When Praying Doesn’t Get the Answer You Expected, Or the Answer Doesn’t Work Out How You Thought It Would
I wrote in my journal a prayer hoping for a job like the other place. The other place, my dream job, wasn’t hiring, wasn’t in my city, and wasn’t a place that would hire me anyway. So, I prayed for something similar to come along.
Then, life changed, my city changed, the job changed, and suddenly I found myself sitting at my dream job wondering how life could have gotten so good. God had answered the prayer of my heart.
Or so I thought.
The job fell apart. I ended up bruised and broken in spirit by the end of it. And, honestly, I was angry at God, as well as myself and some others. The job seemed like it had been a dream come true brought about by Him, but it wasn’t a dream. It was a mess.
Years later, I’ve now come to see a few things about those prayers that get answered differently than we had expected (most of it’s pretty straight-forward and nothing too ah-ha about it, but it’s easy to forget):
- God is still God. He is still all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, all in all. Even when it looks to us like He’s sleeping on the job. That’s a lie. Truth is still truth, and He is always the same God.
- Things usually go south because of sin. We chose sin in the beginning (thanks, Adam and Eve). So, sin? That’s not God’s fault. It’s ours. Even if someone else is sinning against us, not his fault. And keep in mind that we sin against others too when it’s not their fault.
- Sometimes He just says no. I don’t always say yes to my kids. Doing so would be horrible for them and for me. A good father gives good gifts (Matthew 7:11), but we may not see it that way. That’s ok. He sees way more of the big picture than we do.
- He doesn’t always intervene when things get ugly. We ask him to intervene. Sometimes he does, and sometimes he doesn’t. He has his reasons. We don’t understand them, but we shouldn’t. We can’t see everything like He can. Plus, he doesn’t always stop things from happening when it would take stopping the dominoes from falling they way they are already moving. When He does intervene in a big way, we call it a miracle. Those don’t happen that often. That’s what makes them so amazing.
- If things go bad, He can still use them for good (Genesis 50:20). It feels cliche sometimes to say that, but just pause and think about how amazing that really is. He can use the bad for good.
- We may not ever see that good in our lifetime. We definitely won’t see it if we become bitter because we have to use His eyes to see it.
I don’t want to gloss over how hard it was to come to those conclusions, though. We are talking years of tears, a lot of prayers (my own and others’), and searching wisdom from Scripture and mentors. My faith faltered. I was confused. I was the bitter one who couldn’t see with His eyes.
In the end, though, I faced my questions, anger, and pain and returned to my faith. I’ve let go of my anger and have forgiven (the other people and myself because we all have a role to play in conflict). I still have moments of pain pop up, but I try to just work through them as they come.
Pain is like the ocean. It crashes up and recedes back and forth. Thankfully, forgiveness is like the moon. It controls those waves and keeps them from getting out of control.
As we come towards the end of “how can I pray for you?” month, I wanted to address what has been a stumbling block to me in my prayer life: “how could this be an answer to prayer?” or “where is my answer to prayer?”.
God is still in control, even when I feel like it’s questionable.