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Social Issues: Religion


God, Who created the natural order, occasionally breaks its laws for His own purposes. It may be in answer to prayer, to show His power or demonstrate His love. Sometimes it is done to give authority to His messages.

People like to tell about the times when prayers were answered or when amazing things happen and tend not to tell about the times when it turned out differently. The impression is given that if God is really there, or if He really cares, then prayer is always answered.

If, in our personal experience, prayer is NOT answered, then we may conclude that something is abnormal. The skeptic will say that it proves God does not exist, but His existence is clearly shown by the vast and complex creation which demands a Creator.

The pragmatist may say, "If God gives me what I want, I will believe." This may be an honest desire to know if God is really there and in that case He may honor it. But if it is an attempt to bargain with the Supreme Being, it is foolish. God exists whether we believe it or not. All that is in doubt is whether we will acknowledge and obey Him.

And, after all, can we be sure that our request is for the best? What if others are praying for the opposite? Can God be real for the farmer who prays for rain and nonexistent for the picnicker who prays for sun? Do we really dare trying to be in charge of the Universe?

But does not the Bible promise answers, if we pray in faith and agree together and claim His promises? Yes, but also if we pray according to His will. The difference between magical manipulation and Christian prayer is in the one who is in charge. If we think that by saying the right words and doing the right things we decide, then our attitude is all wrong. In prayer we fervently bring our requests and yet must ultimately accept the will of the only One we really can trust.

When we arrived in Hong Kong in 1972, Jeff was one and a half years old and Karin was pregnant with our second child. Some had advised us to delay our arrival, but as we were going to help provide medical care for the people of Hong Kong at Evangel Medical Center, it seemed wrong to imply that the care was not good enough for us.

But a few weeks after our arrival, Karin went into labor and Matthew was born. He was about 12 weeks premature and at first it seemed that there was no hope. Then he rallied and it looked like he would live. For six weeks our hopes went up and down. We spread the word to the churches in Hong Kong and to the churches back in America. Many were praying.

I really believed God would heal him and felt God had even given me a sign. But then Matthew died at six weeks of age, never having gotten out of the hospital. Maybe God will raise him from the dead, I thought. What a wonderful sign that would be of God's power. But He did not.

Why did this happen? After all, we were obeying God in coming to Hong Kong. Had we not prayed correctly? Did we not believe hard enough? Did God not really care?

But then we began to see how God was using this tragedy for His purposes. Matthew was buried next to the daughter of one of the Chinese pastors, a little girl who had died tragically. We began to see how this experience was bonding us with the Chinese people. The attention of many in America had been directed towards Hong Kong and there had been much prayer for all aspects of God's work there. And we were becoming deeper, more compassionate people because of our pain. I was a better doctor and was more able to relate to patients and parents who faced serious illness and death.

No, our specific request was not answered, but God has done so much. The next year Susan was born. Later came a miscarriage with pre-malignant changes in the placenta so that for a while, pregnancy might be dangerous. Finally we adopted Jason and then KaWan Stacy. We are greatly blessed and realize that it would probably have been totally different had Matthew lived.

And we believe that we have not really lost Matthew because we will see him again when we meet our Lord Jesus Christ face to face. Then, too, we will begin to understand more of those things that puzzle and perplex us. And see all the more clearly how much God really loves us.

Ross Olson

For more on the evidence from creation, see Creation

For a poem written after the death of Matthew see "If I'd Made The World"

For his mother Karin's story see "And A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Side".

Send comments to me at ross{at}

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