God is still a God of miracles. Though it may look different than when Jesus walked the earth, we still hear of God’s divine intervention all around us – tumors that miraculously disappear, a hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ and has a powerful ministry to the unsaved, an unborn child who’s been declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy, and hard to reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.
Yes, God still reveals His power and supremacy through these miraculous acts. However, it’s likely that many of us haven’t experienced a life-altering miracle in our own lives (other than the miraculous regeneration of our hearts). Although there are times that we can clearly see evidence of God at work in our lives, there are also seasons when it seems as though prayers are being answered in everyone’s lives but ours.
Over the last decade or so, my family has experienced one of these seasons. We have prayed for direction, healing, and answers to many of the trials that we have faced and, while God has certainly been faithful and good to us in so many ways (to sustain, protect, change, and lead us), many of those specific prayers have seemed to go unanswered.
When I see others around me praising God for his healing touch or powerful answer to prayer, if I’m honest, it sometimes stirs up mixed emotions within me. Although I’m encouraged and thankful to see God at work and answering prayers in a way that brings him glory and relieves someone’s pain, I’m also tempted to wonder, “Why not me?”, “Why does God seem silent to my prayers?” and, “Am I doing something wrong?”.
Thankfully, God speaks to those of us who are battling these questions. If you are long-suffering and have found yourself wondering if there will ever be an end to your trials, Christ gives us two commands and words of encouragement. We find his words in Mark 4:21-43.
To summarize the story – a ruler of the synagogue, Jairus, had come to Jesus, imploring him earnestly to heal his daughter, who was on the verge of dying. Immediately, Jesus began following Jairus to his home, but was interrupted when a woman, who had been internally bleeding for 12 years, touched the edge of Christ’s garment. As the power went out of him, she was immediately healed, and it stopped Jesus in his tracks in search who had touched him.
Meanwhile, as Jesus is conversing with the miraculously healed woman, Jairus’ daughter is dying. By the time Jesus was ready to move on, others from Jairus’ household came to inform him that there was no longer a reason to bother Jesus, for the ruler’s daughter had already died.
Can you imagine what must have gone through Jairus’ mind? I assume that, along with grief over his daughter’s death, he may have also struggled with confusion, or even anger, at Jesus’ delay. Maybe he wondered, “Why did he stop to heal this woman when he knew my daughter was dying?”; or “Didn’t he see and care about my need as well?”; or “Maybe I didn’t plead earnestly enough with Jesus!”
No matter what questions and emotions Jairus felt in this moment; Jesus knew them. And he also knows our questions and emotions when we feel as though our prayers are falling on deaf ears. And Jesus speaks right into the heart of these questions and concerns with two clear commands and encouragements –
“But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, ‘Do not fear, only believe.'” Mark 4:36
Do not fear.
Don’t fear how your circumstances may appear. Don’t fear that God has forgotten or doesn’t care. Don’t fear that God is listening to other’s prayers but not yours. Don’t fear that your circumstances haven’t changed because you don’t have as much faith as others. Don’t fear that your trials are beyond the strength, control, or wisdom of God.
It is God’s undeserved grace when he answers our prayers for a change in circumstances, and it is just as much his undeserved grace when he allows our circumstances to continue for his good purposes. In fact, because we are so naturally drawn to comfort and finding our identity in this world, difficult circumstances can be God’s severe mercies that keep us near to him. Unfulfilled longings can actually protect us from living independently and comfortably, as though this fallen world was our home.
If our eyes are focused on those around us, we will be emotionally tossed with the waves of circumstances. When someone we know experiences healing or answered prayer, our joy for them (if we have any) will often be mixed with a fresh blow of grief and hurt over God’s silence towards our own trials. Or, if our eyes are fixed on the many people suffering around us, rather than Christ, it will only add to the heaviness of our own life and tempt us to despair and question where God is.
