I read her words and knew I could’ve written them myself:
It seems the more I pray, the more difficult things become . . . A friend said, “Father, when does she get a break?” I am aware of my tendency to pity parties. But right now, I just want to quit.
Although I’d never met this woman, didn’t even know her last name, I felt a kindred connection. I knew what it was like to experience unrelenting circumstances, with no relief. I, too, had friends who regularly commented on my seemingly endless string of tough breaks.
And, like my online friend, I’d prayed for decades, bent knees, petitions raised, and tears shed. I’d begged the God I believed in with all my heart to answer my prayers.
And yet, at times, it seemed all I received in response were more hard times. Yes, I too experienced days when I wanted to quit.
The apostle Paul knew about unrelenting circumstances. In 2 Corinthians 11, he lists some of the difficulties he’d endured, things like homelessness, beatings, stonings, sleeplessness, hunger, pain, fear, thirst. He knew hardships far more difficult than anything I’ve known or can imagine. And I have no doubt he prayed faithfully for God to bring relief to his pain, to change his circumstances. Even so, he continued to suffer.
And yet, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote these words:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Do not be anxious about anything?! How is that possible? How does a man — or woman — who has faced years of suffering, in spite of prayers for relief, find real peace?
The answer, I believe, sits at the end of verse 5 in four simple words:
“The Lord is near.”
Not “The Lord might be near” or “The Lord will be near someday.” But the Lord IS near. As in today, right now, smack dab in the middle of whatever impossibility in which you find yourself.
Paul found what he wanted most of all in God’s nearness. He believed it was worth it to keep praying, to keep presenting his requests to God day after day, regardless of whether or not he got the answers he desired. Why? Because God’s presence mattered more to him than any relief to his pain. And in God’s presence, he found real peace.
I admit, sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough. I want a microwave faith, the kind that gives me, in seconds, quick relief and immediate comfort. Which is why, at times, when my prayers feel fruitless, I’m tempted to quit.
And yet, love compels us to continue. The kind of love that desires God himself more than even our own lives. A love that is so wooed by His nearness that we find a measure of peace even in our pain. Because we have a God who so loved us, that He gave his only son for us, enduring pain so we could have, forever, Him.
Peace doesn’t come when our circumstances change. Real peace comes when we enter in with the One who is already near, the presence of a God who never leaves.
Yes, I believe love prays. And although I’m not there yet, I want to be the kind of woman who is so in love with her Jesus that she continues to bring her petitions to the pain of the cross.
And the Prince of Peace who meets me there.
The Lord is near -- as in today, right now, smack dab in the middle of whatever impossibility in which you find yourself. #loveoverall #loveprays -@MicheleCushatt: Click To Tweet