brow, the fever was gone, and she got up and made me something to eat. Later that day when my father came home, my mother told my father that I had prayed and Jesus had answered my prayer. So from that kind of background and experience, I grew to expect God to move and intervene in my life and the lives of people I prayed for.
Divine Intervention Rarely Looks Like What We Expect
About a year after that situation with my mother, my brother was stricken ill and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery. I remember as a five year old rallying with my parent’s church family, and praying with all of these people for my brother’s recovery. Paul did not recover. He died on the operating table, a two and a half year old little boy, whose life ended due to a burst appendix. My mother who was pregnant at the time was grief stricken and took a long time to recover. My dad was that strong character that doesn’t show his pain and who tries to be strong for everyone around them. As the missionary pastor he felt it was his duty to be strong for everyone. Me? I was confused. Even as a five year old, I did not know why Paul was not healed. This was not the kind of supernatural intervention I expected at all.
About a year after that situation, with my infant sister there with me, my father was involved in a motor vehicle accident. It was the first time he could afford a new car. He had purchased a Deux Cheveaux, a Citroen car that was France’s answer to the Volkswagen Beetle. It was an ugly but a reliable car. He went to pick it up at the factory to drive it home. On the way home he was struck by an Englishman driving a Jaguar sports car. It demolished my dad’s car. When my mother and I showed up at the hospital, my mother only recognized my dad by his ring on his ring finger. He was swollen and wrapped up in bandages, a brace, broken ribs and arm and leg, and a fractured skull. None of the doctors could understand how he survived the accident. The doctors said that my dad would never walk again. The people prayed, and my dad was raised up, and not only walked again, but ran, played soccer and swam. God answered the cries of His people.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. This was always the undergirding premise of our family’s belief and what my family lived and modelled for others. But it was always difficult to live out the “goodness of God” when there was so much suffering around and so much unanswered prayer. But was it really “unanswered”?
Healed From Gasoline Burns
When my family came to Canada in 1967, we saw more answers to prayer, and not all the kinds of answers one would have expected. In 1969 I had the unfortunate situation of experiencing serious burns to my body. We were camping along Montreal’s south shore, and my cousin Eilleen, from Belfast was over for her 18th birthday. We were at the beach all day, and barbecuing, and just having fun together. I was the oldest in our family and my parents put some responsibilities on me which I did not mind. It always made me feel grown up, and what kid doesn’t want to be grown up when he is eleven years old? This campground we were at, would ask regular campers to mow the grass of their site. It was our turn to mow the grass. It was a gas powered lawnmower. I had used it before and knew what to do. I liked and enjoyed mowing the grass, both at home and at the campground. No big deal for this eleven year old.
So I mowed the lawn of our campsite. I did what I was supposed to, which included refilling the gas tank. I filled the tank. Wiped my hands on the cloth, and pushed the mower to the designated area for the next person to use. I came back to the site, and saw the camp fire getting low, so I picked up a log to put on the fire, and poof! My hand caught fire. Quickly I put my hand in a bucket of water. The flames disappeared and I was relieved. Phew! I pulled my hand out, and it was back on fire again! I did not understand the relationship of oil, gas and water with fire. I learned a lifelong lesson that day. I kept my hand hidden from my parents. I was terrified to tell them. So I prayed to God fervently to heal my hand and help me. I am right handed, and I was doing everything with my left hand. I kept my burned hand in my pocket when my parents were around.
I kept this up for three days. The neighbor across from our site was an American woman from Vermont. She was also a Christian lady. She saw what happened and she came over on the third day and she said if I did not tell my parents, that she was going to tell them what happened. She even offered to come along with me, an offer I was happy to accept. We walked together down the road to the spot were my dad was fly casting. Here he was with hip waiters on in the water having the time of his life fishing. I kind of ruined his day of fishing. I blurted out that I burned my hand. The next thing I knew there was all this flurry of activity and here I was in my dad’s car driving all the way to Victoria Hospital in Montreal. I was taken to the emergency room. They cleaned my wounds. I had two fingers where the skin had melted together. I had burns on all four fingers, the palm and the back of my hand had burns as well. The doctor got some other doctors to come in and look my hand over. The all reached the same conclusion. I would need to have plastic surgery the next day. They dressed my hand, and told me to go home and rest and come back the next day for surgery.
