“My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long? Turn, LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:3).
“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?” (Psalm 13:1-2).
I read through my old journals recently, from up to 10 years ago, and it catapulted me into disappointment with God. I was suddenly faced with evidence of years of unfulfilled hopes and seemingly unanswered prayers. There it was right in front of me . . . dreams, desires, pleas . . . in my own handwriting, and all these years later, they were still unrealized.
A Long and Quiet Road
If King David’s words in Psalm 6 and 13 (above) were written by someone like me today, it might sound like this entry from my journal that I penned a few years ago at a café:
I don't understand why you don't answer my prayers, or rather why Your answer is always no or wait. It's been a decade of praying this same prayer. I try to pray in faith without doubting, but I can barely even talk to You about this anymore because I feel like we've had this same conversation a thousand times and it always ends the same way. With silence.
Getting to approach the throne of Almighty God is such a privilege, but it feels lonely in the Throne Room. I don't hear anything but my own voice. I wish instead You could be sitting with me here at this table in this coffee shop and actually be audibly conversing with me.
I need You, God. I need to sense You, to hear You, to see Your answers to my prayers. I need to see You accomplish above and beyond what I ask or even imagine. Instead it seems like I'm always asking for more than You're willing to give.
That is raw honesty. It is hard and, at times, the road feels long and far too quiet. In these times when our human wills battle with the will of God, we need to remember those who have gone before us. Every person who has ever lived and had sincere faith in God has gone through similar valleys (read Hebrews 11), but just as life cannot be lived entirely on the mountaintop, life is not lived entirely in the valley. From the valley, I look up to the mountains and say, “Why God? Why do I have to be down here instead of up there? I’ve been down here so long.” And into the silence He speaks, if I am willing to be silent enough to listen.
“I want to take you to the mountaintop, but you are not yet ready. The climb is hard and steep and you must train a while longer. This valley is preparing you. Suffering and waiting produce the necessary perseverance, character and hope that you will need to get to the top, without which you would certainly fail. Trust me. It seems to you too long, but it is a necessary amount of time. My timing is perfect. I have not forgotten you. I see your faithfulness and your struggle. I appreciate your honesty. I am with you always, and soon, when you are ready, we will stand on the summit together, and when you look back down on that valley, you will finally understand.”
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When Prayer Feels Like a Monologue
In conversations with many people over the years, I have heard comments alluding to the fact that prayer often seems like a monologue, that God often seems silent even though He promises to answer, that God feels distant. Prayer is a mystery in that it consists of us talking to an invisible Person. We can’t see God with our eyes. We can’t hear His answer with our ears. The mystery of prayer involves a different kind of vision and hearing.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 – “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ – the things God has prepared for those who love him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
We seemed to be confused when our physical senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste) don’t experience a God who is spiritual rather than physical. We want to engage with God like we do with other humans, but that is not how it works. And yet, God has not left us without divine help for this problem: He has given us His Spirit! The Spirit of God reveals to us what we cannot comprehend with our senses (1 Cor. 2:9-10).
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him’” (John 14:15-21).
According to these words from Jesus Himself:
1. He has left us with a Helper, the Spirit of truth.
2. The world cannot see or know the Holy Spirit, but those who love Jesus can!
3. The Holy Spirit dwells in those who love Jesus.
4. Those who love Jesus will keep His commandments.
5. God will manifest Himself to those who keep His commandments.
I want to see “him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). I want to hear Him answer my prayers. To do that, I need to rely on the Holy Spirit who lives inside me and is able to reveal God’s truths and answers to me. The Spirit indwells believers, teaching, convicting, comforting, counseling, illuminating Scripture, restraining, reproving, regenerating, sealing, filling, producing Christian character, leading, and interceding for us in prayer! Just as we are given physical senses, God gives His children, those who have been born again (John 3), spiritual awareness and life. This is an absolute mystery to those not indwelt by the Spirit, but to those of us who are, it is simply a matter of quieting our human spirits to listen to what God is communicating through His Spirit.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Aaron Amat
Look with Patience
The problem is that this fast-paced, digital, instant-gratification world we live in has diminished our ability to wait and listen to God. Patience is not a virtue many possess. It is a real problem for me and a reason that I struggle so badly with God’s timing. There are just as many blessings though in the waiting room as there are in the actual appointment.
There were just as many blessings in the wilderness as there would be in the promised land. Don’t miss it. Open your spiritual eyes. “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another” (John 1:16). The valley, the mountaintop, the wilderness, the promised land . . . His grace is there. He is there and He does answer.
1. What are the still unanswered prayers for you right now? Have they gone unanswered long enough that they are causing you to struggle with disappointment with God?
2. Do you feel you are in the valley or on the mountaintop right now? Why?
3. Recall a time in life when you were miserable and discontent. (Perhaps it is right now.) Do you think you missed out on God’s blessings during that time?
4. List His grace and blessings in your life this week. Take sufficient time to list as many as you can!
5. Can you say that you want the appointments God has for you right now? If not, how can you seek to transform and renew your mind to joyfully accept His will?
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Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books - Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.