I confess that sometimes I can have some really negative thoughts about people getting quick, miraculous answers to prayer. I just finished reading the book "At Home in Mitford," which is about a fictional pastor in a small southern town. The book is comfortable to read because the problems that occur are resolved in a fast, tidy way after asking God for help. The lost boy was found, the kidnapped dog came home, the young sick woman got a heart transplant. I could go on, but those are enough spoilers.
My impression while reading the book was one of vague annoyance at times. "Real life doesn't always work like this!" I thought in my heart. My own family has been suffering for years, and God has not fixed this! I finished the book, and before Bible study yesterday, I cried out to God something like this:
I know you love me and you're faithful, but it's so hard for me to keep going like this. I get so weak seeing my loved ones suffering emotionally and physically. I can't fix this, and I'm waiting on you to do it, but you're not moving! Please come. Please help me. Please show me what to do. I just want to hear you speak.
More than the words, it was the emotion that streamed out of me to God, opening up and pouring out what I keep pressed deep down inside. I try to seal up my painful feelings so I can just cope day to day.
I watched the video at Bible study last night and took in the practical teaching about spiritual warfare. I was reminded that the Enemy is the ultimate counterfeit and has a plan for my life to try to tear me away from God, make me doubt Him, and erode my faith and trust. It alerted me to how much I have to be on guard to protect my faith during this time when I am so prone to discouragement and despair of God ever moving in my circumstances.
When I began my first reading for the week this morning, I was face to face with a lesson all about my feelings of discouragement with God. The lesson covered David fleeing from Saul and giving up hope of surviving. He said in his heart, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines."
The study then pointed me to Psalm 10 where David pours out his heart to God in much the same way I did - asking God why he allows wicked and arrogant people to succeed and seems to turn a blind eye to evil. When God's not in a hurry to fix our difficult situations or stop evil, what are we supposed to do?
David, a faithful man who spoke from experience, laid it all out:
"But you, O God, do see trouble and grief;
you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless."
The victim (the helpless) commits himself to God. This is a decision of the will that no matter how bad things get, my allegiance will not waver. I must be "all in" with God, daily renewing my commitment to Him rather than yielding to my own anger or fear.
This psalm says that God does three actions for those who come to him hurting:
1) He hears the desires of the afflicted.
2) He strengthens (encourages) their hearts.
3) He inclines his ear (listens) to their cries.
Since we have a good God who knows our desires, encourages us, and listens to our cries, we have to keep going in the face of not getting what we expect. We have to love him for who he is rather than what we receive.
At the end of the lesson for today, Beth Moore suggested two verses to give both hope and direction when we feel like life will never get any better. Here is what we are to do when our problems aren't getting fixed:
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
"So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."
1 Peter 4:19
The repeated call to commit to God and do good during long times of suffering is my battle plan from God's Word. I must daily wake up and commit my heart to the Lord. I must actively seek out ways to do good to others. By doing these things, I keep my heart from soaking in bitterness, anger, and self-pity, and in the process, I defeat the devil by blessing other people and bringing God glory. I don't do good to earn God's love and approval or to bribe him into helping me. The work I do is out of love for my Master who first loved me. I must work with a fully surrendered spirit, trusting that he will do what is best for my life and that the best may hurt for a time.
It's Spiritual Survival 101 - Commit to God and Do Good. Let's not grow weary as we wait expectantly on the Lord who saves.
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.