In my previous post, I shared an email from a friend wrestling with feelings of disappointment with God — especially when it seems like he isn’t answering our prayers.
My friend and I are still very keen to hear how you’d respond.
But I promised I’d tell you what I said — not because I think of myself as some sort of pastoral counselling expert but because I’m keen to be sharpened up and better equipped to lovingly answer this sort of question.
So here it is:
Whoa! Big questions. And good ones. I feel privileged you’ve asked me.
It’s taken me a little while to think — and, more importantly, to pray for you.
Although I don’t know (or necessarily need to know) much about the circumstances that you’re going through that’s prompted these questions, I can tell you that they’re not uncommon or unusual — not at all.
I’ve certainly felt like prayer is talking to a wall (in my head) more times than I care to count.
I’m not 100% sure I know why I often feel this way. Maybe it stems partly from my innate, sinful sense of entitlement (‘God owes me’, etc). So that when I don’t get what I ask him, it’s because I’m asking for the wrong things or with wrong motives.
But I suppose a whole lot of it stems from the nature of the gospel we believe — God’s wisdom and power exerted in the folly and weakness of the crucified Messiah. That was the whole vibe of Luther’s ‘theology of the cross’, right? That God’s glory was concealed in the unspectacular brokenness and humility of the cross. That certainly makes sense of my own experience of the Christian life … most of the time (although I hunger and thirst for the day when that won’t be true — and dryness and the apparent absence of God will be less than a shadow lingering in my memory).
I guess, for me, there are two things I try to remind myself (usually it’s Natalie who reminds me better than I remind myself) to draw out of this sort of experience:
First, I try to remind myself that I need to develop ‘bifocal vision’ — seeing and not denying the stuff in life that’s making me feel flat/disappointed/let down by God, while at the same time entrusting myself to the God I know is good (because of Jesus). Of course, this is easier said than done!
Second, I also try to remind myself that when I think about God being in control, hearing and responding to prayers, etc — that he’s the Father (and my heavenly Father through the Lord Jesus) before he’s the Almighty; or, rather, that he’s the Almighty as the Father. After all, he’s Father — and Son and Spirit — in himself eternally, well before he’s the almighty and sovereign Creator and Ruler of anything.
That means that I entrust myself to him in prayer fundamentally because of the relationship I have with him as my Father. He wants me to call out to him and ask him for things — especially those things he knows that I need. So his sovereignty is actually fuel for my prayers — since I’m praying to someone who is able to give me what I need and what will help me thrive and flourish.
I hope that’s helpful and not too theology-heavy.
Lots of love in Christ,
There was more I wanted to say (and thought of later). But I’m keen to know what you reckon about what I did say.