My prayers have been pretty much the same for several years now. I've written it, cried, it, begged, and bargained about it in every way imaginable. I've filled up quite a few pages of prayer journals with new and creative ways of saying it. What is it that dominates almost all of my conversations with God?
"Lord, please CHANGE MY CIRCUMSTANCES."
At this point, I'm like a dripping faucet. Change..change..change...change..
When I don't get the desired response from God, I do 1 of 2 things: I withdraw from praying because "what good is it doing anyway?" or I try newer and more creative ways of saying it. Maybe if I say it louder, or try to be a better person so that maybe this time...this one time...he'll actually hear me and pay attention!!
Invariably, neither of these responses work, and like a 3-year-old who feels hurt and ignored, I desperately become louder and more annoying in my attempts to get attention for my important request. "What is the problem, Lord? Am I just not getting through to you? Why am I left in this desert ignored?"
If I'm honest about it, it makes me angry. I want to see results. I want to see change. I'm waiting for it. I'm praying for it. Yet God has asked me to wait for the answer.
How do we cope with unanswered prayer, with unchanged circumstances, with unmet needs? Are we to assume that God delights in leaving us high and dry while we flop around like gasping fish out of water? That doesn't match with what the Bible says about his infinite love. Is he not able to change our circumstances because his hands are tied? That doesn't match what the Bible says about his unlimited power. So I'm left confused. If I stop speaking and start listening, what is it that God wants to show me in this desert place?
I think he wants me to see this tree in the desert.
This tree has an underground water source. I can't see it from the picture, but judging from the healthy leaves, I know water has to be there under the surface, and I know that the roots of that tree have to tap into that source for it to be so green. And even though God has not changed the climate around this tree, lessened the heat, or softened the soil, the tree still thrives on this water that we cannot see. All we see is this marvel-- this tree growing in the desert-- this oddity of life that causes us to scratch our heads and say, "there must be something life-sustaining flowing through that tree!"
No one is surprised by trees that grow in the rain forest. You'll never hear a jungle explorer say, "Wow, how do these trees and plants stay so green?" when there is a plentiful supply of rain every day.
Similarly, you'll never hear a person say, "How does that man have so much joy?" when his whole life is showered with endless happy events.
The harsh, dry seasons of life test what/who we rely on for our joy, peace, and contentment. Do we rely on the external showers of happiness to get us through life, or are we rooted deep in Christ, drawing our joy from Him?
"Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."
If I listen closely to what God is saying, I will hear that for a time he has removed the daily rain forest showers from my life that I had grown to love and rely upon. In this desert place, I now have 2 choices--
1) To whither under the heat and pressure,
2) To send out my roots deeper into Him and to daily find life in his Word.
And this is the miracle from God-- not the change in climate to make us more comfortable, but the strength and resources to not only endure but thrive in the harsh environment. Like the flourishing tree in the desert, our unexplainable peace, joy, and endurance point away from us and boldly to Christ, our infinite source of living water-- invisible, yet powerfully sustaining us beneath the surface.
The poor and needy search for water but there is none;
their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the LORD will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia,
the myrtle and the olive.
I will set pines in the wasteland,
the fir and the cypress together,
so that people may see and know,
may consider and understand,
that the hand of the LORD has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.