Friday, July 21, 2017

Dear Jesus, I failed: An honest prayer when trying isn't enough

Sometimes life doesn’t live up to our expectations. We believe what we hear in history class that we have the right to the American Dream. Our parents assured us that if we do everything right, we will be aptly rewarded. We sang Sunday school bible songs about good character and strong faith and knew that we would have God’s protection over our life and plans.

As we age, that façade starts to fall. It might start with our first broken heart or our first failed exam. Soon we find ourselves miles away from the rich, happy and successful stereotype of the American Christian, and no amount of positive thinking and Instagram inspiration can save us from the real struggles within.

Sometimes marriages end in divorce.
Sometimes pregnancies end too early
Sometimes the temptation is too great.
Sometimes the insecurity is too strong.
Sometimes the dream is out of reach.

Now, the point of this post is not to give in to hopelessness. Rather, there are three things I do intend for you to do with it that will help you see past current circumstances.

First, breathe. Breathe in the stifling air that tragic, life-upending circumstances bring. Allow the tears to soak into the carpet beneath your knees and know that the Lord loves you just as much in the valley as on the mountaintop. Be thankful that we have a God who doesn’t stand above the pit yelling “I told you so” but sits with us in the muck and mire. He is the “God Who Sees Me.” This is the name Hagar gives the Lord when he came to her in the desert as she sobbed helplessly, fearing for her and her child’s life. The Lord sought her out, not once, but twice when her world seemed to be ending. Sweetly, tenderly, he loved her and Ishmael, and that knowledge was enough for her to carry on (Genesis 16; Genesis 23).

The second thing to do is pray. Whisper a pray of failure. Or scream it aloud. Cry, scream, plead, or blame. It is all allowed at the throne of God. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Mary admitted her disappointment in the Lord when Lazarus succumbed to death. Jesus did not reproach her. He did not throw his hands in the air and leave. He did not call her weak or tell her that many other people have lost loved ones, too. Instead, he wept with her (John 11:35). The Holy Spirit still weeps with us, groaning in tragedy and emitting furious, hot tears in injustice, when the sin of others causes our pain.

The third thing to do is to acknowledge that your story is not over. As Christians, victory over the darkness is inevitable. One day, we will overcome every obstacle, every insecurity, every fear, because we trust the Lord who has overcome the world. In my experience, most of these victories occur as our feet still grace the earth. Still, some victory won’t be felt fully until we are inside Heaven’s gate. On that sweet day, all striving will be over. I will just be me, restored and whole, just as God intended in the beginning.

Beyond those three things, I can’t advise whether you should keep pushing to save the marriage, battle the enemy, or pursue the dream. There is no single answer that will suffice except to seek the Lord, like Jehoshaphat, when he was surrounded by three armies fueled with bloodlust for he and the Israelites (2 Chronicles 20:1-30). On what he saw as the veritable eve of his death, he chose to worship the Lord, saying “Lord we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” While they worshipped, the Lord turned the armies against each other and Jehoshaphat and his people had peace on all sides.

While the Bible doesn’t promise that the Lord will heal, save, and restore in our time on Earth, it does promise that the Lord will never leave us or forsake us in our times of trial.

In that promise, peace may be found.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 20b

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