Unanswered prayers. Those two words are heavy, amen? I look back at some of the things I prayed for but never received and thank God for saving me from myself. Then I look forward to the things I have now and remember how long I prayed desperately for them, never knowing if they would come to fruition, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. It leaves me with a confidence that I can look forward to whatever answers are in store for prayers that seem to be in limbo, because the granting or denial from God is a blessing either way.
But I have to admit, there are deep longings that I have prayed for, that while I submit them to God, my practical side just thinks them too good to be true. So the irony is, as much as I would like to see them come to pass, I don’t spend much time praying for them because they can be painful to think about. But they creep up from time to time, and I believe it is God’s way of nudging me as if to say, “It’s okay to ask, keep trusting me for this.”
So this weekend was this introvert’s dream. Odd segue, I know, but stay with me. It was full of favorites: quiet time, finished a book, started a new one (if you like to read you get this), baking, and now I’m listening to wind chimes and trees rustling in the wind. Such a perfect end to this blissful weekend. So what is this twinge of sadness that has been intruding on my happiness all day? It finally hits me–the dream I had last night that reminded me of an unanswered prayer! Le sigh, and things were going so well.
“It’s okay to ask. Keep trusting me for this.”
The nudge–it’s not a yes, but clearly I’m not supposed to stop praying into it. It should come as no surprise that today’s sermon was about unanswered prayer, God is clever like that. Feature verse?
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Aaaand of course this song ended the service, “Everlasting God.” It’s so so good.
As soon as I woke up this morning I did not allow myself to indulge in the “woe is me” feeling that followed that dream. Instead I revisited last week’s sermon online, spent time praying, and worked through a daily devotion book. Which by the way–if you don’t have a copy of My Utmost For His Highest, here you go, no need to thank me. http://utmost.org/
That seemed to be the antidote to making sure I didn’t fall into a funk. I’ll be honest, I was pretty proud of myself. Then at church Mr. Preacher Man starts preaching and talking about unanswered prayers. Doesn’t he know I just shook that off?! Can we please just move on? Well, it turns out that God was not as impressed with my ability to shut down my feelings as I was. Instead of dealing with my hurt and turning to God, I stuffed my emotions and decided not to allow myself to feel. I then passed it off as a good thing, convincing myself that anything else was just self-pity. Lame. So I allowed myself to hope again during this sermon about waiting.
The question now is, what does it look like to wait in a healthy way? The sermon taught on many reasons that could lead to unanswered prayer according to scripture. These were action items to dive in and take stock of my heart andseek an answer from God instead of the lazy approach of throwing my hands up and saying, “Well God, I guess it’ll happen if you want it to.” I found myself disinterested in doing the work, not because it was work, but because it means I’ll be actively waiting again. This active waiting usually has hurt and sadness in tow. It’s not a pain-free thing, and I don’t love it.
But it’s clear after today that God is telling me to deal with it and allow myself to feel. There is obviously a lot of growing God plans to do in me through this. It is not, however, a guarantee that there is a “yes” on the other side of this prayer in waiting. It is a guarantee that I will see the goodness of the Lord. That is more than enough reason for me.
Let me impart this “nudge” to you via my desktop inspirational Dayspring calendar:
“God doesn’t plant desires within our hearts to let them wither and die. Yes, they may be dormant for a season. And yes, when they finally push through the ground they may look nothing like what we anticipated–but they’re still possible.” –Holly Gerth
What is your prayer in waiting?
Are you willing to trust God with the pain that comes along with the uncertainty by actively waiting on Him?
Oh man, seventh grade strikes again. It was torture enough the first time around and this go-round with my soon-to-be thirteen-year-old is no more enjoyable. However, he has a couple of things going for him that I didn’t at this painfully awkward age–good looks and confidence. And he has such a huge heart! Seriously folks, I could gush about him forever, but I digress. Grades. The struggle is real. I know there are plenty of parents who feel me on this.
Parenting isn’t for the Faint of Heart
September 29, 2015, was a day that I could not have felt more inept at the game of parenting. During the short drive to school my son again informed me he didn’t know what he needed to follow up on with his teachers. At this point I’d done everything in my power to help him be successful (or so I thought). I’d bought all the necessary tools, sat with him for hours to help with homework, and made lists for him. You name it, I addressed it to no avail. He hadn’t changed a single approach to any of his classes or assignments.
