When You're Praying your Guts Out and God Seems Silent
Those groans—those deep utterances breathed out in earnest prayer—you know the ones. The ones that speak of a yearning, a desire so deep that you can hardly put it into words. Something you crave with your entire being, yet remains unfulfilled. Perhaps your arms ache to hold a baby, your baby, and each new month result yields a single, painful, pink line where there should have been two. Perhaps your heart is aching to find a spouse, and year after year you wait with no one, not even a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Or you’re breathing out what seem like hopeless prayers for your wayward child to find their way back to you. Or maybe you are longing for that new job that is finally going to bring you above water financially. Whatever it is, you are waiting….yearning…praying those deep “God, if only this one thing….this is all I want ever” type of prayers that seem to evaporate into the abyss.
I know this pain well. I know what it feels like to feel ready to jump into the game and be benched on the sidelines. Where it seems that EVERYONE, I mean EVERYONE, is getting what you want except you. I was ready when I graduated college to find the right guy, settle down to have children. Some people are career-driven; my desire was simple—to be a wife and mother. And yet I watched as everyone else seemed to go down this road except for me. I remember the struggle to rejoice alongside engaged friends when my own heart’s desire remained unfulfilled. Now that I am married, I can look back and see the way God was working the entire time to bring his perfect plan for me into fruition, but it certainly did't seem that way at the time. I want to encourage you in your waiting.
God’s concern is bringing greater glory to Himself.
It’s hard to view the disappointments of our hearts through this lens, but trust me, don’t mistake His silence for lack of involvement in your life or turning a deaf ear to the cries of your heart. Remember, God’s plans for our lives are far greater than our plans for our own. If you feel as though you are languishing in the pain of an unfulfilled desire as Joseph languished in a filthy prison, remember what God eventually did for Joseph. All those years when God seemed silent, He was actually training Joseph and setting events in motion for him to sit on the throne of Egypt. Not only did he have a plan for Joseph, He also used Joseph to save the entire Israelite nation from starvation.
4 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! 5 And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
Waiting purifies our desires.
The story of Hannah in the Bible perfectly depicts the ache of waiting. Hannah longed for a baby with all her heart, yet year after year she struggled with the pain of infertility as her rival continued to have children. Not only that, she taunted Hannah about her situation.
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’ I Samuel 1:11
Our heart’s desires are from the Lord. He uses our time of waiting to refine and purify those desires. He had a plan to give Hannah a baby all along; her desire was written on her heart by God himself. God had a plan for Samuel’s life that was far more extraordinary than Hannah could have dreamed on her own. Would she have been able to give that baby fully to the Lord as a priest if she had not had to wait for him? During those anguishing years God was working within Hannah’s heart and gave her her heart’s desire at just the right time. I have realized in my own marriage that waiting has been a gift. I appreciate my husband more. The minor annoyances, the little fights, they don’t result in my questioning if he was the right man for me. The years of waiting and the final fulfillment have been a gift of assurance to me that he was the right choice. Knowing this makes me fight through the tough.
Right desire; wrong timing
My husband is a few years younger than I am (yes, I am actually admitting that to you). When I was ready, he was still in high school. God wasn’t done shaping us into the people we needed to be for each other when I felt I was ready to be married. I have heard it said God is never late. His timing is perfect. This is not easy to internalize when you are watching your biological clock ticking, seeing a rebellious teen slipping further and further away, or seeing a bank account continue to shrink. This is where true faith is tested, where the rubber meets the road. Don’t pray those desires away; press into them. Surrender them into His hands. If God has written them on your heart, trust Him to fulfill them at just the right time in just the right way. Let the pain tether your heart to the Lord. Let me encourage you today as someone who has circled countless heart’s desire in a holding pattern for a long time before finally landing on it. He HAS NOT forgotten you; He is working behind the scenes setting events in order to fulfill this desire in ways that far exceed your expectations.