Kent Hughes tells the story of John G. Paton, a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific, a heroic figure in recent missionary history.
One night hostile tribesman surrounded his mission headquarters, intent on burning it and killing Paton and his wife. The two of them prayed all through that terror-filled night, asking God to deliver them. When daylight came, they were surprised to see the attackers leave.
A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton had an opportunity to ask him what kept them from burning the house and killing them. The chief replied, "Who were all those men who were with you?" Paton said, "There were no men there, only my wife and I." But the chief said that they had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the tribesmen were afraid to attack. Paton realized that God had sent angels to protect them.
The power of prayer has not decreased from Paton's time to ours. He may answer our prayers for deliverance, for he has all power to do so. But while he always listens, he may at times choose another way than what we desire, even as evidenced in the life of Paton. Hughes again:
John Paton did not always experience God's provision that way. His first wife died as a result of problems during childbirth. Seventeen days later the child also died. That happened early in his missionary career, and he had no one to comfort him. He even had to dig the graves for his wife and child. But he writes about that difficult time:
"I was never altogether forsaken. The ever-merciful God sustained me to lay the precious dust of my loved ones in the same quiet grave. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he vouchsafed me there, I must have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave!"
Jesus was there, and he gave sufficient grace - grace enough for him to stay on working among those people and reap a great harvest for the kingdom.
I am sure that Paton prayed just as fervently for his wife and child as he did that night surrounded by attackers. It is hard sometimes to understand God's ways, why the outcomes are so different, when to us, they don't have to (or shouldn't) be. But we can learn from the example of this Godly man: He never felt forsaken, he always felt sustained, and he found solace in the arms of Jesus.
The King provided sufficient grace. Grace enough for rescue, grace enough for heartache, grace enough for harvest.
And he will do the same for you, and for me.