I was working on this blog post before I left for church last week, and when I got there I was surprised to find out that the message was exactly what I had chosen to write about. Seemed like a coincidence, but I know it wasn’t. It’s cool how God shows up like that sometimes.
Throughout the past few months, I have prayed. So. Much. At the very beginning of this difficult season, I prayed for the things I wanted — I would pray for God to take my pain away, and I would pray for him to change my situation (if it was his will, of course, because that sounds like a good thing to add to cover all of my bases, right?).
I had been praying for so long. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 was coming into play big time in my life. I really was praying continually, but the thing is, I was still feeling so discouraged.
I felt like God wasn’t hearing me, or if he was hearing me, he didn’t care. I started to doubt that my prayers had any kind of power. Every time I would experience a moment of hope while journaling my prayers out or praying out loud in my car, I would get on social media after and see something that made me feel immediately discouraged, or something would happen that would contradict everything I had just prayed for — like everything I had poured out to God was completely disregarded.
“God, are you even listening to me?” is a question I have asked more times than I can count in recent days. There have been so many days where I’ve felt stuck, wondering if it was even worth it for me to continue praying about a situation that God maybe had no intention of restoring. I’ve gone back and forth in my own head so many times convincing myself that I need to have faith or instead, convincing myself that I need to just give up. I’ve gotten completely overwhelmed about how I should pray and what I should say to the point that I would break down entirely and not be able to get any words out because of how confused I felt and how scared I was to say the wrong things.
During those moments, I felt like God was disappointed in me. Like he was waiting for me to realize the correct way to pray and the right things to ask for. I thought my prayers were going unanswered because I must be missing something. I must be doing something wrong. When in reality, the only thing I was missing was the knowledge that there is no right or wrong way to come to the Lord!
Luckily, God began giving me new wisdom and teaching me these things. And I started to realize that at the beginning of my hurt, I was praying with only my will in mind, even though I was praying for God’s will to be done. I said I wanted what God wanted for me, but in the back of my mind I knew that I wanted my will more than I wanted his. No wonder I was feeling so discouraged all the time — when we worry that our own will for ourselves is better than God’s will for us, it convinces us that we will never have anything better if we surrender what we want to the Lord.
Before, I was never able to completely surrender over to God’s will. I was scared that if I fully let go of the things I wanted, God would assume that I didn’t want them badly enough to provide them for me. As if he didn’t know my heart completely. How silly is that? And I honestly felt like I was being obedient enough by surrendering other things over to him — things that were really hard for me to give up. But, I’ve realized that God is kinda “all or nothing” when it comes to surrender. I couldn’t just give part of my situation to him while still holding on in some way, and expect his will to prevail. “Half surrender” isn’t surrender. I think that’s why I was feeling so discouraged despite how fervently I was praying. The Lord was convicting me of the fact that I hadn’t given the entire thing to him.
Another thing I’ve realized is that we can’t surrender something over to the Lord and then continue to cling to it. Even though I was praying for God’s will before, I knew in my heart that I was still holding onto the things that I wanted. And God knew that I wasn’t fully surrendering, even though my words said I was.
I’m at a place now where I can say that I really do want whatever God’s will is for me. I won’t say that I don’t have a preference of what that will is, but I know there is a way to hope for something but still surrender it. I’m learning that, and I’m not scared of surrender like I was, because I know that the Lord wants me to be happy. And more than that, he knows my heart completely — he knows the things that I long for and the things that I am struggling with, and he knows what will make me the most happy, even if I think I know what that would be.
Before, I assumed that having my own desires was wrong. I used to think that if I wanted something so badly, God was probably going to give me the exact opposite. I thought that if there was something I really wanted, it probably wasn’t what God wanted for me. Like he was intentionally planning to give me things that I didn’t want, and keep from me the things that I did. Honestly, sometimes I still struggle with that thought when it feels like my prayers aren’t being answered and things are moving in a different direction than I want them to. But I know God doesn’t play games with us, and he doesn’t seek to keep the things that we want from us. That’s not his character.
He is not trying to give us the opposite of what we want, He is trying to give us more than what we want. And sometimes that can make it seem like God isn’t listening or that he doesn’t care, because as humans we can’t understand why we can’t just have what we want when we want it. We think we know ourselves best, but we are not God. We don’t know what he knows, and we don’t see what he sees. All we can see is what’s directly in front of us, but the Lord has the full view. He knows what’s best for us, despite what we think we know. It’s crazy to me that someone can know what I want more than I even know what I want, but I believe that he does.
I know that it is really, really hard to be persistent in prayer when you literally cannot see the fruit of anything you’re praying for. Even with everything I know about God’s character and the power of prayer, I still have a hard time with this. Patience is difficult, especially when I don’t know what God is going to bring out of my situation. I still want what I want, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that whatever God wants for me is better. That has involved a great amount of surrender on my end, and it’s been very hard. However, I’ve realized that the outcome of everything I’m going through right now can only be good. Who knows, maybe what he wants for me is what I want, but in a different timing or circumstance that will be better than what I can imagine. Or maybe what he wants for me is something different entirely; something I can’t even picture for myself right now but something that will be so much better than what I think I want. Whatever it is, I trust that God is going to reveal that to me, and in order to receive the blessing I need to continue praying, even when it doesn’t make sense or feel like it is having any effect.
If you’re struggling with feeling like the Lord isn’t hearing you or that he doesn’t care, I understand. I have been there, and I still have to speak truth to myself often. However, I know that God has big plans for me, and he is working to carry those out in the midst of my current pain and confusion. He is doing that for you, too. That’s a hope we have to cling to in hard times, and I trust that no matter what it feels like when we’re waiting to see prayers answered, the Lord cares, and he is listening and moving with every word that we pray. That’s true for everyone. The waiting is not for nothing.