[Originally published as Trusting God when #Prayers Seem Unanswered]
Something funny happened after I wrote the first draft for this article. I’ll share it with you later.
In the meantime, I have a question for you.
Are you having trouble trusting God when prayers seem unanswered?
I have one especially puzzling unanswered prayer that’s testing my faith to its outermost limits. How do I hang onto my faith in the face of fearing for the safety and wellbeing of people I love?
Years ago, when I stopped trusting God after some important prayers seemed unanswered, I brought a bunch of sorrows into my life. This happened to me a couple of times. I never want to go on that desert journey ever again. Ouch.
Life is Stormy
My first desert journey began as a teenager. I prayed my parent’s marriage would be healed and that our family would live whole and happily ever after. I was tired and soul-sick of the regular upheavals rocking our home like a boat on stormy waves.
God didn’t calm our sea.
My parent’s stormy marriage eventually ended with a dramatic divorce whose tidal wave devastated the entire family. By the time the first separation happened, I was already estranged from faith. I followed a foolish path into the wilderness of unhealthy choices.
By the time I hit bottom and reached out for God, I was a shattered soul.
Trusting God Beats the Alternative
Nowadays, at any one time, I have at least a dozen ongoing prayer requests I’m regularly bringing to God. Some of them I pray daily. Some of those I pray frequently throughout each day. For you see, in my thirties, I again learned my lesson not to allow faith to fizzle out when prayers seem unanswered.
It’s foolish to stop believing God’s still in control. As my husband says, “Fear takes over when we lose faith.”
Fear took over in my thirties when the sudden, unexpected, and unexplained death of my dad rocked my boat from its safe harbor. I didn’t lose my faith completely. I lost most of my trust in God. I doubted God loved me and I stopped attending church. Then I doubted my husband loved me. As a result, our marriage threatened to tear loose from its mooring too.
Thankfully, God proved He was still in control. Through a series of providential prompts, I found my way back to trust. Several more devastating events soon followed my recommitment and subsequent baptism. This time I was able to choose to trust because I knew the alternative would bring me into a desert of suffering.
Not trusting God brings us fear
Fear isn’t a nice feeling and it’s a lousy friend. It’s the neighbor who allows its vicious dog the run of the neighborhood. The unruly canine nips at our heels when we try to go for a leisurely walk. Even when it’s in its master’s house, it disrupts our peace of mind because we constantly wonder when it’s going to show us its incisors up close and scary.
Fear causes us to dwell on the worst-case scenarios. It inhibits serenity. It squelches peace. It sabotages our faith.
Faith and trust are muscles that require regular exercise.
They are always better options than fear.
But how do we hang on in the prayer trenches? How do we keep faith in the face of disappointment and discouragement?
What I’ve discovered during my six decades of alternating desert and oasis walks is that God’s ways are way beyond our understanding.
Listen to what Psalm 90:4 NIV has to say about God’s sense of time:
For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
How can we comprehend the mind of One who considers a thousand days as a night’s sleep? No wonder so many prayers seem slow to be answered. God’s not in a rush.
Our lifespan rushes by. Gray hairs and wrinkles are unstoppable. The clock ignores our need for more time and keeps on ticking until we’re on our deathbeds amazed at the speed our lives whizzed by.
God does not change. Nor does He need to. Choosing to keep trusting God when prayers seem unanswered is an act of faith, obedience, and worship. Nothing brings me closer to His throne than telling God I choose to trust Him in the middle of a messy season of life—in the middle of seemingly unanswered prayers.
Nothing wells my heart with more potent joy than when I pour out praise in the middle of not understanding what’s happening around me.
Trusting God doesn’t mean we won’t have tears. Trusting God means our tears won’t be bitter ones. They’ll be sweet offerings He counts and collects. Tears are silent prayers God hears and holds dear. The Holy Spirit groans on our behalf as He translates them into a heavenly language. God can be trusted to answer them in His perfect timing.
Love’s luster shines the loveliest when we trust God in our darkest hour.
And now for the funny incident, I referred to at the beginning
After I’d written the first draft, I turned on Spotify and did some holy dancing and singing along with Tim Timmons’ song, “This is the Day.” The words of the song blessed me and reminded me what I’d written wasn’t Wendy inspired. It was Holy Hope inspired. While the song was ending, I heard a new sound accompanying the piece. My cat, Deja, was purring loudly as she witnessed my exuberance in action. The joy of the Lord had overflown and fluffed up my fuzzy cat’s fur with serenity too.
And now I’d like to close with a poem:
When we consider our trials
in the light of eternity
and remember a thousand years
are like the length of one night’s sleep
we let go of understanding
each plan God has for you and me
and instead, know and enjoy Him
as our place of serenity.