My frustration with my circumstances has been steadily growing over the past few weeks. At some point, I stopped journaling these feelings in my prayer journal and began my silent "civil disobedience" thing with God again. It's my lame attempt at trying to gain some control in a situation that is completely out of my control. Refusing to pray is an expression of quiet rebellion, a mixture of frustration, anger, hurt, and confusion over why my prayers don't seem to make a bit of difference, no matter how heartfelt or dire they might be. I then have the habit of blaming God and saying he is silent, when really I have not been interested in what he has to say. If he's not doing something at this point, then why should I listen to what he is saying?
Well, a couple days ago, I was reminded of just how hurtful it is when you look forward to talking to a friend and then have to face the disappointment that they are too busy for you. In the midst of being upset about it, I experienced the awful conviction that God must feel the exact same way when I make myself too busy for him. Not wanting to face this fact right away, I put him off a few more days. I became more disciplined in my Bible reading, but my "prayers" still consisted of a few short requests and some thanks for food.
Today, I finally broke down, cried, and got out my prayer journal. It had been over 2 weeks since my last entry. Trying to see the page through my tears, I told God in the most respectful and honest way possible that I felt abandoned by him. There was no getting past saying that because both He and I know that those are my real and true feelings. I feel like I am walking this road alone.
But the question lingered in my mind-- am I struggling with His silence, or my own? Is my frustration and refusal to meet with him regularly contributing to my feelings of isolation? Or does his perceived lack of action on my behalf justify my forlorn cries of abandonment?
One thing I love about reading the Psalms is that I can really get into the 'feelings' part-- the part where the Psalmist pours it all out there in complete and brutal honesty. Today's reading in Psalm 77 said this in echo of my own prayer:
Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Ok. I can get into that. That's real to me. Someone has felt this before. And all of a sudden, I don't feel quite so alone.
Next to that block of text in my Bible, I had a few dates scribbled when these words expressed similar past prayers. The dates go all the way back several years, and I added today's date underneath. But the Lord was not done with this Psalm. Faith followed the fear.
Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High." I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
Next to that block of text, I had written a full 17-year range of dates, along with milestone events in my life that came about miraculously through the grace of God.
The Psalmist did the same thing by remembering the mighty deeds that God had done on behalf of the Israelites:
Your ways, O God are holy.
What god is so great as our God?
You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
And as I read the end of this Psalm, about the parting of the Red Sea, I remembered how many years the Israelites had groaned in Egypt without any answer, but in that one moment at the Red Sea, their miracle came.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
I may not hear his voice when I groan. I may not see his footprints as he walks beside me, but I am reassured when I read, "you led your people like a flock."
If the Lord is silent, I will continue to pray. If I am not delivered, I will continue to walk. For the Lord hears my cries of affliction, and he walks with me, though his footprints are often unseen.