One piece of pop theology that’s never sat well with me goes like this:
“Knock on the door. If God wants it to open, it will open. If it doesn’t open, it’s not his will, so walk away.”
I don’t buy it. Sometimes it is valid. If you check out Ecclesiastes 3, a lot of things are valid at times. But I just wonder…
How much human endeavour would have failed if people gave up after knocking on a door then presumed that because it didn’t open, it wasn’t God’s will? I’m just glad so many people are still trying to find answers… medicine being an example close to my heart.
My kids and I planted some chives a few weeks back. We planted a few others things too, and after a week or two, the basil had sprouted, so had the silver beet. Where were the chives? Eaten by ants? Drowned? Planted too deep?
I saw a few sprouts eventually, and just today have checked the germination time, which is around double that for the other seeds. Helps to do your homework.
Sometimes it can look like nothing is happening, and everything is lost. So we have a choice either to give up, or keep trying. Sometimes, like the chives, there isn’t much we can do to help. I couldn’t exactly dig them up to see what was happening – well I could have, but it would have made things worse. In a situation that was actually fine anyway.
Sometimes there is nothing at all that we can do – except continue to ask God to fix things. Beg, even. Sometimes maybe stop praying… But then, there’s this story Jesus told about a widow and a judge. And the introduction is, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up”. Hmm.
So, the story goes:
“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
I prefer to be very slow to give up hope – on people, on situations. To try everything I can think of – well, everything ethical. I read a great article on the subject here.
It could be that the whole “knock on the door then stop” approach comes from Luke 11:9:
So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
This comes hot on the tails of the disciples asking Jesus to teach them to pray, and the Lord’s prayer. It’s part of the answer.
But quite a number of translations say something along the lines of “keep on asking… keep on seeking… keep on knocking.” If you are interested in checking the Greek you could look here.
I think the message is: don’t give up. Keep asking, keep trying. In fact, God wants us to persist and not give up. Sure – sometimes he wants us to give up also. It can be hard to know when to keep going, and when to stop.
There are some things I ask God for many, many times a day. Brief prayers perhaps – he gets the long version too. God sure knows I’m serious about some things – and to my knowledge, he hasn’t said no yet.
I had a young friend I prayed for about health issues every day for over 10 years until the condition seemed to subside and I figured I could let it rest. I’ve had many times when I’ve felt surrounded by people who told me to give up, but I managed to hang on until there was a way forward.
It’s like, there is a yearning inside for certain things, and particularly if people’s welfare is at stake. I want to be dogged, tenacious, unrelenting. Hanging on to hope. There’s always the risk of wasted effort in the end: investing so much in something that ultimately fails. Guess you gotta work out if it’s worth it. I’ve had some sad failures too. Glad I tried though.
Anyway – remember my chives. Here they are. Still pretty frail looking, but more obviously hopeful than when the only one who really knew if there was any future for them was God.