Unanswered Prayers and Longing Hearts

Daisies were my mom’s favorite flower. Honestly, her life resembled their beauty. She was a sweet spirited, gracious woman of faith pouring out JOY and the love of Christ to all who knew her.  Though her marriage of almost 50 years was not how she would have envisioned it, she stood strong and courageous and embraced her place.  She believed God for better days ahead and kept believing, in spite of the many obstacles.  Hidden behind her beautiful smile, her life consisted of frequent frustrations and brokenness.  There were seasons when she wanted to walk away but it was fear that kept her where she was but faith that gave her the guts to dare to believe that her tomorrows would be different.

I understand my mom so much better these days. The struggle between fear and faith, comfortable and risky, holding on and letting go.  Oh, how I wish her life could have been different.  Fear is a prison that shows no mercy if not reckoned with.  As her daughter, my heart breaks for hers still today but really, that’s so silly.  She is basking in her eternal home with Jesus now which takes away so much more than the sting of death but also the brokenness that she lived through.

I hoped and believed with my mom for things to change.   After all, we knew we were praying according to God’s will, so why did my mom not get to witness the fruit of her prayers?   I know about free will, choices, and all of that however, being aware of those kinds of things doesn’t lessen the pain of our heart’s longings, right?

SO, what do we do with unanswered prayers, longing hearts and chronic suffering?

The day I lost my mom is the day I lost my best friend.  It was a loss like no other.  I  think about my fervent, pleading prayers and belief for my mom to be healed of cancer and am wistfully reminded of her passing each day and most heavily each time my kids have milestone moments that I am unable to share with her.  AND now with my precious grand-babies, her loss is felt even more.  Oh, how she would so love them!! Nevertheless, I am quite aware that we are not, by no means, the only ones on the planet to experience this kind of long-suffering in what seems to be a never-ending journey through the wilderness of pain and unanswered prayers.

I think about the couple who unceasingly prayed for years to conceive a child, finally giving birth to a beautiful baby boy, only to have their dreams forever crushed as they lost their precious baby to cancer.

I think of the little girl who cries out to God to heal her daddy, only to have him die in a car accident, three months later.

I think about the parents who fervently prayed for their child who was put into prison for drugs, only to have him released and then die from an overdose.

I think about the missionary who felt the call of God to go to a foreign country, who interceded on behalf of the lost, who believed God for protection only to be martyred, never seeing the fruit of his labors.

I could go on and on about loss, suffering, and unanswered prayers and perhaps even add your story to the above. This side of Heaven, THIS. IS. LIFE. IT. IS. HARD.  However, this is not meant to depress you, to tell you that prayer is meaningless or to deflate your faith!  Please stay with me.

Though my mom’s prayers were not answered  this side of heaven the way she had hoped,  she died in faith, STILL believing that our God is faithful.  And you know what?  There are MANY who passed before her, whose FAITH stood the test of much patience, suffering, brokenness, along with those who were burned, tortured, stoned, imprisoned, whipped and oppressed even unto death. Of course, for the most part, these beautifully brave and courageous followers of Christ were not noticed by our world Their faith did not earn them any special accolades or awards.  I can promise you this; if they were standing before us they would say none of that mattered to them.  They were doing what they did for an audience of ONE.  Friends, that ONE took SPECIAL notice of their kind of faith, so much so, that He felt it important enough to speak of them…

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.  But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.                Hebrews 11:13-14

Did you catch that?  Read the first part again.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them.  

They did not receive what was promised

Friends, sometimes our prayers are answered quickly, obviously, and even miraculously.  Our faith is ignited and our doubts are laid dormant in light of God’s evident working power in our lives and in the lives of those around us.  Other times, God’s perfect plan comes to fruition in ways that we might not recognize or understand.

Over the long haul of asking and believing, it gets tough. We get weary.  Our faith wavers.  We don’t like to think about having to continue in the wilderness of suffering and unmet longings and certainly we don’t want to even consider leaving this earth without seeing our gut-wrenching prayers answered.  Friend, you already know this, but maybe it is time to really embrace it; your prayers may not be answered THIS side of Heaven the way you would like them to be.  Can you be okay with that? What will your response be when things don’t go as you had prayed?

