God answers prayers.
This is a truth we can probably all agree on. We know that the God of the universe hears and responds to everything from a whispered desire to an outcry of devastation. What we don’t always realize is that sometimes, God’s response is no.
It was this very “no” that left me lying on the bathroom floor of an apartment in the Dominican Republic. Waiting for the torrents of nausea to cease, I couldn’t help but battle with God and question His timing.
That day was our last day of ministry in the Dominican Republic. That day was the day we were giving out the carefully packed sponsor boxes and saying goodbye to the children who had captured our hearts. And I was stuck laying on the bathroom floor. Alone.
When my stomach had nothing left to give, I crawled up to my top bunk and closed my eyes hoping to trick my body to sleep. What seemed like days passed by until I was jerked upright by a voice.
“Are you ready to go?” Our translator, returned from the ministry site, peeked her head into the room.
If I could make a “Fears of Leaving America” list, being stuck by needles in a third world hospital would definitely be near the top. But my normal mental state had gone down the toilet with the rest of my stomach contents, so I consented.
Minute after minute of stumbling through crowds of screaming children, huddled masses in waiting rooms, gurneys, amputated limbs, and tears led me to a small room at the back of the hospital in town.
I never found out what was wrong with me, but they started the IV and gave me a shot. Then all I could do was wait.
Hours later, I found myself back on my top bunk battling with the bed sheets as if it would take away my tears and confusion. Yet it was in this very place God offered to me sweet revelations I would like to share with you.
I never expected God to say no. Sure, He may refuse my request for a new pair of shoes or even a scholarship, but not when it comes to serious things like my health. Because I was “on mission” for God and had been covered in prayer, I automatically assumed He would keep me strong. This isn’t always the case. God never promised that we would remain healthy, clothed, or even well fed on this earth. In fact, the Apostle Paul was without these three necessities many times and their absence did not signify his acceptance or rejection by God.
When God says no to things we expect Him to do for us, it should not make us resent Him. Instead, it should make us realize that we have become too dependent on the creations and not enough dependent on the Creator.
I will not even attempt to explain why God allowed me to get sick in the Dominican Republic (God usually has many reasons for doing things). But I do know this: that afternoon in the bunk bed reminded me so vividly that I am weak. My heart battled to answer questions the Lord ran through my mind.
“Marina, if I stripped everything away from you—even your health—would people still see Me? Are you allowing My strength to be the core of your life and motivation?”
I realized that everything the Lord had called me to do, I was trying to do in my own strength. He called me to spiritual encouragement, I substituted with human niceness. He called me to lavish devotion, I substituted with a brief Bible study. He called me to go, I went with an attitude of entitlement. He called me to be strong, I collapsed at the first sign of weakness.
It humiliates me that I was sick, but even more so, it humiliates me that I had to go all the way to the Dominican Republic and become horribly ill to realize everything I was doing was in my own strength.
No, God did not promise us health, safety, or comfort on this earth. But what He did promise is that He would be with us through it all.
God doesn’t need us, but He chose us. God knows we are weak, but He chooses to make us strong through His Spirit. That is the greatest gift we could ever be given.
“I may be weak, but Your Spirit’s strong in me. My flesh may fail, but my God You never will.” -Give Me Faith