I lost it. I yelled, he cried, it was ugly. He got out of the car and just like that I’d ruined any hope he had at a successful day. He likely wouldn’t operate well under that kind of stress. I was at a total and complete loss and in that moment begged God to step in, saying, “I’ve got nothing left here, please help us! I can’t watch him fail and I don’t know what else to do!” I’m not sure I prayed too much about it before this point. Yet somehow I thought I’d already done everything I could do. The very second I finished praying I got a text message from a friend I hadn’t spoken to in some time. It read:
“Good morning, friend. Prayed for the Lord’s help in the decisions that you have to make. I saw you open-handed toward God, as though saying ‘I have nothing, I need your help.’ He sees you, and loves both you and Andrew so much.”
Overwhelmed by God’s Response
Commence the uncontrollable sob fest that lasted the whole way to work, a good thirty minutes. I’m not talking sad cries–I really don’t know the appropriate descriptor for it–but I was overwhelmed by God’s amazing response to my plea. She had no idea what was going on at that particular moment! I hadn’t spoken to her about this struggle, and we hadn’t even kept in touch like we used to. So for her to reach out with that timing and those words was the perfect way for God make 100% clear that He heard, He cared, and He was already in it. But I could not quite make sense of the part of her text that mentioned decisions I needed to make.
Since that day his grades have improved. Great news, right? Kinda, but not really. I’m coming to learn that this is only half the battle. Maybe more like a quarter of the battle. The problem is that his habits have not changed, and neither have mine. I’ve become a drill sergeant and I’ve tried taking control by micromanaging the status of all his assignments and scores in each class. Thanks to technology and online gradebooks, this is possible.
Learning to Let Go of My Control Issues
Maaaybe not such a good thing. I’ve effectively conditioned my son to take direction from me rather than take initiative for himself. It is like I’m taking seventh grade all over again and there is this nagging voice in my head asking, “Shouldn’t your approach have changed after God’s message back in September?”
Enter the part about the decisions I have to make. More than one person has suggested I let him fail, because “maybe it’s the best way for him to learn.” I sit there and nod my head in agreement but cringe on the inside. What kind of parent would I look like if he had bad grades? I’m a single mom and he comes from a broken home. I loathe these stereotypes and what people expect from these circumstances.
So I’m fighting it to the death and it is my selfish pride that is interfering with the very work I’m pleading with God to do in my son! Will I get out of the way and give control over to God? Or do I care too much about what people will think of me to allow God to teach my son how to succeed in his own timing without me interfering? Without me forcing results?
I wish I could say that I’ve mastered the “let go and let God” part, but I’m a work in progress. We’ll be taking this one day at a time, the kid, God and I. The part of my friend’s prayer that made the least sense to me at the time is now the focal point of my dilemma. God help me in the decisions I have to make!
He Cares for You
Several months ago God gave me this verse for a struggle I was not going to overcome without His help.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7
(It seems I’m a slow learner.)
While we should be obedient and trust God, this verse reminds us that He doesn’t ask us to give our struggles to him because he has control issues. It is a love-driven invitation to watch God do beautiful works in and around us. What reason is there not to accept?
Is God asking you to release control over something you are trying to manage on your own? If the answer is yes, then like me you have a decision to make.
How have you seen God show up in your life when you stop trying to take control? Encourage us with your story in the comments below!
This is personal, from the heart and the message is hope. If only one single parent reads this and is encouraged it’s mission accomplished.
As a single mom I often feel like the odds are stacked against my son and I. We go through seasons where it seems like we are gaining ground, almost catching up to what seems like everyone else’s normal. Then in my fear, anxiety and exhaustion I lose sight of God’s promise that he will never leave or forsake us and the next thing I know I feel like we are back in a season of failure.
I’m coming to know it as the broken home mindset. Whether it is our living situation, finances, or grades I always feel like there is a “them” and “us” dynamic. Always.
Them = the family that has a husband and wife working as a team, with kids blossoming as a result.
Us =Me unprepared hoping for the best and my kid trusting me to know what the heck I’m doing. (I don’t.)
I constantly have to remind myself that our culture’s measure of success is not God’s design. Is raising my son in a broken home God’s design? No. But, since coming to faith I have learned that our home is only as broken as I allow it to be.
Faith Gives Me Power
Faith gives me power over the heavy reality that I cannot change the past. I cannot undo divorce. I cannot erase the hurt it has caused my son. But I can trust God not to waste the pain, that is the power of the grave. I can trust God to use our story of redemption to encourage others who carry the same burden. I can trust God, period.
