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Should We Be Praying That God Would Resurrect Olive?

One mom expressed her thoughts on what is for her a deeply personal topic, with others agreeing and expressing anger at Bethel’s leaders for misleading people.

Others have questioned why there is a GoFundMe page if the family is supposed to be relying on God through prayer. Some also perceive that a lot of attention is given to leaders at Bethel when they experience tragedy, but not to less famous or influential members of the congregation who are suffering.

One of the biggest concerns is the phrasing of many of the prayers for Olive, which often seem to demand that if God is who he says he is, he will resurrect her. And if she does not come back to life, how will that impact the faith of those who believed so strongly that she would?

Relying on God’s Sovereignty

In a recent post that does not address Olive’s death directly, writer Erik Reed described what it was like to lose his 15-year-old son, Kaleb, and how trusting in God’s sovereignty has helped him and his family navigate that loss. “My son did not live one more day than God planned,” said Reed, “and he did not live one day less either.”

Kaleb’s life was marked by severe physical and medical challenges. Two years before he died, he had a stroke, lost his motor skills and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Reed said that throughout his family’s grief, doubts and suffering, Psalm 139:16 “became a rock-solid foundation under our feet.” The verse says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

These words gave him and his family “immeasurable peace,” wrote Reed, because it showed them that, “Nothing catches God off guard. God meticulously planned each day of Kaleb’s life in such a way that He received maximum glory.” And while they grieve their loss, they also rejoice that Kaleb no longer has to suffer in his sick body, but is now in the presence of God.

Bethel’s Bill Johnson Explains

In a video posted to Facebook, Bethel’s senior pastor Bill Johnson, explained why the church has decided to support the Heiligenthals by praying that God would resurrect Olive. Johnson also addressed the concerns people have raised about the sovereignty of God.

“First of all, I want to say thank you to the countless numbers of people around the world that have been praying for us for the miracle that we need this week,” said Johnson. He went on to explain that the first reason why the Bethel community has been praying for Olive’s resurrection is, “We have a biblical precedent.”

In Matthew 10:8, Jesus performed miracles that included casting out demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead. “None of those are things that we can actually do,” said Johnson, and yet Jesus commanded us to perform those miracles and gives us the power to do so. The pastor said, “We’ve tried to run with a real conviction and a devotion to the very thing that Jesus taught us to do.” 

To those who question whether praying for Olive’s resurrection denies the sovereignty of God, Johnson affirmed that God is sovereign and that we should submit to his will. About that, he said, “There’s no question. But then my question is, why did Jesus raise the dead?” Was Jesus opposing God’s sovereignty by bringing people back to life? No, said Johnson. The reason Jesus raised the dead is that, “Not everyone dies in God’s timing.” 

The pastor said there is no manual for a situation like the one the Heiligenthals are facing: “We admittedly are just trying our best.” They can only look to Jesus’ example, which is what the church is seeking to follow. To the question of how long to pray for Olive before giving up, Johnson said, “I don’t have a good answer. We’re kind of in the middle of that journey right now.” But there is a biblical precedent to persevere in prayer, he said, citing Luke 18:1 and Hebrews 10 and 11. It is because of Jesus’ example and a desire to honor the Heiligenthals that Bethel leaders have joined the couple in asking God to resurrect Olive, who has been in the morgue since her death. Johnson stressed that as they have prayed, their focus has been worshiping Jesus: “[Olive is] not here. We don’t surround the baby and perform some ritual.” 

Johnson was also clear that God gets the glory both for miracles that work and those that don’t. “When it doesn’t work,” he said, “we don’t blame God. We give him the glory…we celebrate his goodness, his kindness, because nothing about our experience, difficult or not, changes who he is.”

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Jessica is a writer for ChurchLeaders.com. She has always had a passion for the written word and has been writing professionally for the past two years. When Jessica isn't writing, she enjoys West Coast Swing dancing, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.