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

Trusting and Waiting

flower

It happened several years ago, one August morning. In some ways it seems like forever ago.  Yet, I still remember it so vividly.  I was awakened from a deep sleep with the following scripture on my heart.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:3-5

I would love to sound all spiritual and say this was a normal occurrence in my life.  However, being awakened with a Word from God just pouring into my spirit wasn’t something that I was used to.  It is for that very reason that I knew this was special and I needed to pay attention. Of course, I didn’t understand it then but it was soon to be my life-line for the most difficult season I had ever encountered.

You see, a few years before that memorable August morning, something had gone way south in my marriage. It had happened many times before but this time was different. I knew it. Sure, our marriage had been extremely difficult over the years and there was much brokenness and betrayal throughout but I believed that we had finally progressed beyond all of that.  I so longed for the testimony that we had previously shared with our church family,  to continue to be the testimony of our tomorrows.  I knew God was able! Even though my gut persistently screamed at me and I saw the red flags waving, I didn’t want to give significance to any of it.  I wanted to believe that I was just being paranoid and overly sensitive.  But deep in my core, I knew.

My consistent and gut wrenching prayers became more desperate as time went on.  I asked God to bring light to the darkness, for Him to reveal what I felt like I already knew.   I begged Him and pleaded with him time and time again.   Consequently, there was no big reveal, no explanation, no tangible evidence, nothing! However, God was not totally silent. Thankfully, He gave me an anchor to hold onto.  The word “faithful” was graciously dropped in my spirit.  What did that mean?  I knew.  God was calling me to be faithful in the midst of the not knowing, the brokenness and the pain. He was asking me to simply trust Him and wait.  I had to be faithful…as a wife, as a mom, as a daughter of God and in God’s timing, He would bring truth to light and reveal His wisdom.  I could not let my feelings dictate my actions.  I could not run, I could not give up.  I had to continue right where I was, doing what I knew to do in that season of waiting.  It was a daily battle.  I prayed and surrendered my concerns, fears, frustrations, anger and pain to Jesus as I had so many times before.  However, things seemed to only get worse.  I cried and grieved a lot during that time and to say a lot is not an exaggeration. I think I knew in my heart what was coming and it broke me.  I had dear friends who tried to intervene but, unfortunately,  their kind efforts were unfruitful.

Looking back, I am beyond grateful that I was given the gift of divine space to begin the grieving process while still within the boundaries of marriage. I think I can compare it to a loved one being taken care of by Hospice at the end of this life. You know the end is coming and God, in His amazing love and grace, begins to prepare your heart to let go. I have no words to describe the difficulty of that season. It truly was like a slow death.

In the short years that followed, my dad was diagnosed with cancer and I was his care-giver.  He lived in my home  before he entered his heavenly home. I will not go into the added chaos and brokenness this brought into my life but it was very much a distraction from the sinking feeling that my world was about to be forever changed in more ways than I could comprehend.  Looking back now, the Lord was so very gracious.  He cares so very much about our burdens and brokenness. He knew this broken girl could only handle one huge life changing thing at a time.  It was not until about seven months after my dad had passed away that some truths were finally revealed. Subsequently, a month or two after I had awakened with the scripture I mentioned earlier. God’s timing is always perfect!  His ways are so much higher than our own!  Though my heart was broken in more pieces than I could count, I praised my God! I distinctly remember falling to me knees at that precise moment…it was bittersweet.   I thanked Him for finally bringing to light what I needed to know, even though it hurt so deeply.   It was then that I knew it was time. When you know, you just know.  I was rescued. I was released.

I used to always wonder how couples who had been married for 30 years could end up getting a divorce.  It seemed totally crazy to me. After-all, if you made it that far, you should be able to ride it out for the long haul, right?  Well, now I get it.  There comes a time when you finally say, enough is enough. I can’t do this any longer.  I need peace. I need to take the short years I have left and live them to the fullest even if it means living them alone.  It is not the life we would have chosen but that is how things sometimes turn out this side of heaven.

It has been nearly three years since I made that decision,  I dealt with two deaths in a short amount of time, the death of my father and the death of my marriage.  The death of my father was so very hard..but the death of my marriage and the challenges that have followed have proven to be the most challenging and painful season I have EVER walked through. Even though the struggles were overwhelming at times, I know my God rescued me.  Yes, God ordained marriage, Yes, God hates divorce! However, I know He loves His daughters MORE than He hates divorce.   I do not for one second condone divorce.  It is ugly.  It is hurtful.  It is devastating.  It affects SO many people. It is not how it was supposed to be.  I would NOT encourage any sister of mine to walk this path without first seeking wise Godly counsel and WAITING for God to reveal His guidance.  Waiting is a key factor.  You cannot make this decision based on your hurt and brokenness.  Emotional decisions are not wise.  You have to give yourself time to work through some of your brokenness before making such a life-altering decision…this applies to every area of our life!

I am 100% FOR marriage!  I am 100% for commitment and staying for the duration.  I am also 100% convinced that when you have done all you can do… the braver, more courageous choice is to let go and let God lead you out.  After 30 years, it was scary, it was stepping out of the boat of “I can’t do this” and taking hold of Jesus, trusting Him to keep me and my children from sinking.  It was like having a somewhat twisted, toxic and unhealthy security being pulled out from under us.

So why am I writing all this? Because somebody needs to hear it.  I used to think that going through a divorce was the worst thing that could ever happen, so I adamantly avoided it at all costs.  Friend, I can confidently say with humble thankfulness, that what seems like the worst thing that could ever happen is NOT the worst thing because we serve a faithful God! He  walks with us through the yuck and the messy and helps us to be braver and more courageous than we ever thought we could.

The morning when I woke up with Proverbs 3:3-5 on my heart was a divine father-daughter moment in which I will never forget.  Of course I did not understand the significance of it then but now, wow!!  He wanted me to know that I could trust Him through the unwanted, challenging and downright messy season I was about to enter into.  He was going to be with me… leading, guiding, protecting, and upholding me and my children and though I would not understand it all, I could still trust Him.  He would make me brave.  He would give me courage to face what was coming.

Throughout this journey, I was reminded of that scripture  time and time again.  I prayed it, repeated it, cried through it and stubbornly held onto it when my feelings told me otherwise and my God never failed me.

AND so it it with you, dear sister!  Our God can be trusted!  I have heard it said, “You don’t really know what trust is until you have to trust!” That is so true!  I can tell you, at your point of desperation, God is there.  He is with you.   He is writing your story and His grace and mercy are weaved all through it bringing beauty from what may have appeared to be something that you could not fathom having to endure.

Sweet sister. NO matter what your scary thing is, God is bigger! Though you may experience pain like you never have before, you will also experience God’s amazing grace like never before. He is such a loving Father.  So what is it? What scary thing is the enemy using to torment you with by whispering “you can’t do it, you can’t make it, you’re not good enough, God can’t use you, you’re too messed up, you are not smart enough”, etc? Stop listening to THAT voice and take hold of what God says! Your problems are no match for God’s promises! Be brave and take hold of HIS grace and step onto the waters of obedience and mercy and see what He will do!  

Is it a time of waiting and preparation or is it a time of action and application? 

Whatever season you are in, God’s grace is precise and sufficient for YOU! Trust HIM with ALL of your heart.  God’s plan is so much bigger than what you can think or imagine.   Seek that father-daughter relationship with Him and as you do, you can be CONFIDENT that He will hold you, comfort you, lead you, protect you, provide for you, empower you, bless you, and work ALL things together for your good and for HIS glory!  THAT, my friend is WHO HE IS!  Believe it!

Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

 We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28

Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.  Psalm 27:14