I’m part of a church that has multiple locations. Some of you may have heard of it: Saddleback Church. And this week, our entire church is going through the same sermon series, the same small group curriculum, the same daily devotional, and all of this on the topic of prayer. You can join in whether you’re part of this church or not, by going to saddleback.com/pray40; there’s an online campus where you can participate more actively with thousands of others too.
Talking to God about Others’ Hardships
Dear God, it is fairly easy to sing praise songs and to believe in your being a good God and a caring God and a providing God when life is going well. I thank you for giving me a pretty good life during the past 50 years.
There are many painful things that I have not had to experience yet, and for that I can be grateful. Some people have experienced birth defects right from the beginning. Some people have their lives shortened from accidents and tragedies. Some people have to live with disabilities. Some people have broken family situations, even abusive and hateful. Many people live in poverty around the world. People are homeless. People are unemployed. Some people have experienced great loss of loved ones, friends and family members. Some have chosen the wrong path because the pain has been too great, whether that is addiction or something called dual diagnosis or mental illness or crimes of desperation. Some have to struggle out of debt. Some experience bankruptcy. Some experience the hardship of economic downturn with homes losing value and becoming what they call upside down. Some experience cancer or other tough diseases; then again, are there any easy diseases? Oh the world is such a broken mess and I don’t know why.
Believing God in My Hard Times
In these recent years, ever since I had my diagnosis of mood disorder 17 years ago, my life gets hit with seasons of struggle. The pace tends to be about 6 to 9 months at a time, every 3 years or so. Usually stress-induced or a stressful even triggers my downturn.
I’m in one of those seasons now, for the past 6 months, even though I thought the season had ended last week when things were looking and feeling clear. This time around was different because it wasn’t stress-related. It just happened on March 26th. I’ve stayed with healthy habits. Took me months to find the right combination of medication to stablize me. But now it’s not working any more? Oh please don’t let that be.
I really don’t like having to wrestle with and sort through my thoughts and feelings. It’s tiring. It’s scary. It’s filled with all kinds of mixed emotions, mostly negative. I don’t know when or if I’m getting out. I don’t know how I can survive this. I come to the end of myself. I talk with you God, reminding myself that your word says that you are good. You are good all the time. You have good plans for me. As long as you give me breath, I can walk and take the next step with you near me.
When the struggle becomes hard, it seems to be bordering on unbearable. I just want the pain to end and it won’t end; it won’t go away. I am tempted to quit or find a way out. But there is no where for me to run and escape this. I remind myself of the truth that this too shall pass. I remind myself of the truth that my loved ones will be better off with me as I hang on and persevere and fight for life and health.
And in these hard times, your word says to count it all joy when you face trials of all kinds, for we know that the testing of your faith will produce steadfastness and perseverence (James 1). Yes, intellectually, we know life can be hard and there are struggles and there’s no promise of a pain-free easy life. But to actually experience those hard times, ouch, so hard.
Dare I Pray for Complete Healing?
Now the big question posed at church today was: what do I want to see God do in the next 40 days? I confess that I don’t want to be disappointed by praying for complete healing. Of course, you can do it, you’re God. And you want me to be honest with you. So this is the honest truth, I am afraid of praying for something that might be an unanswered prayer.
Your word also says that you have not because you ask not. So you’re inviting me to go ahead and ask. It’s okay to ask. It’s a good thing to ask. Maybe, God, you will surprise me. I pray in faith believing and not doubting. You’re inviting me to ask. That’s good for my heart and soul, to get that off my chest. No need to hide that. And then in my conversations with you these 40 days, you’ll show me something.
I don’t like the trite cliches that people quip about suffering, like there’s a purpose, or there’s character development, or there’s good that will come out. Oh, and what’s worse is when people give advice, I don’t need that. I’m already working as hard as I know how to struggle and to stay afloat and to avoid the drowning feeling.
And I know there are many other people I can pray for. I don’t want to just pray for myself. I do need prayer, of course. But it doesn’t stop there. I have family and friends. I have church people I’m praying for. I have my tribe of Asian Americans to pray for. I have leaders to pray for, yes, in government. I have the world to pray for.
Now I’m thinking that prayer could be a full-time occupation, though I have no idea how to make ends meet if someone were to do that professionally as a job of sorts. And there it is in your word, to pray without ceasing. You’re not going to give a command that cannot be done. So there’s some kind of way to do that, and anyone can do it. Let me pay attention to the sermons and teachings that might address this. One thing for certain, I’ll grow in my prayer life. Or, at least get some intensive practice doing it.
As I finish this session of prayer, it feels like I’m rambling. I’m not going back over to edit for clarity. This is my raw words of praying. And, I’ve opened these words up for people to peek in.
p.s. The campaign at church is 40 days of prayer and the duration of this blog project is 30 weeks. This means the two things are not in sync and I won’t be praying every day in writing during the next 6 weeks. Be that as it may, let me continue in prayer on a weekly basis here. And we’ll see how I grow and chance as the weeks go on.