Chapter 19 - What To Pray For

I loved this chapter. I remember it being one of my favorite chapters the first time I read it. At that time, I was thinking a lot about how God wanted me to pray about a couple of situations. I didn't read the book because I expected Philip Yancey to give me all the answers to my questions. I guess one of the reasons I enjoyed the book so much was the way every chapter reassured me that I am just one of millions who struggle with the same questions and obstacles in prayer.

Growing up believing that God expected me to become perfect (and taking that quite seriously) caused me to fear getting any closer to Him because then He would expect even more of me and I already felt like a failure. So I didn't really pray much at all, other than in desperate moments. I remember at times thinking that it could be dangerous to get any closer to God or to have Him view me as becoming stronger because then I would only disappoint him more than I already did. So I wanted Him to think of me as weak and just have pity on me. This makes me chuckle now, as I realize that on my best day, my weakness is so very obvious to God. I no longer fear getting too close to Him. My whole outlook has been transformed by the gospel.

In this chapter, Yancey writes about gratitude. Gratitude is one of my favorite subjects. I try to live there, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. At this moment in my journey, gratitude comes easy. But that has not always been the case. I have so many times had to remind myself that my worst day would be many people's best day. No matter what I have been facing at any given time, it paled in comparison to what many people face every day of their lives. Whenever I've been tempted to feel sorry for myself, I think about how blessed I am and all I have to be thankful for. And I pray that God will remind me to, in all things, give thanks.

I remember one night back in 2002, when I was living with my dad and going through a very painful divorce. I had moved out of a beautiful home and squeezed into a tiny little bedroom I could barely walk around in. My life seemed like such a failure. All I had ever really wanted was a happy marriage and family. For so many years, I just wouldn't give up. I was not looking for a way out. I was always looking for a way to make it a success and believing God would answer those prayers. And yet, here I was, 43 years old, burying that hope and living with my dad so I could finish school.

I felt so pathetic. I didn't envision a bright future for myself. Quite the opposite. I remember walking the Lipscomb campus with so much anxiety that I was literally on the brink of tears the whole day long, every single day. And between classes, I would ask God how this could be happening to me when I had tried so hard and would have been so happy with nothing more than a peaceful coexistence. (I could never have imagined, at that point, the dramatic transformation God was about to bring to my life in every way!)

One night I was lying in bed feeling sorry for myself and I realized I was focusing on all the wrong things. I started to think about how blessed I was that I had a father to turn to (instead of how pitiful I was to be living with my dad at 43). I had a warm bed to sleep in and no bills to worry about. I started to think about how many women in my position would give anything to be able to attend a private Christian University full time on a scholarship. I started to think about how many people loved me and would always be there for me; that I would never be alone. I thought about younger women in my circumstances who were working multiple jobs to take care their young children and just keep food on the table -- with no help or support. These women would give anything for a dad who would take them in rent-free. Suddenly, I started to feel so thankful for my tiny little room and my warm, soft bed that I could not feel sorry for myself at all. I went to sleep thanking God that night for His goodness to me in my time of loss and uncertainty.

What brought all of that to my mind was reading what Yancey wrote about two friends of his and their different responses to their life's circumstances. I was going to quote his story, but I wound up telling part of my own. (I never know where my posts will take me.) Reliving the above paragraphs have me sitting here with tears running down my cheeks. I remember so well the fear and anxiety of those days. But the tears are not about that. My tears are tears of gratitude for God's amazing mercy and deliverance in my life. Yes, he took me through suffering and loss, fear and anxiety. But He taught me that He always has a purpose and that if I will just trust Him, He is always working all things for my good.

In Yancey's words about his two friends: "On consecutive nights, I saw a stark difference in two approaches to life. One resents loss and wants more. One celebrates life as a gift, something to remember with gratitude. I ask God for that spirit regardless of my circumstances."

Me too, Philip.

He goes on to discuss faith and grace in this chapter (among other things). I can never comment on every subheading because my posts would go on and on more than they already do!

Yancey writes about praying for grace when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances. He wrote these words, which I will conclude this post with: "One man daily grows embittered by his paralysis; another prays for the grace to cope. One abused child harbors hatred and resentment; another rejoices that 'I am alive!' One estranged family lets the walls remain in place; another begins the laborious task of dismantling them. Prayer for grace offers the chance for a deep healing, or at least a way to cope with what cannot be fixed."

I say this over and over, but I am so thankful for God's grace and mercy. One of my constant prayers is that God will always enable me to face every future challenge, loss, sorrow and disappointment trusting in His grace to sustain me and with a very real awareness that He will use it for my good. Whatever circumstances I may find myself in, God has a purpose for. I no longer believe that the events of my life are random. He has taught me how to overcome my fears through trusting Him. I don't mean that I will never experience fear or anxiety again. I know I will. But by looking back on the way He has so lovingly redeemed my past and given me a future, I am constantly reminded that I can trust Him. Whatever the future holds for me, I know God is in control and will walk beside me. And one day I know I will see Him and thank Him face to face. Where I once feared Christ's return, I am beginning to long for it because I am finally believing He will take me with Him when He comes!

And I must add -- that is another answered prayer because I have prayed that I would be able to long for and anticipate His return rather than fear it!


Janette said…
And with this post I say a great big AMEN!
Heart of Wisdom said…
Wel; hello! I can't even remember how I found your blog.

I read this post and enjoyed it so much I planned on adding to my Sunday meme (where I post links to encouraging posts)

Then I read you are in Murfeesboro. I just moved to Shelbyville! Small world.

Pop over to my blogs and maybe we'll have lunch one day:)