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?
Something I struggle with most, especially in this season of my life, is the UNKNOWN. I’m pretty sure most of us don’t like being left in the dark or being told to wait. We like to know what’s ahead, to carefully plan and prepare, to cover all angles. It gives us a sense of comfort to know what’s coming up, but as we all know that is just not real life. And it’s certainly not God’s design for us.
When my husband joined the military I was terrified! We were engaged at the time and it was so much change so quickly. His first station out of Coast Guard boot camp was on the other side of the world! Well…OK, it was just the other side of the country but to me, it felt a million miles away. At first I thought God made a mistake. “Surely you are not asking me to move across the country away from everything I’ve known!”
My soon-to-be husband Sam was stationed on a ship in Virginia, while I was in California, planning our wedding, working full-time, and going to school. Every time I asked him a wedding detail question, he would respond with “I’m not sure yet” or “I hope so”…not something a stressed-out bride wants to hear! The day after I sent out invitations to over 200 guests he informed me that he “may or not be able to make the wedding” with his ship’s schedule. Greeeaat. Long story short, he did indeed make it to our wedding in the nick of time. It was beautiful and my favorite day ever.
Since our wedding day there have been countless unknown details. When and where are we moving next? When are you coming home? When will you get into school? Most questions seemed to be answered at the very last minute.
I refer back to that time of our wedding often because it was the start of God working on my heart and taking me on a journey of trusting Him like I had never known before. In the beginning I felt like the unknowns might kill me. I felt like worry and anxiety might just swallow me up…or at least turn me into a crazy person. The first couple years of marriage we were 2,700 miles from home. My husband would leave for two months and then be home for two months. The schedule was far from ideal and I cried and prayed a lot. I felt like a baby. I missed my family and friends on the West Coast, my comfort zone.
But as I saw those “comforts” get stripped away, I saw God in a new way. I was desperate for Him. So much growth can happen when you’re forced to do hard things. It reminds us of our deep need for Christ and his sufficiency – it can be easy to forget when things are easy-breezy. Every time I was tempted to freak out, the Holy Spirit would nudge me to be thankful. He would fill me with His peace when I asked and it really did pass my understanding, like His word says. Our problems always seem so huge to us in the moment, but they often aren’t. I’m glad God is patient with us and doesn’t laugh at us for being so silly sometimes!
A few key things I’ve learned (and will always be learning!) to help me on this journey so far:
His ways are higher, His thoughts are greater. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Even when we think we know everything and want to be in control, we have to remember who God is. He is sovereign over all things. Sometimes that means going straight to the Word and preaching to ourselves when we need it☺
Remember His faithfulness. Sometimes you just have to reflect and see how God came through for you in the past. I’m a list person, so I like to write it down or go through old journals. We quickly forget all the ways God answered prayers, got us through the seasons of waiting, held our hand through the unknowns. It helps us trust Him with our future.
Don’t put God in a box, or set up your own expectations. So many times, whether I realize it or not, I create a list of things I’m OK with., ways that God is “allowed” to answer my prayers…it’s absurd because He is GOD! But I still do it, and then I’m upset when things don’t go how I thought. Instead, I’m trying to have a heart of expectancy, without set expectations. Recently, I read Romans 8 in the Message Bible. It sums up what God has been showing me:
“This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is and we know who we are: Father and children.” Romans 8:15-16 (The Message translation)
I want to live like that – adventurously expectant! I want to live knowing God is good and worthy of our trust, even if it looks different than we thought.
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