When God Isn’t Answering My Desperate Prayer
I have a confession to make. There is a desperate longing in my heart, an unanswered cry that sometimes makes me doubt that God is good to me and that His promises are for me. It’s not the thing a woman of faith wants to say out loud. But there it is–the truth that sometimes my faith battles my reality and my faith loses.
On my spiritually high days, I make some measure of peace with my longing. I remind myself that God is good and that His timing is perfect, so I wait on Him.
But there are other days. Days when desperation sets in. Days of silent suffering that lead to nights of silent tears and hours of wrestling with God. I wonder in my not-so-strong moments if it’s not that God isn’t good enough to me, but that I’m not good enough for Him. I know all the verses that say it’s not so, and yet the harsh reality of unanswered prayer coupled with how badly I fall short wrecks my confidence.
On those days, I stop resting in the truths I’ve learned, and I start striving. I push harder, do better, sacrifice more. I focus on what I can do in an attempt to take my eyes off what God is not doing. And it works to some degree. My busy overshadows my yearning, and yet it doesn’t replace it.
When I wear myself out with my working, my longing has not changed. And I wonder, How long must I wait? It’s not like I’m asking for a shiny Ferrari. I’m waiting on a good thing—a God thing. And yet it’s not happening, and I grow tired and sometimes a bit hopeless.
And then I realize and remember:
- I realize that the enemy of my soul wants to tempt me to believe that the reason I hurt and I long in this life is because God doesn’t see or care.
- And I remember the words of Jesus spoken before he went to the cross, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)
I remind myself that this world was never intended to fully satisfy. If it did, then I would never desire the world beyond this one—the eternal one.
My daughter sang at an event over Christmas, and I heard the words of the familiar song, O Come, O Come Emmanuel seemingly for the first time. I was struck by the very first verse, and it has ministered to my heart since:
O come, o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here.
Until the Son of God appear.
Longing is not new to the world. Before I was ever born, before this ache took hold in my heart, the world was longing. Longing to be set free. Longing to be satisfied. And the answer then, as it is now, is only found when the Son of God appears. He is, after all, the “bread of life”—the only thing that satisfies a hungry soul.
But we forget that.
And I forget that God will withhold no good from me (Psalm 84:11), so I go through my days working to provide what I don’t think God will. Because He delays, I act as though I disbelieve the words of Jerermiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.” His plans are better, and yet I struggle to bring about my own.
How about you? Is there something you’ve longed for so long you’ve stopped believing God hears you? Maybe you’ve been waiting years for a child and you’re losing hope. Maybe you’ve been praying for your husband to finally seek the intimacy in your relationship that you so desire. Or maybe you have a child who’s in trouble and you’re waiting for the Lord to reveal himself and grow your child’s faith.
Maybe your hurt, fear, disappointment, and hopelessness have caused you to question if God will ever show up and satisfy this yearning you’ve held out to him for so long. If so, oh I get it.
But dear mama and sister, please know that there is a grace being held out to you. There is an ability above your own to move you through this life of longing with peace and with confidence that God is at work no matter what you see. There is a plan being worked in your life and fruit being borne through your circumstances that will be greater than what you feel as loss. Let that truth sink in and soften your heart.
On the hard days when that one unanswered prayer looms before you, remember all the answered ones behind you.
I don’t discount your pain. I have my own. And sometimes it’s so raw that I want to lock myself up in my house and lock my heart away from anyone who might see it.But the very moment I hide is the moment God stops being able to use it. We are called to live in the light, not the shadows. When we live honestly, then little by little His light helps us see truth a bit more clearly.
And when I see more clearly, I know that the thing I want sometimes bumps into the thing God wants for me. When it does, I can trust that what He wants is best. Even if that means I have to wait on what I want.
God may one day answer my prayer in just the way I’ve envisioned it. But He may not. God may leave the longing because the empty place in my heart leaves room for Him. If that’s His choice, then I have decided I will trust myself to it.
I hope you choose that too. We may face a delay in answer. We may suffer a debilitating loss. But Psalm 145:18-19 tells us, “The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them.”
On my good days, I believe it. On the others, like the days I’m in right now, I know it’s true even when my heart can’t absorb it. Even when it looks different than I want it to. But on those days, God invites me to come close to Him and trust that He hears my cry. He asks me to cling to Him rather than my deepest desire.
Only when I open my hands to release my desire to Him can I then grab hold of my Father’s hand.
It’s not easy, but I’m trying. I pray you will do the same.
And I pray that you would not lose heart. That you would believe for the thing you so desperately ache for. But that you would not cling to it, and instead cling to the One who knows you and is working all things out for your best.
Blessings to all of you.