Sometimes (unless you ask for something trivial) the answer is “No.”

A Christianity Today article describes, in part, how seven-year old Becky’s mother helped her to overcome her uncertainty about the existence of God:

An idea I’d heard several months earlier came to mind. “Let’s make construction paper flowers and write a prayer request on each one. We’ll pray every day for the requests. When God answers one, we’ll stick the flower on the wall until we have a whole garden of answered prayers. We’ll be able to see God in how he answers us.”

By the end of that first week, God answered five of Becky’s simple requests, including healing her teacher’s illness and allowing a friend to visit for a sleepover. At Becky’s suggestion, we stuck the flowers to her bedroom ceiling where she could read them day and night. By the end of the month, 20 flowers graced her ceiling garden. One of them read, “Please help me to know you, God.

Compare with this, from BBC correspondent Hilary Andersson in Darfur:

Among the stench and flies, the children lie wasted, staring into space. Tiny human beings, who were born into the madness of man’s inhumanity to man, into the madness of a spate of killing that has left many of their fathers, brothers, grandparents and uncles dead.

And now, they face starvation which is cruel and slow. Most of the children are too far gone to eat. Some have the peeling skin and lesions that come with advanced starvation – their skin is wrinkled, loose around their bones. The mothers sit by powerless.

We spent two weeks in Darfur, driving through eerie, burnt-out villages, empty of people.

We travelled to Mornay camp, where we were a month ago. On arriving back, we went to the medical tent. It was strangely quiet inside.

Four people were sitting in a circle. A mother was looking down and sobbing silently, rubbing her hands on her face. I realised I knew her. Then it slowly came to me what was going on. Her daughter Nadia, whom we had spent two days with in this tent a month ago, was dying.

The mother, Juma, was saying an awful goodbye.

We moved away in their private moment. Ten minutes later Nadia was dead.

According to the Christianity Today article, Becky is now 15, and “steadily grows in her walk with God.” I cannot help but to wonder whether she now prays for the children of Darfur, and how she matches the outcome of those prayers against her garden of paper flowers. Perhaps, like many, she is distantly troubled, but comforts herself that “sometimes the answer is ‘No’.” I don’t know her, so I cannot say. But I do know many believers who have similar stories to tell about little miracles in their lives, who on that basis dismiss horrendous suffering as a mere anomaly, as though something like Becky’s sleepover could outweigh Nadia’s death and Juma’s pain. Is such a faith worth having?