Fighting Bitterness with Beauty When Prayers Go Unanswered

Fighting Bitterness with Beauty When Prayers Go Unanswered

When frustration calls and bitterness looms, when prayers go unanswered and trust is difficult, look afresh to God’s Word and his creation for glimpses of his beauty, power, and majesty. Basking in the glory of God doesn’t change my circumstances, but it often changes my disposition and the attitude of my heart. Being reminded of the glory and power of God helps me to see that he has a plan and is able to execute it.

My son and I enjoy hunting together, and if we have a successful season we have enough meat to feed our family all year. On one occasion, we were walking back to the truck bundled up in camo on a cold night. He said something to me, and I quickly snapped back at him. Later, I lay in bed and thought about my reaction. I tried to figure out the source of my frustration and realized it was due to some struggles I was facing and what seemed like a barrage of unanswered prayers.

I thought about recent prayers where I had pleaded with God to work. They weren’t selfish prayers, just requests for God to correct prevalent evil or relieve pain in situations where people were suffering. Why wasn’t God working? Why hadn’t he swooped down and righted the wrongs I was praying against? Why hadn’t he delivered?

The most natural answer is that there must be something wrong with me. Perhaps I wasn’t faithful enough, or maybe it was some sin in my life. While these are certainly possibilities to be considered, they are not always the answer. Oftentimes, the Lord works in ways we don’t understand, and he never seems to work on the timetable we’ve established.

Leaning on Him

As we enter the new year, I find Proverbs 3:5–6 on repeat in my mind:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

These verses are so popular that they’ve become cliché, but they are the Word of God so don’t let their familiarity cause you to overlook them. Perhaps they’ve become so popular because they deal with one of the most difficult things we as humans struggle with: trusting God instead of ourselves.

“Lean not on your own understanding.” It can often be true, perhaps more than we realize, that our understanding is opposed to trusting in God. What seems to our finite minds the right way that God should answer our prayer can simply be wrong. Proverbs 14:12 states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” We can pray for his will to be done then still get upset when he doesn’t do ours. When we can’t understand why God hasn’t worked the way we think he should, we are to trust that the Lord knows better than we do. We are to trust his ways instead of our understanding.

I see this in my relationship with my kids. As much as I love them, I must often withhold something that seems good to them. Their young minds can’t understand why I won’t let them ride their bikes in the street, eat another candy bar, or stay up later.

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