Whatever it is you are praying for or against, GOD has a purpose weaved all through it.  He lovingly filters ALL things that impacts the lives of his children.  If he allowed it, HE plans to use it for GOOD.  Not only will He use it to transform YOU, but to bring about HIS Kingdom purposes on this earth and in the hearts of those you love.

This is a quote worth sharing;

“We can be sure our prayers are answered precisely in the way we would want them to be answered if we knew everything God knows.”  Tim Keller

If you step back and look at it from a Heavenly perspective, those in Hebrews 11 really received the GREATER promise…the promise of their happy eternal after with Jesus.  By God’s grace and strength, that is what they kept their eye on, as the scripture tells us.  That is how they faced the horrific and unimaginable suffering that they were subjected to.  I adamantly pray that I could do the same. How about you?

Friends, this journey on this earth is NOT the MAIN thing!  So much of the time we are so short sighted that we lose our eternal perspective.  In the scheme of things, THIS life on earth is SO short, so minute compared to eternity.  Let me just remind all of us, myself included,  that God’s calling upon our lives, first and foremost is to be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world.  That is God’s heart…to save the lost.   Are we grieving over the lost and interceding for them or are we obsessing more over our own unanswered prayers? I know for me, sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own little world that I lose sight of what is REALLY important.  I get so distracted by what is right in front of me.

Don’t misunderstand me; I am in no way belittling the heart-wrenching things you may be praying about.   Even as I write this, there are tough and difficult circumstances in my own life that I am continually laying on the alter of prayer.   I want things fixed NOW! I don’t like waiting, I don’t like feeling out of control, I don’t like pain, and I don’t like the unknown.  So, are things changing? No, not altogether…but what is changing is me.  Trusting, believing, and even waiting brings growth and maturity that cannot come otherwise.  For now, that is MORE important to my loving Father than to change the circumstances I am praying about.  So,  I will keep praying and believing that my God is in control and hears every prayer. I can be confident that God has a Divine plan that exceeds my limited vision.

It is obvious that prayer is important to God.  After all, it has been noted that there are around 650 prayers in the bible. Prayer is powerful and brings about amazing and Divine things on this earth! Jesus even prayed and gave us the ultimate example to follow.

Without prayer, there is no communication and no communication means no relationship!  Therefore, keep praying, by all means.  And as you do so, think about your difficulties this way; if what you are suffering and/or praying for is keeping you humble and dependent upon Jesus then consider it a divine blessing of grace! Amen?!

Will you continue to believe God and not allow your faith to be shaken though your prayers may seem stagnant in the wilderness of waiting or chronic long suffering? Can you passionately pray a bold and courageous prayer just as Jesus did and proclaim from the depth of your soul “not my will but thine be done”?  Lord, Jesus help us!

Will YOUR name be added to the precious saints that God deemed worth mentioning because, by FAITH, you continue to believe until your last breath on earth?  I don’t know about you, but Hebrews 11:13 gives me tenacious HOPE and a resolve to bravely and steadfastly continue to BELIEVE and TRUST God no matter how long the waiting or the pain of brokenness my heart may endure.

Friend, God sees you! God hears you and His perfect love for you will answer your hearts cry as every circumstance and every difficulty is filtered through His amazing grace.  Keep praying, keep believing, keep trusting, and keep serving!  Always remember what God has ALREADY done for you! May you be filled with HOPE as you see heaven and Jesus as the backdrop in every single thing you encounter on this journey! He is faithful and the ultimate Promise Keeper! Believe it!

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her. Luke 1:45

So we do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in Heaven which we have not yet seen.  The troubles will soon be over; the joys to come will last forever.  2 Corinthians 4:18

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved.  Psalm 55:22

Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24

How Will They Know?

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Deuteronomy 32:3

I will PROCLAIM the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!

If you have known the Lord for anytime at all, you have, no doubt, experienced the greatness of our God.    Since the day of your salvation, God has been writing your story.  A story FULL of His divine, amazing grace.  What has God done since that day?   What storms has He calmed?  What wounds has He healed?  Are you proclaiming His greatness? Somebody needs to hear about the faithfulness of your God….somebody this very minute needs hope.

