I have heard the stories of perfect-faith-filled prayers. Prayers where the answer was given, the blessing bestowed, with suture lines detailed in perfect clarity in the moment the plea was lofted up to the clouds. In fact, I have had those experiences, myself.
However, this is not one of those stories.
Because while I know the relief of answered prayers, I also know the weariness that sometimes accompanies the act of “waiting on the Lord.”
It is a difficult thing to pray for something–something you know to be good and right–for years and not get it. It is heartbreaking and faith-testing, and frustrating, and, at times, angering. Particularly when one is trying one’s best to live in such a way that proves the desired blessing would be cradled daily with care and gratitude, if granted.
I do realize that I am not the only person in the world to pray for something for years and not get it. I also realize that many of those other knee-bent people have been pleading for their wants much longer than I’ve drawn breath. But if I have learned anything in my life, it is that no matter the hurt, no matter the grief, no matter the length of time spent wanting, hurt is hurt, and pain is pain, and want is want, and one’s experience cannot be measured against another’s.
With that said, this is my experience.
It was a little over a year and a half ago that I stopped praying. And I stopped praying because I was frustrated. And I was frustrated because I felt that while He was listening, He was not hearing, not answering. So I stopped. And for the first time, I understood how people could be angry at God. I understood that they weren’t bad people. That perhaps they were just sad. And maybe a little tired.
Weeks turned into months—months without kneeling or even so much as a “hello” or “thank you.” Not that this helped anything. But I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to talk to Him. Until finally, one night, my frustration reached the point of exasperation and I began to yell.
I yelled and yelled at Him and told Him how angry I was at Him. How mad and hurt I was that He wouldn’t answer me. How I was trying everything I could think of to “do my part” and that yes, I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I was trying, wasn’t I? Why wasn’t it coming? Why wasn’t He answering? I had been waiting and wanting and praying for so long.
And I did not want to be reminded about how long Abraham and Sarah waited for a baby, I said. And I did not want to think about all the people in the world who have been praying for things longer than I have. And I didn’t want to be told how I’m not alone. And by no means, did I want to hear how those who wait on the Lord will be blessed. And I did not want to talk about how some blessings come in the eternities. I was talking right here, right now, and why did the heaven’s seemed closed when it’s a good thing I want. And why wasn’t He hearing me?
Why wasn’t He answering me?
I cried and yelled, and yelled and cried, until I had nothing left to cry and yell about. I had emptied my heart. All of it. And once all the yelling and anger and frustration was out, the only thing left was silence. And in the silence I heard Him say, “I know you’re angry. And it’s okay.”
For my whole life, I’ve believed it was wrong to be angry at God. That because He’s all-perfect and all-knowing and all-powerful and all-loving—He must know what He’s doing, right?—and we must submit singularly with patience and humility and endurance to the ebb and flow of trials and blessings that cross our paths. We must be good Christians. And good Christians don’t get mad at God.
But I do not believe that anymore. What I believe now, is that what God wants more than unquestioning submission, more than pious worship, more than a perfect prayer, more than “good”-emotion-only-feeling followers, is our honesty. And if that means we’re angry. Then He wants that too.
You can be angry at God. You’re allowed, and He understands. You just can’t stay angry. And most importantly, you can’t be angry “behind His back” (not that that’s possible). You have to keep meeting Him, face to face, anger and all.
There are times when my faith is unshakable. When I am certain and confident of the things I know. But if I am being honest, and I am trying to be, there are times when my faith is wobbly. And I’ve learned that that’s okay too. In fact, I think that’s what the scriptures call a “trial of [your] faith”—to still believe when believing is hard. To trust when you’re not sure what you’re trusting. And then if that too fails, because it might—the faith and the trust, that is—to simply hope that what you’re believing is true. That what you seek, will eventually be given.
I am praying again, of course, but in a whole new way. In a way that feels more open, more communicative than I ever perceived possible. I worry less about what is “right” and I simply speak. And while I’m still unsure if He will answer me (on a couple of our finer discussion points), I do know He’s there–loving, listening, and hearing.