I am constantly evaluating the ways my household does not measure up. And I’m often frustrated that our wins seem short lived, I’ll be honest that’s how I’m feeling as I type this. Add to that the guilt I feel for having these thoughts because we are blessed in so many ways! We have so much to be thankful for, but the grass is always greener, right? It’s completely unrealistic for me to compare my home to households that have more resources to accomplish the things that I only wish I could. It’s easy to see my son and I at a disadvantage. But I’ve never encountered a resource more life changing than God himself. Where is the disadvantage in that?
Even still, the “if only” scenarios come in waves. The waters calm for longer periods of time, I’m so thankful for that. But the reality of this life is that those waves are unpredictable in their nature and their ebb and flow is cause for many sighs. I cannot just decide one day that I will never again feel sorry for myself. That’s just not possible. There are too many seemingly picture perfect families around me for that to happen, and my core sin is envy. (I know I know, no family is perfect… envy people. It has no filter). However, I can promise to look up and surrender those moments of weakness to the God who promises this…
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
Calling Out These Thoughts
For transparency sake, and in case someone is reading this feeling isolated by the thoughts that lead us astray, let’s just call out a few of the thought patterns that create the divide and give life to “us” and “them”.
Guilt – “If only I had done [insert long list of regrets] differently, my son would have a better life.” (Right. Because it doesn’t take two to tango.)
Outcast – “My family doesn’t do divorce. Hardly any of my friends are divorced. How did I end up like this? Where do I fit in?” (According to the CDC website, the provisional number of divorces and annulments in the US were 879,000 the year I became a single mother. Looks like I’m not alone after all.)
Unworthy – “I know I’m not worthless as in worth nothing, but I seem to be worth less.”
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (MSG)
From a worldly standpoint it may appear that single parent homes are broken homes. But friends, if God has used this trial to bring you to the foot of the cross and you are raising your kids to know and love Jesus and you are living your life in pursuit of God, then wouldn’t you call that a broken home redeemed? You’d be crazy not to.
Here is what you need to do when that broken home mindset kicks in:
Take those thoughts captive that say you are “less than”.
Say the name of Jesus out loud and claim power over the lies that set you back in your moments of weakness. (Those moments will come, but you aren’t powerless against them.) Ask God to replace those lies with truth.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Cor 10:5 (NIV)
Rest is often elusive for me. My mind goes crazy at night. I lie in bed with my eyes closed, desperate for sleep to relieve me of my thoughts. On a good night it takes about an hour from the time my head hits the pillow to the time my thoughts become dreams. Almost always my thoughts and dreams are driven by whatever my last focus was before going to bed.
If I checked my work email then I’m mentally mapping out the next work day. If I checked my son’s grades online I’m stressing about timelines of projects he has due. If I watched TV my mind runs wild with meaningless nonsense. If I’ve read my Bible I’m thinking on who I’ve read about and pondering the lesson learned, which almost always leads to prayer. That is when I stumble into a state of peace and my body releases the weight of all of life’s preoccupations. This is when I don’t toss and turn, when I allow my faith to usher me to sleep through the truest form of rest, God’s word.
Mentally Checked Out
Many of us have days where we come home from work tired and spent with not a whole lot left to give. I’ve commiserated with friends and family who also have to commute to work about the zombie-like state that sitting in traffic puts us in. Walking through the front door sometimes feels more like sleepwalking through the front door.
These are the days that I just want to spend the evening retreating from anything requiring brain activity. On goes the TV, occasionally followed by a glass of wine. The kid will have to grab a can of something out of the cupboard for dinner. The Mom in me is a no-show. The employee in me has clocked out. The friend in me is off the radar. I just need to not be needed in any capacity and rest.
So what about the Christian in me?
Does the Christian in me get to check out when I’m tired? The answer should be “no”, but the reality is that a lack of discipline will result in just that. Ironically my vices for “rest” are anything but. They do nothing to draw me nearer to an honest encounter with renewal, and instead leave me feeling guilty. The guilt? Only makes me more tired. Clearly checking out in front of the TV and mindlessly scrolling through Facebook only makes things worse.
I experience the opposite when I train myself to take a more disciplined approach. When I choose to open my bible, listen to worship music, or watch an online sermon, the things that occupy my mind which make me so tired take a back seat. The result is that when I do turn the lights off and close my eyes, my preoccupations are no longer center stage. They do weave their way back into my thoughts, which is an opportunity to take my thoughts captive (2 Cor 10:5), and that is so much easier to do when I’ve just finished reading scripture. It gives me a mental focal point to draw back to, a truth to rest in.
