Prayers may not always be answered and leave us disappointed. How can we stay connected to God when He seems silent?
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
…But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
(Psalm 13:1-6 NIV)
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: Stop trying to figure God out.
That’s what my kids tell me anyway, whenever they see me agonizing over why God seems to be taking so long, or when my prayers don’t get answered the way I wanted them to.
I remember one particularly gut-wrenching season, one where God said no to something I wanted for my child—something she wanted even more than I did, something we both believed would be good. I knew God was for us, that his plan was for hope, and that his good purpose would always prevail. Why, then, was my stomach in knots? Shouldn’t someone who’d spent twenty-five years writing and speaking about prayer be filled with more faith?
I cried out to the Lord. And in case you think you have to sound “holy” or “good enough” when you pray, I’ll just go ahead and tell you what I wrote in my journal that day.
“God,” I said, “I feel so lame. I really am trying to trust you. I know you love me, and that I shouldn’t be sad—”
(Have you ever been interrupted by God? Because I think that’s what happened to me as I prayed.)
“It’s okay,” I sensed God say. Go ahead and grieve. Your sadness is real. Bring it to me, and let me comfort you.
Talk about a perspective changer! There I was, trying to push my disappointment and pain into a manhole and put the cover on, and God said not to.
He wanted me to come to him, just like I want my kids to come to me when they are hurting or confused. And I realized that day, as I essentially climbed into God’s lap and let the tears come, that I had it all backward.
Press into God’s Presence
I thought disappointment, sadness, and anger were bad things, things that had no place in the life of a “real” Christian. But when they invite us to press into God—to climb into our heavenly Father’s embrace—our heartaches and unanswered prayers become agents of connection. They become places where God can showcase his tenderness as he heals our hearts and binds up our wounds.
We don’t need to know how something works in order to trust it (if we did, I would never get on an airplane again). We don’t need to figure God out. And we don’t need to deny our distress. All we need to do—all we can do—in the face of disappointment or unanswered prayers is to press into God’s presence, knowing that he powerful enough to do more than all we can ask or imagine and loving enough to want to.
In His Word
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:13-14 NIV)
In Your Life
Where have you struggled with unanswered prayer? Take few moments to reflect on God’s longing for connection and his eagerness to satisfy your desires with good things. Bring your questions—and your pain—to the Lord. Ask him to comfort you, and then steady yourself by staking your trust in his unfailing love.
Trusting God in the face of unanswered prayer is just one of the topics covered in Praying the Scriptures for Your Life: 31 Days of Abiding in the Presence, Provision, and Power of God. You’ll also discover what connection to Christ looks like in everyday life and be equipped to pray about everything from your relationships to using money and time to overcoming worry and fear.
Jodie writes about prayer and other family topics in her email newsletter and on Instagram. To download the collection of free resources (including printable prayer cards and calendars), please visit JodieBerndt.com.