Think about it……….

How will the mom who has lost her precious baby know that He is the God of all comfort?

How will the wife whose husband left after many years of marriage know that He is the God that will never leave her nor forsake her?

How will the man who is bound by addiction find out that He is the God of deliverance and freedom?

How will the couple on the brink of divorce find out that He is the God of restoration and redemption?

How will the parents who are utterly devastated by the choices their child is making find the strength and courage to continue to pray and believe for divine intervention?

How will the woman who has just went through the brokenness of divorce find that her identity is not defined by her marital status but in who Christ says she is?

How will the man who feels he is at the end of his rope find hope and hear about Jesus dying on the cross for his salvation?

How will the lady who has just been diagnosed with cancer find faith to believe that Jesus is her healer?

How will the woman who aborted her baby and is now consumed with regret and shame find out the He is the God of abundant mercy and love?

How will the father who has lived a life of regrets and shame find out that He is the God of forgiveness and new beginnings?

How will the girl who feels she can never measure up and therefore, wants to give up, find that she is fearfully and wonderfully made…created by God who loves her completely and unconditionally?

I could go on and on with regards to life and the gut-wrenching things that people face day in and day out.  Life is hard! This world needs HOPE.  This world needs you to share the HOPE that has brought you through! 

Jesus walks with us through the wilderness of pain, loss, rejection, and brokenness not only to transform us into His likeness and to heal us but so that others can be transformed and healed, as well.

Here is what I have found to be true.  Broken people can confide in a Pastor for prayer and wisdom, which is very beneficial and recommended.  They can go to a Godly, licensed counselor to help facilitate healing and wholeness, which is absolutely wise and proactive.  They can share their pain with a friend which will bring great comfort to their hurting heart. But there is nothing like hearing God’s story of redemption and hope from someone who KNOWS what it is like to go through what you are experiencing. 

I understand this first hand.   The years of betrayal leading up to my divorce left my heart broken and full of loneliness and even shame, at times. For so long, within my close circle of friends, there was no one who had experienced what I was going through. Though they were so very kind and gracious, they couldn’t really understand my pain. When God finally brought someone into my life who had been where I was and was willing to share her own story, I found hope like I hadn’t had before.  I devoured every word she had to say….I knew she understood me.  The LIES that the enemy had been shouting to my wounded heart were exposed.  I wasn’t the only ONE who ever faced this.  I was NOT alone.  My feelings were NOT crazy!  God was STILL with me!  Truth  brought some bright hope to my darkness that day  because one dear sister was willing to be transparent about her past and God was glorified.

Dear friend, our painful and messy lives can be used to proclaim God’s powerful message to the hurting!

Part of me wants to passionately ask…how can we NOT tell them? How can we not tell about how God gave us hope when we had none? How He saved, healed, redeemed, restored and delivered?  How can we possibly keep silent when God has been so abundantly gracious to us?  

Lord, thank You for Your amazing and precise grace that has saved us and brought us victoriously through our most darkest and unwanted seasons.  May we boldly proclaim your goodness!  Help us to bravely allow our struggles, brokenness, and pain to be used to bring GLORY and HONOR to your name.  Amen!!

2 Corinthians 1:4  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

 

 

No Turning Back

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After a lengthy season of engaging in travailing prayer for a specific heartbreaking situation, weariness can set in. Especially, if what you have been praying for seems to be going way south…. heading in the opposite direction of what you have been praying and believing. You have done all you can do. You know you are praying according to God’s Word. You have believed with all your heart and still, you wait. However, the winter season has been long. Your wait is losing its strength and your hope of change is fading. Maybe you are praying for the healing of a close loved one or friend and you hear the devastating news that it is time to remove “life support” or maybe you are told that hospice has been notified.  Maybe you are praying for a spouse whose choices have destroyed your marriage and you can know longer deny the evidence that God is preparing your heart to let go. Or maybe it is a son or daughter who is headed down an extremely dark path that has left your heart immensely broken as you struggle to find a way to rescue them only to finally accept the fact that you can’t rescue someone who doesn’t want to be rescued. Oh, help us dear Jesus! How do you keep from being taken under by discouragement? How do you NOT take on offense towards God? In these times, deep seeded discouragement begins to wrap itself tightly around your bleeding heart and instead of healing the wound it only works to squeeze all joy and hope out until there is no peace. 

