Saturday, May 9, 2015

Unanswered Prayers

Do you ever look back in life and echo Garth Brook's sentiment "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers"? I think we have all had at least one experience where we are able to look back on a request we made and rejoice that God did not choose to answer in the manner that we sought at the time. Unfortunately, more often than not we don't have that luxury and I think it's our tendency to question why He didn't do as we asked.

If we are honest with ourselves, sometimes we view Him as a Genie that exists to grant our wishes. We think to ourselves that we've lived up to our end of the bargain by trying to live right and pray, and we expect Him to reward our efforts by answering our prayers just as we pray them. I'm being very transparent here when I say that I have felt this way at times.

When my marriage began falling apart, my first instinct was to run even harder after God and really soak Him in. As I grew closer to Him and made Him a larger part of my life, I began to expect Him to work things out in my life. When things not only grew worse in my marriage, but my children began struggling with self harm and suicidal thoughts and actions, I began to question. I could not understand what God was doing, and I couldn't understand why prayer and fasting weren't bringing me the results I wanted.

Initially, I felt very much abandoned by God.  I felt as if He were ignoring my prayers. And I’ve learned that many other women can relate to that feeling at some point in their lives. That is when the truth contained in a quote I read recently by Tim Keller really needs to be taken to heart. “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows”. We know in our hearts that God is good, and that He wants the best for us. But we get so caught up in the immediate, in the little picture. We lack the ability to see into the future and see how things turn out. But if we could... we would ask for very different things than what we ask for now.

Over time, with continued prayer, therapy and medication, my girls began to heal. As a result of what they have been through, they have a heart to help those that are in similar situations. They can relate to struggling peers in a way that someone who has never suffered could. After much prayer, I also realized that my marriage was over and that it was time for me to move on. As a result of what I have been through, I can encourage women that are victims of adultery, women that have been abandoned and rejected by the one that pledged to love them most, moms that have watched their children struggle with depression and self harm, and women that have begged God to die so they could escape the pain. Do I understand why God didn't make us able to relate without having to suffer ourselves? No. But I know that He redeems our pain when we use our story to help other people. And it's not just our story. It's His story as well. The story of how He carried us through a time that we were incapable of getting ourselves through. The story of how He was there for every tear that was cried.

There are so many people out there going through the same struggles, but we're not real with each other. We paint on a smile and pretend that everything is dandy. I've had so many people share with me that they have had some of the same struggles that I've had or that my children have had. We need more of that transparency. Do not let Satan shame you into silence. It's in speaking out and seeking help that healing begins. I don't know where I would be without the prayers of my family, friends and church family. Was it easy to admit that I needed help? No. And honestly there were very few that knew just how much help I needed until I began to heal and shared just how bad things had gotten. The support that I received made me wish I had been much more transparent and open during the deepest parts of the struggle. Reaching out is hard. I know!! But the benefits are worth the discomfort.

So let me encourage you with this. If you could see the same plan God sees, your prayers would be very different. Paul, a man that was imprisoned on more than one occasion for sharing the gospel penned the following words. "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel." Philippians 1:12. Perhaps God is working in you to create a story that will help someone struggling in this painful world. Perhaps He is creating in you a testimony that not only inspires others, but points them right to the Great Physician, the only one that can truly heal our aching hearts. Whatever He is asking you to go through, He will also carry you through. And ultimately, if we ourselves could see as God sees, we'd say "Thank you". Even the very worst things that we suffer can be redeemed and given purpose.

Trust in what you know, and what God tells us in His Word. God is good. Even when life isn't. I struggled. I cried, begged and pleaded for things to be different. And they are. Not in the way I expected them to be, but in ways that are so much better. Let God dream for you. Let Him mold you into the person He designed you to be. The process may be painful, but the finished product is worth it!