Oct 7, 2011

In the Midst of the Midst: the How and Why of It

Today I want to talk about those moments in life when we wonder why God is taking so long to answer our prayers. Those seasons may be sprinkled with doubt, frustration, and anger, but they are definitely saturated with one word. It is a word that causes us to become instantly aware of our lack of faith, limited wisdom, impatience, doubt, fear, and other human frailties. It is a word that we pose as a simple question and is found at the beginning of most complaints to God. 

WHY

Why do the wicked prosper? Why is there evil? Why won't you help me? Why won't you heal me? Why won't you heal my child? Why won't you show me the way? Why won't you answer me? Why won't you bring justice to this situation? Etc., etc., etc., 

As people who worship God, read His Word, and proclaim His goodness to a lost and dying world, we know that there are many good answers to bring us comfort and understanding to our predicament. At least, that is what we tell others when they are going through difficulty. When it's us, well ... that's often a different story. 

In our contemplation of difficult seasons there are a few things we know. We know that we are sinners in a sinful world. We know that God is constantly growing us and teaching us to rely upon Him. We know that He disciplines us, equips us, matures us, loves us, died for us, and is with us. We can quote verses and ramble off a grip of key insight found on many T-shirts, bumper stickers, websites, and christian radio stations. Yet, there is one thing that we cannot do, fix, or speed along. And that is God answering our prayer. Of course, if His answer is no, then we just have to accept it and move on. But God moves when God moves. He does so because of His great love for us, despite the fact that it doesn't seem like He's so loving when we're in pain. 

Here's what I've learned to do in order to pass the time when I find myself wondering where God is. 

First off, I remind myself that I'm in the midst of God working in my life. When I'm in the midst, I'm not able to see what is going on and, often times, find myself scrambling to figure it out. 99 times out of 100, God will never tell me why He is doing what it is He is doing or allowing what it is He's allowing. That doesn't stop me from asking why, however. (Just in case he tells me). I strive to keep my communication with Him open, free, unhindered, bold, raw, and honest. I also know that my inability to see Him or hear from Him clearly will put me on edge and make me vulnerable to misinterpreting every little thing as a sign from Him. It can become a bit neurotic and overwhelming. So, to calm down, I do this: I calm down. It's amazing how that tends to work. Anyway, while keeping my communication with Him, my friends, family, and mentors open and ongoing, I remember a great prayer from King David that is significant when we find ourselves in the midst of a difficult time. I just switch the word WHY with the question HOW LONG. 

Here's the Psalm that inspires me in those times: 

Psalm 13. 

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,"

and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord's praise,

for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:1-6 NIV)

When in the midst of God answering my prayers, switching from asking why to asking how long, provides a simpler way to hear Him say "not much longer." Then, regardless that it may look like He's not doing much to answer the prayers from my heart, I do my best to praise Him for being such a great God. How odd we people of faith are. We complain and praise at the same time. That's borderline nuts.

Anyway, I do believe God allows our prayers to move Him. But as long as we remember that He will not give us more that we can handle and that He is working all things together, we can find ourselves growing in trust and being spiritually transformed. 

In the midst of it all, we may not have a satisfactory answer for why God is doing what it is He is doing. However, since we are His children, I propose, much like kids in the back of a car on a long and painfully boring trip, we ask God "are we there yet? How much longer? I gotta pee." Hopefully, he'll speed it up and bring the long and difficult trial to an end. Or at least pull over to a rest stop.

 

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