I understand. The struggle is real. After one phone call, overwhelming joy that I enjoyed just minutes before, quickly dissipated. Discouragement and hopelessness became my companions. I felt myself starting to cave into my own pity party. It was at that moment that I felt this question evade my broken heart. It was if Jesus was asking me, “What if you don’t get what you are praying for? What if the very thing you want to happen more than anything never happens? Will you STILL trust me?” It reminded me of the question that had been placed before me in the past, “What if I never answered another prayer, will you still love me?  Will you still allow me to be your Father?”  These are the moments that question our faith and cause us to wrestle with our beliefs, motives and even our own selfishness. Will we stay committed when we don’t get our way or will we turn away from Jesus just as many did because they did not understand what he was doing?    

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”  But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this?  Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)  And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”  After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”  John 6:60-69 

There have been hard moments in my wrestling when I have been reminded of the above scriptures.  Sadly, I understand those who thought His sayings were “hard”.  I understand the disappointment of things not going as they thought they should.  I understand the offenses that can come from not understanding His ways.  God’s Word tells us that some disciples turned back from following Jesus because they were offended by Him.  They did not understand so they let their misunderstanding lead their heart away from the ONE who could save it.

Jesus then turns to the twelve disciples and basically asks if they want to turn back, as well.  There is something about His question that causes me to pause.  To camp there a while.  My heart tries to imagine what Jesus was feeling at that moment.  Rejection is hard…even for Jesus.   As I think about the times I have asked that question in my own mind regarding relationships that I have had, I feel grief.   Going through a divorce magnifies those kind of thoughts and demands losses you never saw coming.  It is heartbreaking.  So is life.  Rejection is just part of it.  I am thankful to know that Jesus understands.  He gets it.  That is enough for me.  That is all I need to know to surrender my losses to Him and let them go.   I appreciate Peter’s response to Jesus.  He was not offended by Him, only committed to Him.  No turning back for him.  In my own wrestling and in the midst of unanswered prayers, I too, like Peter realize that no matter how much I don’t understand His ways, Jesus holds the words my heart needs to hear.   His invitation to surrender and stubbornly plant my messy self in the safety of his loving sovereignty and amazing grace trumps the bate of offense that satan offers.

More than answered prayers, more than things going my way, more than understanding the why’s of life, I need Jesus.  Not so much for what He can do for me this side of heaven, but for what His extravagant love has already done for me that guarantees my happily ever after in the next.  What love!  He has proven Himself faithful to me in the past, no matter how my heart perceives the trials and tribulations that may be in my future.  God is STILL trustworthy.  He is STILL faithful.  His plans are GOOD.

Matthew 11:6 says, “And blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied) is he who takes no offense at Me and finds no cause for stumbling in or through Me and is not hindered from seeing the Truth.”

Friends, allowing ourselves to become offended towards God is a real issue.  It can happen.  How will you respond when your prayers aren’t answered that way you wanted?   What about when you don’t understand…when the questions come?  Jesus tells us that we will be blessed when we do not take on offense towards Him and allow it to take root in our hearts.   Throughout my seasons of heartbreak, I can boldly proclaim that I have been sweetly blessed! God’s Word to me has never failed to lead my heart through the valleys and dark places I never thought I would travel.   It has not at all  been easy but I decided a long time ago that there is NOTHING worth losing my relationship with the Lord, nothing! Not unanswered prayers, not misunderstanding, not offense, not bitterness, not divorce, not disappointments, not brokenness, not pain……NOTHING!

What about you?  Sweet friend, can I encourage you to search your own heart?  Do it before the hard things come.  Determine that you will not let ANYTHING cause you to turn back as many did.  Allow God’s Word to be the compass of your heart and NOT your misunderstanding of His higher ways.   Remember His faithfulness to you in the past.  Remind yourself of how very much He loves you.  Let His truths be your anchor in the wrestling.  Just like Peter, let’s follow Jesus and determine to not turn back…ever.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Romans 8:18