But, if not… -- Part One

A common experience in gaining a basic testimony that God answers prayers tends to be in praying to find something that has been lost. When car keys, glasses, jewelry, or any important item goes missing, I often find myself stopping to say a humble and heartfelt prayer to plea for guidance on where to begin my search. Often, I am able to clear my mind, listen to promptings, and locate the item soon after my prayer has ended. It is a comforting reassurance that God knows His children personally and cares about even the mundane difficulties in their lives. I know these prayers for missing objects do not only occur in my household, for rarely does a monthly testimony meeting go by without a similar faith-promoting story being shared by a member of my congregation. 

However, sometimes the testimony comes in a different way.


Last winter, my hair was still growing back after the latest treatments from cancer. It was the third time I’d lost all of my hair from chemotherapy or radiation, and my oncologist warned me that it probably wouldn’t completely return this time. I was pleasantly surprised that, despite the warnings, my hair seemed to be slowly increasing day by day. Since the weather was chilly, I couldn’t leave the house without a hat, scarf, or wig to help keep the warmth from escaping. (I used to accessorize my head out of self-consciousness over the baldness, but I was long over any embarrassment I might have had in the beginning.)

On many occasions, friends had given me all kinds of head coverings, so I could be less uncomfortable with my new look. I had a few favorites, even though it was often too hot in the Texas summers (and springs and even falls) to wear many of these knit beanies. However, winter was the perfect time to pull out those hats I loved.

I quickly became flustered upon discovering that the most special of all those winter caps was nowhere to be found! I hadn’t needed it in three seasons of warm weather, so when chilly temperatures finally hit, there was no telling how long this hat had been misplaced. It was pink, one of my favorite colors, and had bling and glitter, more favorites, and had been given to me by a very special person. Plus, I always received compliments when I wore it, and a hairless, sick, weak, and tired cancer patient can always use words of encouragement, even if they are about accessories.

I looked in all the usual places. I looked in the new ones that I might have used in the most recent reorganization projects . Then, I remembered to stop, be still, and ask for help. I prayed that I might be able to find this hat so that my head would be warm in the chilly temperatures and I would be able to avoid getting sick. After the prayer, I didn’t have any clear ideas of where to start looking. I didn’t have any extra time before driving kids to school, so I borrowed one of their beanies in the morning rush.

When I returned home, the real hunt began. I carefully emptied the entire coat closet, in case my hat had fallen into a hidden corner. Every possible drawer was cleared out and organized again. I searched under beds, in baskets, behind the washing machine, in my husband’s hat spots, and anywhere I could imagine it might have gone. I had no memory of when or where I had seen the hat last, or if I could have possibly lost it away from home. It pained me to think that this hat with so much meaning was most likely gone. I also didn’t feel any reassurance from the prayer I had offered for heavenly help.

Did I not have enough faith? Was this a consequence of my carelessness in not taking proper care of my belongings? I felt like I had put in the work, not expecting God to simply bring the hat back to me just because I wanted it. I had a testimony that God hears and answers prayers, but why wasn’t this one being answered the way I wanted?

Saddened, I finally realized that I had to move on, to try to find another hat to replace my favorite one. Perhaps my prayer couldn’t be answer because the hat was truly lost and out of reach. God wasn’t punishing me; this was just something that happened with things, and this hat, though important to me, was still just a thing. I knew that God was able to answer my prayer and rescue my lost accessory. I also believed that in my prayer for help, He would. It was hard to understand why it wasn’t happening right away. I had to just hold on to hope, remembering that “if not,” there must be a reason. (See Daniel 3: 17-18)

At my next cancer treatment, a volunteer happened to bring around beanies she had made for patients at my cancer clinic. It wasn’t the hat, but it was a wonderful replacement. My prayer for assistance was answered, just in a way I hadn’t previously thought I wanted. I said a quick prayer of thanks for this tender mercy, feeling a little guilty that I had become irritated so quickly about losing the pink, sparkly piece of fashion.

The new hat was a great addition to my wardrobe. It got me through the coldest winter days, and even brought on many compliments. It wasn’t the answer to prayer that I had expected, but it strengthened my faith and my humility.


A few months later, after I had nearly forgot my sadness at the loss of that pink, sparkly ‘thing,’ I was cleaning out my bathroom cabinets. In a basket that held cotton balls and cotton swabs. I was completely shocked by what else was held inside: MY FAVORITE HAT!!I must have stashed it back there in a quick tidy-up, thinking I’d grab it later and left it there for the year.

My mind quickly recalled the prayer, the search, and the accepted loss. I also remembered that sometimes the answer to a prayer is “not now,” but with patience we eventually see that we simply needed a lesson, a chance to grow. Richard G. Scott explained it,

Often [God] withholds an answer [to a prayer,] not for lack of concern, but because He loves us—perfectly. He wants us to apply truths He has given us. For us to grow, we need to trust our ability to make correct decisions…In time, He will answer. He will not fail us.

My testimony that God answers prayers was strengthened by continuing to hold on, even when I wasn’t sure the answer I wanted would ever come. I also strengthened my patience and faith in the process.

Melodee Cooper is a Texan by birth, an Aggie by choice, the wife of a fellow Aggie because “he loves her more,” and a mother of three boys by a combination of time, modern science, and divine intervention. She has taught both 5th and 6th grade math and science, and is now able to be a stay-at-home mom, an amateur decorator, a crafter, a blogger, and a holiday enthusiast. She is battling Stage 4 cancer while remaining optimistic and grateful for the blessings in her life.

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