Tossing and turning night after night is a frustrating experience, but a friend reminded me recently that it is a process of training ourselves to take our thoughts captive. It does not happen overnight. It is a process that we can trust God to solidify in us if we are willing to stay the course.
How do you find rest?
What are the vices for rest that you use to distract yourself from the pressures of every day life? Have you experienced true rest from those things?
What thoughts do you take to sleep with you on a daily basis? Do you have scripture readily available to combat Satan’s schemes? Are you equipped to take your thoughts captive?
I’m on the wrong side of experience with this topic. Well, maybe that just depends on how I look at love. On one hand, I am on the right side, as I have no doubt I’m incredibly loved by an amazing God. On the other, I’ve come up way short of loving people the way God expects of me. Can anyone else relate?
There is so much to be said about how poorly we Christians set this example, and how incredibly wrong our culture is on understanding what love is. The truth is that it is too overwhelming to tackle in a simple post like this. I’m at a loss as to where to even start, which is usually where the Holy Spirit comes in…
“Ahem… can’t find all the right words? Don’t know where to start? Shocker. Do you really think you need to recreate the wheel? The scripture is already there. Just give a little reminder by putting it in front of them.”
Drive Love Home
Recently, I was in a meeting where a team was asked to provide suggestions on how to ensure that what was being taught would remain active in the workplace. One suggestion was to present the information to the team at each meeting, instead of moving on to a new training topic. Simply put, drive the message home until it has become second nature. So even though in the next meeting it will not be anything new, there will be a commitment to understanding and getting it right.
Maybe it’s time to make a commitment to understand love and get it right. Are we willing to make it a point to keep God’s instruction before us and drive love home before worrying about the other items on our Christian checklist?
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
The greatest of these is love! Where is our commitment to love in the midst of all the other topics we Christians are so passionate to defend?
What kind of Christian are you?
I’ve met some Christians who can quote scripture at the drop of a hat in one breath and with the next breath say the nastiest things about a brother or sister in Christ.
I’ve met Christians who will speak out against corrupt lifestyles that our society has widely accepted, but will tear others down for their own personal gain.
Now, if you know me at all and are reading this you know I’m not innocent of anything I talk about here. But none–and I mean none–of us can pretend we are. So please, don’t misunderstand me. This comes from a place of conviction, not a place of feigned moral high ground.
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Love is hard, folks. It is so unbelievably hard. Why? Because it is work. If we do not labor to love, we do not love at all.That is the bottom line.
What love is: An act of obedience.
What love is not: A feeling. This is where our culture gets it wrong. (Now before we get all “amen sister” let us not forget how much room for improvement we have on this topic. Preaching about how society has a distorted notion of love comes second to the issue of us Christians not leading the charge, so let’s not deflect.)
Merriam-Webster defines love as:
a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person
attraction that includes sexual desire: the strong affection felt by people who have a romantic relationship.
a person you love in a romantic way
The mother of all face palms is happening right here in my living room friends. It is no wonder we don’t get it. We just don’t get it! Here is what the creator of love has to say about what it actually is:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (emphasis added)
Patience can look like not acting on frustration. Kindness can be shown by choosing to pick our battles. Jealousy, pride, and rudeness can be avoided when we ditch the sarcasm and the need/desire for validation from anyone other than God. Truth can win out when we bite our tongue. Love can persevere if we don’t get lazy. These are action items. Nowhere does it talk about feelings. It is how we respond.
Responding to “Feelings”
In Beth Moore’s Bible study Living Beyond Yourself, she notes four ways to respond that fly in the face of our feelings:
Confront the situation.
Admit to God we lack agape (love) for someone.
Consider through scripture God’s response.
Be obedient and respond like Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but to me it sounds like something that endures through every circumstance has seen some things. Every. Circumstance. That is a big deal; that sounds like serious work to me. I want to get love in a room and tell it to write a book because that’s gotta be one heck of a saga. “Oh Sara, I am love, and that saga is The Holy Bible.” Oooh snap, did anyone else hear that? Mother of all face palms happening right now in heaven.
Let’s Get to Work
All right. That is enough chatter. Let’s get to work on this love thing, shall we? I’m certainly no expert but can suggest to you a couple resources I’m currently using to help drive love home in my life.
Pray your heart out. Ask God to help you get past your feelings and be moved into an active place of love. Can you imagine what the world would look like if we didn’t just know the following verses, but actually lived them?
John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
1 Peter 4:8: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone-especially to those in the family of faith.”
I’d LOVE to hear your personal experiences of how God has shown up in your obedient, hard and worthy acts of love. Brag about God in the comments section and encourage someone today!