I struggle, today, with the disappointment of unanswered prayer. Why does it seem, so often, as if my prayers make no difference? Does prayer really change things, as the plaque on the wall in my bedroom states?
I know the answer to that question with my mind. God often says “wait” when we ask for something, and His timing is perfect. And when He says “no,” it's always so He can give us something better instead. But in the moment it's heart-breaking to feel the door shut in my face.
So what do I do in the midst of my disappointment?
Do I give up on God and decide my walk with Him is all a waste of time? I can't do that. There's too much richness in that walk—too much truth and grace. I can't deny His faithfulness in the past.
Do I wallow in self-pity and self-doubt, wondering if I've done something that keeps God from answering my prayers? It's not a bad idea to ask God to examine my attitude and my motivations, but if nothing comes to mind, I can't stay in that place. It's depressing and counterproductive.
Do I quit asking God for things, or at least quit expecting He will answer if I do? I could just say “Thy will be done,” and leave it at that—no specifics. That way I will avoid the hurt of disappointment. But then why pray at all? Why ask God for something He will do anyway? Where is the intimacy of communion, or even the delight of communication in that kind of prayer?
No, I have to avoid all those solutions. They're not solutions. They're coping mechanisms, and coping mechanisms don't belong in healthy relationships. I want a healthy relationship with my God.
So I go to the Word.
I read about people like Joseph, who spent years in prison for something he didn't do, only to be released at the right time to fulfill God's purposes of salvation, for Egypt, and Israel, and ultimately the whole world. People like Moses, who labored for years in the wilderness tending his father-in-law's sheep before God sent him to deliver the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Daniel, the captured slave of a pagan king, who remained faithful to God and so influenced the history of the world during two great secular empires.
I hear Job say, Though he slay me, yet will I trust him, and Habakkuk declare, Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
I read Paul's words in 2 Corinthians: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.
Why was Paul not defeated by his disappointments? Because we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor 4:18.
My vision is so incomplete. I cannot afford to lose heart just because I can't see far enough ahead. I will not harden my heart. I will keep pressing into His side. I will keep presenting my requests to Him and allowing the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7. I will not lose my heart.