Why Does God Not Answer Prayers? Lessons from a Bereaved Mother
Suitcases. They were nicely lined up in the hallway right outside our apartment’s front door. We noticed them as we were about to leave for school when we heard our stepdad yell, “Go through the back door!” I don’t think he knew we were half way out and had already seen the suitcases. I didn’t know it at the time, but those suitcases would haunt my prayers for the next 16 years and they would teach me why God sometimes delays in answering prayers.
The suitcases held the belongings of my stepdad and my 18-month-old sister. Technically, she was my half-sister but I loved her to pieces. I had been the baby for four years, enjoying the benefits of my older brother’s protection. But when my little sister was born, I felt an instant responsibility to now protect her. How I wished I had been big enough, smart enough to protect her that day.
Being the good kids that we were, my older brother and I obeyed, closed the door, and headed to the back door of our apartment. And like any other day, we walked ourselves to school. I headed to Kindergarten and he went off to Third Grade. It was a normal morning, except for my stepdad insisting we leave through the backdoor and those darn suitcases. Why where the suitcases in the hallway anyway?
The mind of a child would be unable to deduce that those suitcases had been pre-staged by my stepdad. He had been secretly planning to leave the country with my sister. After a contentious separation from my mother, he now wanted a new life without us.
As a child, I didn’t understand the reasons for the separation. But that evening, when the police came and I saw my mother sobbing uncontrollably, I knew he had taken her. He had kidnapped her and my little world came crumbling down. I would see my little sister one more time a few months later while I was in Guatemala with my grandma, but then my stepdad would disappear again without a trace. My mom, was not with me at the time, so she did not get that chance.
Life went on without her. Every couple of years detectives would call and speak with my mom to see if there were any new updates. Where there any new clues that would help them locate her? Had my former stepfather reached out? And every year it was the same. There was nothing new to report. She was still gone and the hole in our hearts was still empty.
I completed elementary school, managed to get through the horrors of middle school, and I survived high school. I got into a great college and in the middle of finals week, while working on a paper that would determine whether I would pass or fail my class, I got a call from my mom. Her words unleashed a torrent of tears, “He emailed me.”
I quickly composed myself, took down meticulous notes from everything she said, including every letter of the email address he had used. With several years of research skills under my belt, I was able to determine that the domain from the email was from a school in Mexico. We had found him!
Within a few days the US State Department was involved and a State Department official, with permission from local Mexican authorities, approached my now teenaged sister and gave her a letter written by my mother. Sixteen years of prayers from my mom, my brother, and myself had finally been answered.
During the time that my sister was missing I became a Christian. When I finally had found Jesus, I often wondered and asked Him, why have you not answered that prayer? Why is my sister still gone? Why, can’t we find her? Why are you letting us suffer in this way? Answers to my questions came after a conversation with my mom on what transpired a few months and days before my former step-dad decided on a whim (not really expecting that it was her on the other end) to email my mom through a social network for Guatemalans.
What she confided in me was that before receiving that email, a few months prior God had allowed her to reach the heights of despair so that she would actually cry out to Him for help. And she did, and He responded, and that day she relinquished her life to Jesus and she knew that she could not return to her old ways.
As she began to engross herself in the things of God, she joined a Christian women’s group. During one of those meetings she was prompted to tell the story of how her daughter had been kidnapped when she was 18 months old and how she still carried that pain with her. But in telling her story she knew she needed to do one thing, forgive the man that took her. In that moment, amongst those ladies, my mother released and forgave the man that had caused her so much pain. Five days later she received that blessed email.
My mother’s testimony brought me to a time when I interned with the Center of Missing and Exploited Children. This was a few years after we had found my sister. While I was there, out of curiosity I looked up to see if they had a case file on her, and sure enough, they did.
Scouring every detail of the file, I realized my sister’s case should have been an easy one to solve. If not immediately after he kidnapped her, certainly after technology progressed and the expansion of the internet. There had always been detectives diligently working on her case, but from what I could tell, details of her case just fell through the cracks. There was no one to blame, just “bad luck.”
But my heart tells me that it was not “bad luck.” I feel strongly that God held up that prayer until the time was right for her to be found. And the right time was when my mother had unloaded her suitcases of rebellion, bitterness, and anger. She had to relinquish control to God and give Him her pain. The final suitcase to be tossed was uttering those words to my former stepdad, “I forgive you.” And forgive him, she did. She never filed charges and today she has a friendly relationship with him. More importantly, she has that daughter in her life that she lost so long ago (and I have my sister).
There are always many reasons why God may delay answering a prayer. However, if you have an unanswered prayer, ask God to show you the suitcases that you have been holding on to. Is there someone you need to forgive? Is bitterness bound deep in your heart? Is there a sin that is unconfessed? When He finally reveals it to you, toss that suitcase, and never look back.
Originally published at http://www.MustardSeedSentinel.com on November 3, 2019.