For the director of music. For pipes. A psalm of David.
“1 Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. 2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. 3 In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”
Have you ever prayed so hard for something that you thought there was no possible way that God wouldn’t answer it? I have. A few times. And a few times my prayers were not answered (the way I wanted them to be).
As a child, I prayed every night before going to bed that my mamaw would be healed of her Emphysema and that she would be able to breathe better. To have enough energy to walk to the kitchen from her arm-chair without having to sit down to catch her breath. To be able to play with me again down by the creek behind her house. We used to throw “boats” (sticks with leaves attached to them as sails) over the side of the bridge and watch the current sweep them away to their vacation destination. “Goodbye, Uncle Danny! We’ll see you later when you get back from West Union!” She went to be with the Lord when I was 12 years old right before the holidays. I was devastated. Still am, actually. 16 years later and I still miss her so much that tears are stinging my eyes and a knot has formed in my stomach typing this.
As mothers, we pray for so many things that might not get the answers we want: health for our kids, another baby, cooperation from our kids, financial stability, a nice house with a backyard for play times…the list goes on and on.
About two years ago, my husband Matthew and I (and more friends and family than we can count) prayed daily that there would be an opportunity for us to stay in Ohio instead of moving away for my husband’s career. To say we wanted to stay in our community is an understatement. Matthew and I met at The Ohio State University 12 years ago and fell in love with the city we called home (and we fell in love with each other, of course, but that is a different story for a different post). God blessed us with an amazing church home, whose community is hard to match elsewhere. It’s a small, quaint little church with a solid Biblical foundation and the strongest sense of family amongst its congregation that rivals flesh and blood relation. We were also an easy 2-hour drive to our actual flesh and blood, which is important to us now that we have two little ones. I could go on and on with reasons as to why we wanted to stay in Ohio, but I won’t. Because despite those reasons, and all of the prayers, fasting, listening, and waiting, door after door was shut in Ohio and door after door was opened elsewhere.
God Answers Prayer, Just Not How We Want Him To
“9 I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Sometimes the answer is ‘wait.’ Sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ When the answer isn’t yes, the words in Isaiah might send us into a temper tantrum, complete with pouting, screaming, kicking, and lots of tears. It’s hard to accept God’s plan when it isn’t what we want. Really hard. Regardless, we are instructed to trust God fully and be content in our circumstances, just like the Apostle Paul.
“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Prayers that go unanswered can be very frustrating, devastating, and faith-shaking to those that pour out their hearts to God. The issue is that we have a very incomplete and selfish view of the ways things are supposed to be. I wanted my mamaw with me because I loved that I talked to her on the phone almost every day and she was one of my best friends (there’s that knot again). I didn’t consider as a pre-teen that maybe God had different plans in store for her and my family – plans that our human minds couldn’t (or wouldn’t) comprehend but are way, way better than walking to the kitchen or throwing boats over the side of a bridge. We wanted to stay in Ohio because we want our kids to be close to family, we love having the best friends anyone could ask for down the street, and we loved serving a church that challenged, supported, and (spiritually) fed us.
God answered our prayers, just not in the way that we want him to. God did answer my prayer for my mamaw to be able to breath better, just not here on Earth. She’s taking in deep breaths by our Savior’s side instead. I’m hoping that God’s answer to our prayers about being in Ohio is a “not yet” instead of a “no.” Time will tell, but in the meantime, we made the difficult decision to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). In our case, following Jesus meant moving to San Diego. Tearfully, yes. But with a content heart, knowing that God’s plan for our lives and for our family is much, much better than we can imagine.
What prayer is God answering for you that is hard to accept? Maybe you desperately want another child but can’t get pregnant. Do you have to go back to work after taking time off for your kids and you’d rather not? Or maybe you or your children are battling health issues, maybe life threatening, and you can’t figure out why. It’s not our job to understand. It’s our job to trust God with everything.
“7 But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”