On the way to the car, I turned to my dad, and I said, “Dad, what’s plastic surgery?” He smiled and looked at me, paused, and said, “Son, they will take your hand and when you are asleep, they are going to take skin from your bum, and put it on your hand to heal your hand. The only problem you are going to have, is having your hand bandaged to your bum while the skin graft heals!” I was in total shock! “Dad!” I blurted out. “It can’t be that way. It just can’t! Jesus has to heal my hand. Dad, promise me. Promise me. You pray for my hand right now! OK?” We got in the car. I sat down. Dad asked for my right hand. I gave it to him. He held my hand, and just prayed, “Lord, you know the desire of Sam for his hand to be healed. I ask you to heal his hand. Thank you Jesus for healing Sam’s hand. Amen.” That was it. No flash! No boom! No lightning! Just that simple prayer.
The next day we went back to the hospital, and the doctor unwrapped the bandage, and freaked out and started screaming for other doctors! Six doctors showed up. I could not see my hand as they had a separator, a veil keeping both my dad and I from seeing what was going on. My dad said, “Is there a problem?” The doctor turned to my dad and said, “Is this the same boy? Or is he his twin?” With that my dad stood up and peered over and saw my hand. The look on his face stunned me. He was shocked and I was kind of concerned. My dad pulled the veil apart, and I could see my hand. It was completely healed. I had brand new baby pink colored skin where the ugly burns had been. The swelling was gone. All the burns were replaced with new skin, on each finger, on my palm and on the back of my hand. There would be no need for surgery. The doctor got all six doctors to sign the medical report, and he wrote in French on the report: Miracle of God. Indeed, it was an answer to prayer and a miracle.
The Struggles of My Father & Father-In-Law
In my late teens my father suffered a heart attack. Three years later he had a triple by-pass at Toronto Western Hospital. He would live another dozen years and require another bypass before succumbing to a heart attack that would take his life at age 59. My father’s life was spare miraculously through those heart attacks and surgeries where he could have died. His last heart attack was all his body could take and at the time of His appointed choosing, God took my father home. Not every prayer gets answered the way you want or expect. My father’s life was prolonged and extended, and he had good quality living and got to see three grandchildren and two of his kids get married. Yes, he was gone too soon, but we do not control how long we live.
At the time Lori and I were married, her father, Bob Rolston, was struggling with health issues, and it was a rare liver disease that afflicted him. When our little Carragh was less than a year old, she learned to walk at the ICU of London’s Western University Hospital. He received a liver transplant that extended his life by over a decade. He received the liver of a sixteen year old young woman that was killed in an auto accident. Her legacy was passing on the “gift of life” to my father-in-law. I am forever thankful for all those extra years, where Bob got to see three of his four children marry and have children.
He was the proud grandfather of seven incredible girls. Bob suffered a great deal during this time of illness. He was prayed for constantly and God’s grace was sufficient for the moments, the moments would end and he would endure pain and need blood transfusions, and rest. It became worse as he aged and as his body could not handle the rejection of the organ. The havoc caused by the anti-rejection drugs took their toll on him physically and emotionally. He was strong of spirit and wanted to serve the Lord as long as he could. Three times Bob died on the table in hospital and three times he came back. Coming back only motivated him to serve the Lord and people until his last breath. He knew that he would go home to be with the Lord when his time was up. Bob’s body finally had enough, and no amount of prayer was going to raise him up. The day before he died, a Sunday, Bob preached twice, did a baby dedication, had a family picnic, and that night he prayed for people to be healed and they were. The following Monday he felt low, and wanted to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion. He went and he never came out. His body was shutting down. We prayed for the Lord’s Presence and peace, and each of us got to say our good byes with Bob. This prayer was not going to be a resurrection prayer, but a prayer of consolation that God was taking His servant home and that now Bob would finally be at rest and free from sickness and disease. It was up to us, to let him go in peace. It was up to us to deal with the pain of loss and separation.
As they say, it is not the length of life that makes a life, but living life to the full, no matter how long that life may be, makes for a life well lived. God does not answer our prayers the way we often hope for or think or imagine.
I have known the divine intervention of God and answered prayer. I have also known the anguish of what many would call unanswered prayer. I have come to understand it as an “answer in Presence” as God has invaded my pain and my sorrow and has remained with me through the pain, suffering, disappointment, and has given me the grace to persevere and carry on, in spite of all the anguish of heart and soul.
Dealing With The Disappointment of Unanswered Prayer
The happiest of moments in a couple’s life, is when they bring a new life into the world. Becoming a parent totally changes your life. You are never the same after that. Lori and I have been graced with the birth of three gorgeous girls: Carragh, Caitlin and Erinn. Each a rare beauty, and each a treasure so unique and beautiful.
