Sometimes life is hard. Not just those times when life is hard because I’m trying to do the right thing or because of a choice I’ve made. Sometimes, it’s just hard.
I think about the times when I reflect on the challenges of my life, like one of the boys practicing the fine art of teenager communication skills. That can be exhausting and frustrating. But then I take a step back and catch my breath, I pray for wisdom for me and Paul (or I pray to handle things as well as Paul already does!). And so often God pours his mercy and peace upon me and I am refreshed and renewed.
Or the times when I struggle with internal angst — the times I have felt slighted by someone else, the times when I can’t seem to extend a simple kindness to someone I should and I feel defeated. And then God in his great love helps me break through and I feel a sense of hope. Suddenly, what felt so impossible is no longer impossible at all.
A few weeks ago I was struggling with that very thing — frustrated with myself because of my agitations, disappointed with myself because petty grievances seemed to be controlling my life. When I finally talked through this with my spiritual director, he pointed out that this was God helping me root out an issue. This thing that felt like proof of my failure was actually something God was using for good. He was helping me get some of the junk out of my life.
Admitting my shortcoming was step one, and in that moment there was a grace that came over me that loosed Satan’s grip. When I saw my struggle as an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, my feelings of guilt and sadness (at my own fallen nature) really were washed away.
So many times we beg the Lord for miracles, not realizing that they are happening all around us. This small moment of freedom has been a tremendous victory in my life. The weight of all that irritation — irritability I tried to ignore and overcome on my own accord — it was lifted in an instant and that is nothing short of a miracle.
But then there are big moments, times when it is not a small, seemingly trivial issue. There are moments when what we pray for makes every other issue in our life seem silly and trite. In my life right now, in the last few days, there have been two of these epic, overwhelming circumstances and all I am left to do is wonder, “where are you Lord? What can we do to know you hear us?”
There is no quick solution, no prayer for a change of heart, no simple act of a burden being lifted. These are matters of life and death, times when we are overwhelmed by the gravity of the situation, overcome by our need for a miracle.
As I sit in hopeful expectation for miracles, while willing myself to believe that God is still in the business of granting them, I think about the other things I can do. I can’t convince God to answer my prayers, but I can continue to send prayers his way.
And so, We pray. We gather together as a community of believers. We believe in the power of prayer. Prayer changes things. We ask as many people as we know to pray with us.
We fast. I come and go with my commitment to fasting but lately God has been reminding me of the power of fasting. There are some things, says Mark 9:29, that can only come about through prayer and fasting.
We hope. In the midst of waiting for God’s answer, we cling to hope. We trust in God’s mercy, but we beg him to hear the prayers of our heart. Please, Lord, answer our prayers.
We trust in God’s love for us. Ultimately, that is the best we can do. Can we endure the answer to our prayer? Can we handle what it is you will say to us, Lord? If we look at each situation as waiting to get our way, perhaps not. But if we trust not just in God’s mercy and kindness but (most importantly) in his overwhelming love for each one of us, than we know that the answer is yes.
God is there for us. He is here for us. He loves us more than we can possibly comprehend.
This column originally appeared in The Southern Cross.