Therefore, Christ commands us to not fear, but rather –
Only believe “is a command for present, continuous action urging us to maintain the faith we initially demonstrated when coming to Jesus.”¹
In other words, when circumstances tempt you to grow weary from praying and enduring after years of unanswered prayers, or when you see Christ work powerfully in someone else’s life while he continues to allow pain, trials, or sickness to continue in your own, fix your eyes on Christ and the faith that initially drew you to him. Remind yourself of what Christ did for you on the cross, pardoning your sins, and be encouraged that, no matter how circumstances may seem, your suffering is never meaningless. When you find yourself being tempted to fear how circumstances appear on the surface, reclaim the promises that are yours in Christ Jesus.
- He promises to be faithful by sanctifying us completely and preparing us for our eternal home. (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)
- He promises to hear and answer all of what we ask that is in accordance with his will. (1 John 5:14-15)
- He promises to give us his strength, wisdom, and power to accomplish all that he calls us to. (Philippians 4:13)
- He promises to lead us in paths of righteousness, restore us, be near us, comfort us, and fill us with himself. (Psalm 23:1-6)
- He promises to use our suffering as we trust in him to produce endurance, character, and hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
- He promises to work all things together for our good (eternal good) – even when we can’t see it or understand it. (Romans 8:28)
- He promises to use this momentary affliction to prepare for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but the things that are unseen. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
What circumstances God allows, how he answers our prayers, and how he chooses to be glorified through us will look different in each of our lives – but his promises will never change. When we grow weary in long-suffering, we need to let his words ring loudly and frequently in our ears and in our hearts – “Do not fear. Only believe.”
Brother or sister, Christ has a purpose in your pain – sometimes through long-suffering, rather than through healing or an answered prayer for deliverance.
He may choose to be glorified through your enduring faith rather than your desired circumstances. He may choose to magnify his worth in your own heart and to the world around you by causing you to love him more in the pain, rather than freeing you from it. He may choose to use your suffering as a ministry to a hurting world rather than allowing you do to ministry in the way you had expected or desired.
Christ may choose to bring a powerful and miraculous change in your circumstances for his glory, but if he doesn’t, he is no less God and you are no less loved than those whom he does.
If we fix our eyes on Christ and all that he has promised us, we will be more equipped to pray for and rejoice with others, even as we wait and press on in our own suffering. In fact, not only will we able to genuinely rejoice with others in their answered prayers, but we will find encouragement in our suffering when we see God answering prayers and working in the lives of those around us.
A miraculously answered prayer reveals God’s power, but a long-suffering believer, steadfastly trusting in Christ, reveals his worth.
Christ was certainly glorified through his healing touch on the bleeding women (who had also endured her own 12 years of long-suffering). He loved her, he cared that she was suffering, and he healed her by the simple touch of his garment.
However, he cared no less for Jairus and his daughter. Though he delayed in going to her, allowing enough time to pass for the girl to die, he used his delay to reveal his power and glory in an even greater way. From a human standpoint, it was hopeless. Yet we serve a God who delights in taking hopeless situations and breathing life into them – sometimes through healing and a change in circumstances, and sometimes through using our suffering to declare that he is worth following, no matter the cost. Either way, our suffering is never pointless, and it is certainly never wasted.
In Jarius’ case, Jesus used the delay to not only stretch the ruler’s faith and teach him to trust him because of who he was, but he used Jairus’ hopeless situation as a platform to display God’s glory in an even greater way – restoring life to what was once dead.
For us, it may not end in healing or our prayers answered in the way we desire on this earth, but we can press on in confidence that Christ is always at work in our circumstances, even if we can’t see in the moment.
Friend, if you find yourself to be the one who is healed by a miraculous touch from the Lord, praise him for his goodness, grace, and answer to prayer.
However, if you find yourself to be in Jairus’ shoes (as many of us do), watching Christ heal others while your life seems to be falling apart, remember Jesus’ words, “Do not fear, only believe.” As you fix your eyes on Christ, rather than those around you, your love for him will grow and you will have the privilege and joy of seeing God’s glory shine through your steadfast and hope-filled trust in him.
To read more on suffering with hope, order “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here.
¹John MacArthur – John MacArthur ESV Study Bible