Unanswered Prayers?

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Do you remember the song, “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks? Part of the lyrics go like this:

“Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers. Remember when you’re talking to the Man upstairs…that just because He may not answer, doesn’t mean He don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts…are unanswered prayers.”

I don’t listen to Country radio much anymore, but this song came to mind when thinking about “thankfulness”.

You see, even as much as I love this song (and music, in general), I have been taught that God DOES hear every prayer and He DOES answer. It just might not be the answer I want.

God hears our pleas, our cries, and our lamentations. Every single one of them.

And He answers. Every single one of them.

Some of His answers could be “yes”, “no”, or “not right now…trust My timing”. It might seem like He isn’t answering, but perhaps He is, just in ways we choose not to see. He might be silent for the moment, but be assured He will answer.

Of course we want the “yeses”.

We want the “answered prayer” to be the solution we have desired…whether it be healing, comfort, strength, courage, etc.

But what happens when His answer is “no”? Do you/we lose faith in him? Do we demand a better answer? Do we accept what He has said?

Sometimes when His answer is “no” or “not right now”, I can get frustrated. With my life seemingly out of control at times, I sometimes wonder, “Why, God? Why can’t You just allow this to happen? I don’t understand.”

It’s not always our privilege to understand. We’re not always given the immediate answer.

But does that mean He doesn’t care? Absolutely not!

There have my been many, many, many prayers I have prayed over the years that God has answered with a “no” or “not yet” or “be a little more patient….My plan is unfolding.” I admit I don’t always understand. Or even like it. But I have to believe He knows what’s best. I struggle with it sometimes, because when I don’t surrender…it’s because I believe I know what’s best.

Over time I have learned to be thankful for what seemed to be “unanswered prayers”. I’m so thankful He didn’t (and doesn’t) give me everything I want and believe I need. If was in complete control of my life, it would not go well.

His ways are ALWAYS higher than ours.

His understanding is beyond what our finite minds can comprehend.

He is all-knowing, all-powerful and always present. Because of that, we can be assured He hears us all.

As I’m writing this, I’m thanking Him for not allowing me everything that is comfortable; that I believe would make me “happy”; and that really wouldn’t be good for me. I’m so thankful for answered prayers, even when He’s leading me down a path I’m unfamiliar with. I need to continue working on trusting Him completely, and without a doubt and quickly.

Can I ask you…have there been times you have felt God isn’t hearing your prayers, or answering them?

Are there times when you wonder, “How many times do I actually have to ask for this particular thing”?

My friend, sometimes we won’t get a direct answer…a direct lead…something tangible and as clear as the nose on my face.

But during those frustrating, waiting times, offer Him a thank you. Tell Him you trust Him and are thankful He can see the whole picture, even when we can’t. Thank Him for being all-knowing and all-powerful and always present. Simply continue with the thankful heart you can have, no matter if you’re particular dream seems to be put aside.

One night, many years ago, I experienced one of the most excruciating and painful times in my life. When I laid my head on my pillow that night, I thanked God. I told Him that I didn’t understand how that event would ever work itself out for good, but until I did see the fruit coming from it, I would thank Him for the experience and all that came with it.

I was used to thanking God in all circumstances already, so that night didn’t seem so difficult. I do see some good coming from that experience and I truly am grateful. Not for “unanswered prayers”, but simply thankful for God’s sovereignty over all areas of my life.

Precious Lord, I ask You to help me live with a thankful heart…and a thankful soul…and a thankful attitude. Sometimes it’s not easy and I need Your help. I know You will equip me with the tools I need and for that, I thank You. Father, help anyone reading this prayer, to become thankful in all aspects of their lives, knowing You are in control. Thank You for being the only God I need and forgive me for wanting to have control over certain situations. Thank You for loving us enough to say “no” or “not yet”. Thank You for the trials and triumphs in my life and in other people’s’ lives, because those times can bring us to our knees in prayer, love, adoration, and faithfulness, as well as repentance. Train us to be thankful to You and for You. Amen.

    Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 (NIV)

Let’s Talk About Love

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“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (ESV)

Such a well-known verse, huh? Did you learn it as a child, like I did? Like my children are?

Or maybe you’re new with your faith and this is a verse you have yet to learn. That’s okay, let me introduce you to it!

“but God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”       Romans 5:8 (ESV)

Have you heard that one before?

Here’s one more:

“Let all you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (ESV)

There are many scripture verses I could share about love…these are just a few. Do you see a common thread among them?

I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with the verbs.

Okay, not everyone wants an english lesson but I have to point them out.

“gave”, “shows”, “do”

What is He telling us? Any guesses?

He’s telling us that love is an action. 

I know we talk about being in love, speaking words of love to each other, telling those important to us how much we love them. But God doesn’t only want us using our words to show our love…he’s wants us to act on it.

God gave His only Son…to show just how much he loves each one of us.

God shows His love for us…by sending His Son to die on a cross, so we don’t have to endure that horrifying agony.

God tells us that all we do…should be done in love.

We need to follow His example, as hard as it may be at times. We’ve all heard (and probably said) “Actions speak louder than words.” Are loving words important? Of course. Should we still say them? Absolutely. But let’s not forget to show others our love.

I’m guilty of it….maybe someone reading this is, too. Sometimes I can say it, but my actions don’t match it. I’m not proud of that. I want to make excuses for it, but it’s the truth. Something I personally need to work on.

However, I can’t do it alone. I can’t rely on my own strength to show love to those I might struggle with.

Thankfully God’s love isn’t based on emotions, like mine can be at times. When anger or frustration or (heaven forbid) pride rears their ugly heads, it’s hard to show love. That’s when I need God to speak through me…move through me. I need to surrender those feelings to Him and allow Him to take over.

His love is unconditional and I need mine to be, too. Even when it’s hard…and the pain is all too real.

Like when you’re hurt by a friend’s words. Or you get into an argument with a spouse…over and over and over again. Or a family member has hurt you in a way you never thought family could. Or your support system wains and all but disappears. Or nasty words are spoken in the heat of the moment…words that replay in your head. Or when…

Can you finish that last one on your own? Do you have specific hurts that make it hard for you to show love towards someone? Bitterness, resentment, anger, or that nasty word I used before…pride?

Oh, there’s so much that can tear us all apart. If we let it.

Did you get that? If we let it.

Can you join with me and fight that urge? We can work to overcome the negative emotions, or maybe just acknowledge them but then release them…so we can open ourselves up to love again?

I know I can’t do it alone…without God. I don’t think any of us can.

So, let’s do it together…and give each other grace as we try to obey God’s words spoken in this final verse.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law? And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:36-39 (ESV)

A few questions to ponder….

What does “loving in action” look like in your life? Is there someone you can show love to today? Is there a new way you can show love towards others? Is there anything standing in your way that you need to surrender? 

Spend some time asking God for direction and answers to those questions. Listen for His whisper…and follow His lead. It will be worth it!

“Follow Me”

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I was heartbroken when we walked out those back doors. It seemed surreal at the moment, as if I couldn’t believe it was truly happening. Slowly, reality sunk in.

We had left our church for the last time. The church where my husband, our sons, and I were all baptized. Where my husband and I first participated in communion, confirmed our faith, and where we were married.

This was our home.

Our community of believers.

This was our history.

But it wouldn’t be from that moment forward.

Even though we had tough times before…extreme losses…hurt…pain and forgiveness, this felt completely different.

For the first time in my life, I had no idea where God wanted us to be.

I had no idea where He was going to lead us.

I took time away that afternoon to be alone….digest what had happened. I asked God for direction. I asked Him for the purpose in this. I asked “What next?” All I could see in front of me was darkness…the abyss…absolutely nothing.

I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t know where our children would attend Sunday School or church services. I didn’t know who our new church family would be. It was a blank slate, but one I wasn’t excited about.

