Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other? (God–Evan Almighty)
I’m going on record on behalf of everyone walking through serious fires of life and trying their best to hold onto their faith and trust God with the outcome, to pray and believe He has a good end to whatever the trial happens to be, to walk in faithfulness and believe that victory is coming. It’s not as easy as you make it out to be! Please stop telling us that if only we were doing it “right” or had more faith or prayed more or the right way or crossed our big toe over our right knee while blinking three times when the Big Dipper is at a 45 degree altitude in the the sky while simultaneously shouting “Hallelujah!” and sharing, liking and amen-ing every “God will bless you if” meme on Facebook, Twitter and whatever other social media you frequent, then our situation would be instantly fixed. (Repeat: IT’S NOT THAT EASY!)
Implying then that if it is not we are not sincere enough, mature enough, constant or consistent enough or that our faith in God is somehow flawed and imperfect and we need to listen to you and let you “fix” what’s wrong with us because your way is the “surefire” ticket to easy; and if we don’t, we are just stubborn, ungrateful, prideful fake Christians and you guilt us about your perceived deficiencies in us which are really just personal preferences and not Biblical mandates.
Christian movies have gotten exponentially better in the last 10 to 15 years, I will grant you that. Nonetheless, they generally portray very emotionally and relationally and spiritual complex issues over which no one person has control of the solution no matter how much they pray and rebuke the enemy — and condense it all into a nice neat, easy solution in around two hours…because this is cinema, not real life and you can’t leave people hanging if you want them to come to your next movie and bring their friends.
OF COURSE God is ABLE to do what is shown. It’s just that in real life, people don’t react in the perfect way and everything doesn’t come together and work out so easily and smoothly and instantaneously. God is not a magic genie or a short order cook and prayer is not a magical incantation with fixed, limited and predictable results. Certain Christian authors, who shall remain nameless because I am not trying to point fingers and be mean, are guilty of the same thing. Everybody gets a happy ending. It’s like crisis-crisis-crisis for 340 pages and somehow someone prays, and in the last 10 pages suddenly everything just falls into place and the deadly diagnosis turns out wrong, the stubbornly unrepentant straying husband has a sudden and inexplicable change of heart and all is ice cream sundaes and roses, the dream job comes available and you’re hired, the cancelled adoption suddenly comes through anyway, the prodigal comes home, the star-crossed lovers are reunited, long lost family suddenly reappears and is rich and famous and in love with the hometown girl from Nowhereville and carries her off into the sunset to a dream home and an easy life of luxury and endless supply of money.
I mean, really people, does this sound anything at all like real life? In real life, people make bad choices and sometimes they don’t repent and change their behavior no matter how long and hard you pray. In real life, sometimes husbands are abusive and you have to flee or they abandon you and don’t come back–ever, or they are unfaithful, either physically, emotionally or mentally with porn–and sometimes a combination of these at the same time. In real life, promiscuity sometimes has unfixable consequences and sometimes the deadly diagnosis actually kills. In real life, you can apply for jobs–any job, for months on end with no results and money can run out and no rich relative or friend just drops into your life and magically saves the day at the last minute. In real life, the hot Hollywood heartthrob doesn’t just happen to run across the small town girl and fall madly in love with her and end all her money troubles in one fell swoop. Sometimes life is just hard and it stays that way, no matter how much faith you have, how much praying and rebuking you do.
So enough with “listen to me and I will give you an EASY button for your life.” It doesn’t work like that. People still have free will and I can pray and GOD can be willing but if they choose to continue being a jerk, He won’t force them. It does not mean I, as a person, or my faith is fundamentally flawed, however and in need of your self-proclaimed expertise to fix. I can’t make anyone care about me and I can’t make anyone listen to God, have an obedient or repentant heart. I can’t make them treat me the way I want to be treated, I can’t break down their prejudices, fears and brokenness that hurt me when they refuse to acknowledge the problem.
As the quote from Evan Almighty says above, God surely hears our prayers but He doesn’t necessarily package up an easy answer and drop it in our laps. He gives us the opportunities to grow in our areas of weakness. He provides the means to learn and change hurtful behaviors. But we have to actually want it enough to step up and do our part and work for it, actually take the step to accept what He’s offering; be prepared that when the answer requires the active participation of another person, they just might say no and refuse to step up to the plate.
It doesn’t mean you are flawed or that your faith is defective. It means we are broken people and sometimes our brokenness rubs against others and leaves emotional cuts, bruises and scars. It means that when it becomes clear that someone is toxic and resistant to change, we have to let them go and remove ourselves from the vicinity of where they can hurt us –but it does not diminish our worth as human beings in the eyes of God or His ability to use us and bring about something beautiful for His kingdom through us still.
It means that the sooner you accept the fact that when your life doesn’t come all wrapped up in a pretty bow with perfect solutions and cooperative repentant people of character who actually act the way they are Biblically supposed to when confronted with sin, the more peace of mind you will have. You won’t need to feel all guilty and beaten down for failing God because it’s not you. It’s this sin-broken world that has shattered us so badly that we are walking through shards of other people’s brokenness and they will hurt us sometimes because that’s the nature of broken glass.
The sooner you figure out that it’s not as easy as it looks in the movies and novels and that is not a failing on your part, the sooner you can focus on the messy business of learning to live with, love and forgive broken people who cause unintentional or careless hurt but do not actually have any malicious intent toward you. I need to remember that when someone is carelessly insensitive and dismissive: this isn’t the person who tore a hole in my heart and left a bruise that still stings when someone unknowingly touches it. I can’t hold this person responsible for the sins of the one who hurt me or expect them to tiptoe around me afraid of offending my broken places.
I have to learn to separate the temporal hurt of unthinking daily callousness from the chronic intentional hurt that left emotional scars and bruises that I don’t often take out and look at, preferring to live forward into a new normal and not continuously back to regret and castigate myself for the past. It won’t make life perfect and it won’t provide instantaneous easy solutions to every problem and relationship in my life. But it will allow me to live free from the shame and guilt of the past, both that which I heap on myself and that which others want to “generously” donate to my “recovery fund.” (Just say NO to unwanted donations!) And that is a place where God wants me to park my brain and let His Spirit take care of the rest of the healing. (Although my brain is fidgety on this so prayers are appreciated!)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12