I had the good fortune this week to have the opportunity to talk with a friend and fellow coach about trusting God. Her honesty was refreshing and both of us acknowledged how difficult it can be to trust God in the face of unanswered prayers. Now I am mature enough to know the God is not a “spiritual Santa Clause” so I’m not talking about prayers that involve frivolous requests. ” I pray I get a parking place.”, I pray I win a trip”, or I pray I can get a new, fancy car”. No, I am talking about prayers for a friend that has cancer; who passes away. I’m thinking about those who pray to become parents; remaining childless. Or the prayers of protection those who have beloved children pray; only to lose their children long before their lives have been lived. How do we navigate continuing to trust what God’s word clearly tells us:
Luke 11:9 says “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Mark 11:24 “ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.“
I believe these promises are true and have experienced God’s faithfulness over and over again! But, I have also walked through the darkness of prayers that were prayed with absolute faith yet have remained unanswered. How do we remain faith filled? How to we keep ourselves from feeling as though God is distant and unfeeling? How do we protect ourselves from becoming angry and disillusioned? In the movie God’s Not Dead, the college professor makes a profound statement; ” The biggest atheists are those were had been believers and experienced unanswered prayers”.
Have you experienced unanswered prayer? How have you kept yourself faith filled in the midst of the disappointment?
Three years ago, I had a precious family members life taken brutally at a young age. I had prayed for him all his life. I had seen God do mighty things in and with his life. He was amazingly talented and deeply loving. Upon the news of his death I spent almost 90 days angry at God, seeking understanding with the knowledge that God “could” have stepped in and protected him from losing his life. I was devastated and confused by the scriptures that had once given me comfort. Those verses now served to cause greater hurt.
God is good. His shoulders were big enough for my questions; even my anger. In His still small voice He just kept reminding me that He would help me through the pain. He would never leave me nor forsake me. He spoke the truth that His ways are higher than my ways. And slowly, with the power of the Holy Spirit, I could feel myself beginning to whisper “Even so, I will trust you.”
I couldn’t even begin to give you a formula for navigating this particular spiritual challenge, but there are a few action steps that will help keep your heart from becoming bitter.
1. Stay in God’s Word, it speaks to your soul.
2. Be brave to talk about your questions, don’t isolate.
3. Make sure you continue to look at your many blessings, even in the midst of unanswered prayer.
4. Be willing to learn something fresh from what you are having to walk through.
5. Remember, loss and challenge falls on the just and the unjust. It is part of our human condition and can help you gain keen empathy that will enable you to love and support others along the way.
Steven Arterburn in his article , When Prayers seem Unanswered says;
It certainly seems like a secure bet that sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because he’s aware that his, ours, and the whole world’s best interests will not be served if he does. It’s safe to say that when God decides what’s best, he’s got a broader perspective for making that decision than anything we can bring to the table.
All of which brings us to the very good reason that when mature Christians do pray for something, they tend not to say, “God, please do [such and such],” but rather, “God, if it is your will, please do [such and such].” This is the all-important caveat. Always leave to him the final determination of whether or not what you’re asking for is, in fact, the thing most ultimately beneficial.
We all want to live a life trusting the Lord. However, life can broadside us. Rather than pulling away, becoming angry, and perhaps even bitter, choose to remember God’s heart for you and I. Find yourself whispering “Even so, I will trust you.”