I was at a loss.

I grieved.

I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.

I felt abandoned and alone that afternoon. Like I had been deceived my entire life and all that I had believed to be true, was a lie. It was an awful feeling and one I never want to relive.

So many questions…with no answers. So much hurt…but not sure where to turn. So much to think about…but I still didn’t know what to think.

Our synod had made some changes that my husband and I, along with others, didn’t believe were biblical. This led to more research, more questions, more unveiling of beliefs I didn’t know our church/synod believed. No one had come out and told us these things. It was as if they were “unspoken”, in a way.

Many fellow congregants didn’t have problems with any of the issues we were feeling convicted of. There were many who were angry we brought these issues to light. But the studying and praying and utter conviction on our hearts wasn’t something we felt we could ignore. We couldn’t stay in a church we knew didn’t believe the bible was the infallible, inerrant Word of our Almighty God.

It was ironic timing, as my husband and family had recently had the biggest growth in our faith to date. We were diving into scripture, relying on His promises and truths to get us through the hardest times of our lives. And when we were solidified and grounded deeply in our faith, this happens.

I don’t believe in coincidences…I believe God chose that moment to reveal that information after our roots had been so established in His Word and in Him. That was a time when we didn’t doubt God at all.

So, we felt we God wanted us to leave and follow Him. The only problem was we didn’t know where we were going. Where was He going to lead us? That church? Or that church? Or maybe that one? Which church? The only thing we were certain of was that God was still on the throne.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

That’s what we were ultimately being called to do. Have faith…be sure and certain…even though we could not see our hands being held right in front of our faces.

Blind faith.

Complete and utter surrender to His will for our lives.

Yes, we had a choice…but we chose to follow Him and His lead, wherever that might be.

At times I admit I was a little scared. Probably because I was out of control and couldn’t see the future. But most of the time, I felt peace knowing we followed our hearts…we followed the Word…we followed what we believed God was telling us to do. I knew at some point, He would bring us to the church that would feel like home again.

And He did. Not right away…and not after some tears and sweat and frustration and a lot of discussions….but with time, patience and faith, I believe we have found where we belong. At least I hope so.

There’s been so much uncertainty in my life, especially this past year. So much I could bring up…so much I don’t understand. Yet, this story was the one that kept coming to mind.

I don’t know what tomorrow might bring, but I know Who holds tomorrow.

I don’t know where our lives are taking us at this moment, but I know Who already has it planned out.

I don’t know how I’m going to get through this winter, but I know Who will help me.

I can’t see the future. I can’t see the answers to the many, many questions I have about life right now. But God has proven faithful over and over and over again, so how can I doubt He has the answers and is just waiting to reveal them to me? That He is telling me to be patient, yet again?

I did finally figure a bit of this out. It took me awhile (I’m blonde)…but I know all of these uncertainties…all of these black holes in my life…are only meant to bring me closer to God.

They’re meant to bring me closer to my husband and children, who I hope will turn to God along with me.

They’re meant to help my marriage thrive with God in the center, as long as we obey.

You see, walking with blind faith is actually a gift. A precious gift our Jesus gives us. He gives us moment after moment to draw close to Him…to come to Him with our questions and desires…our impatience…our dreams and desires…our fears.  Everything.

How can that be bad? A closer relationship with Jesus?

My study bible says, “When we believe that God will fulfill his promises even though we don’t see those promises materializing yet, we demonstrate true faith.” (regarding Hebrews 11:1)

Is God asking you to have blind faith? Are you resisting? It can be a scary step and I can’t promise all roses without the thorns. But I do know that God wants us to follow Him more than ever.

It can be a very good thing. The places He can take you (and me) are limitless. The gifts He can bestow on us are priceless. The life He offers us can be all we could hope for…and more.

Take His out-stretched hand and accept His invitation with blind faith…take the risk and revel in what He does with your life.

I can’t wait to hear what happens!