At age two and a half Carragh was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. She had three relapses during seven years of battling the disease. She went through three different treatment protocols which did not do anything but prolong her life. Carragh almost died several times, and each time, people prayed, and doctors did what they do best, and with the two, the Lord raised up Carragh, when it looked more and more that she would leave this world to be with Jesus. Each time this happened we thanked God for this miracle of extending her days with us, and it was a real roller coaster ride dealing with life and death on multiple occasions with a young child and two even younger siblings. I often wonder how we even managed to do it.
Sick Kids Toronto wanted to do a bone marrow transplant, but none of us were a match, and the risk of someone outside of the family was too great for us to consider. Of the 43 children Carragh knew who had transplants, they all died. For her it was an easy choice. No transplant. We made arrangements to end treatments. Carragh had almost died and God had raised her up multiple times and we put our trust in Him, that no matter what, we wanted the best for Carragh and we would put our trust in God for that. Carragh went off everything for a year. It was the best year of her life. She ended up getting a recurrence of cancer, a cancer that was caused by the treatments she had endured over seven years.
Carragh was prayed for by many, all over the world, people reached out to her and our family. When this relapse happened we all knew it was the end. Carragh had resilient faith and believed to the very end that Jesus could raise her up as He had so many times before. But this time it was not to be. On 21 December 1993, shortly before noon, with her favorite Elvis music playing, You’ll Never Walk Alone, Carragh took a deep breath, looked out of our living room window, sighed and exhaled her last breath, with a single tear streaming down her cheek. She may have been nine and a half years young, but she experienced a full life, filled with many joys, many tears and sorrows, but always filled with faith in God and a love for others. Carragh taught me how to live and how to die.
Carragh taught me to keep trusting God, even when the prayers are not answered the way we would like them to be.
As Adults We Keep a Childlike Faith Alive and Keep Trusting God Even When it Seems Hardest
My wife Lori has had to deal with vision issues that required laser surgery. She also had to have surgery for Basel cell carcinoma. Last year she had to have a hysterectomy. In all these cases we prayed, and I rallied friends to pray for her and our family. In each case Lori was strong in her faith, and she was ready to leave this world if that was the will of God for her life. She did not have fear. She had trust. She has developed over the years a resiliency and trust of God and for God, that His perfect will will not be delayed and it will be accomplished. She knows and has testified that no matter what, her trust is in God, and that God can do miracles all on His own, or He can use doctors and medications and surgeries to do that same work.
Lori can testify too that God answers all of our prayers, but very rarely the way we were expecting or desiring them to be answered.
As for me, I can vouch the same. Over the last decade I have had to deal with Type 2 Diabetes. I have been fortunate and blessed with a GP who has not given up on me, and with a wife that has encouraged me to make changes needed to be a healthier person. It is never easy making healthy changes to your lifestyle and to your eating choices but at the end of the day, we have the power to choose to make the necessary changes in our lives.
This answer to prayer today is that I finally get to deal with this abscess next week. I finally get to meet the surgeon who will remove the abscess and ease my pain and the measure of anxiety that occasionally rears its ugly head. I trust God. I pray. People who know me, they pray. We all put our trust and hope in God, and that the Lord will use physicians and nurses and our medical care system, to bring about a healthy situation next week.
I have faith in God, and I have a measure of faith and trust in the medical professionals that have my health in their hands. I know God uses both. He acts sovereignly at times. At other times He uses medical care and physicians. In the end, all our days are numbered and are in His hands.
Well Then, Why Pray?
We pray in order to commune with God and communicate with God, spirit to Spirit. We pray and in praying, this two way action, of listening, and speaking, and pausing to hear and listen, this action creates an inner dialog in the heart, in our own spirit. This is where we experience the peace of God, and the serenity that we need, in those moments where there seems to be no answer, and the anxiety is such as to make us feel the unease of the unpredictability of life. Life is a mystery. It is unbridled and cannot be controlled. It has to be embraced and experienced. That includes all the pain and the sorrow and all the losses we experience in living our lives fully as human beings.
Overcoming the challenges of life is part and parcel of living. We are born. We live all life has to offer, and we find meaning and purpose in all of it, all the mysteries and joys and adversity. How we live this life affects how we deal with all the good, the bad and the ugly, and it also prepares us for the next life. Prayer is the language of the spirit and soul in communion with God. God cares for you and I and wants to commune and share life with us. How deep you go is up to you. But know that you have a friend in God who will be with you IN all of your pain and IN all of your joys. He will be found by those who diligently seek Him. Seek Him while He may be found. And you will find that He has been there all along… answering all those questions and prayers, but not the way you first expected them to be. He was present all the time. You just were not ready to see Him or encounter Him just as He truly is. Go on… Embrace Him. He loves you beyond your imagination! For those in need of healing today, this song is for you.
Listen to it, sing along with it, sing it as a prayer to the Lord for your healing. Peace.