The Time I Stopped Praying
I knew the doctor wasn’t going to say everything was looking happy and healthy. I knew that simply clearing my throat shouldn’t set fire to my stomach. I knew that a pattern of “concerning blood work” probably didn’t indicate a belly full of kittens and butterflies.
But, I hoped.
I was young. So young, that my purse was shaped like an electric guitar and I had a bleached hair stripe that changed color every couple of weeks. Still working one of those “not it” jobs, I was glad to leave work early for my appointment, despite all the cryptic phone conversations I’d had with nurses.
Before I left, I had a few minutes of quiet at my desk. I used the time and the quiet to make promises to God that I’d break. To go through the motions of being faithful, all the while, saying in my heart, “God, You’d better fix this.”
The last thing in my prayer journal that day was a scribbly psalm. I wrote the words I wanted my heart to believe.
“...in God I trust, I shall not be afraid…” - Psalm 56:11
I hoped that by writing the words with my hand, the sentiment would transfer to my heart.
With undercooked faith, I tried to obey in an effort to win my Father’s favor, going through spiritual motions, subconsciously attempting to manipulate Him into giving me the outcome I hoped for. I wondered if He would reward my efforts by “working all things together for my good (Romans 8:28),” or what I thought would be my good.
You know, like, “Hey, God! Here I am, praying.
But, not just praying, super praying!
I’m writing Bible verses down!
Are You seeing this right now?
Wow, look how much I’ve written.
My hand is literally cramping.
Surely, I should be rewarded by not almost dying, and not losing my baby, and not waking up to multiple blood transfusions…”
I hoped. I expected. I’d put in the handwriting, after all.
But, I ended up waking up to bags of strangers’ blood dripping into my arm. And I couldn’t sit up straight without holding a pillow over my stomach that had just been slashed by a frenzy of doctors and nurses after they ran my gurney into a room with blinding lights and scrubs and scalpels and face masks and an ominous voice behind me that said, “Just count backwards from ten…”
After almost a week in the hospital bed, I found myself home, unable to go to work, and barely able to move. And there was my bedside table. And there was that prayer journal I’d diligently scribbled God’s Word into just a week before my organs ruptured and my world imploded. And there was my Bible. I picked up the Bible and the journal and opened them, skimming over God’s promises and my promises only to shut them right back up and slam them back down with just enough force to make a statement.
I looked away from my bedside table and said the first prayer I’d prayed since before my fallopian tube ruptured and my baby died and the last prayer I’d say for two months.
“God, why? I don’t know what to say to You.”
Even when we don’t know what to say to Him, He knows exactly what to say to us.
God isn’t rattled when our faith is weak. When we’re faithless, He is faithful. When we’re selfish, He is selfless. He doesn’t turn away when we tell Him of our hurt or our anger or the losses we don’t understand. Our feelings don’t change His feelings.
He says, I love you. I love you. I love you. I so loved you that I sent Jesus to carry your pain and heal your soul and give you everlasting hope and peace and overwhelming joy.
He stands with open arms, ready for His broken daughter to return to Him with her stomach gash and her tears and her doubts. My months of anger and silence didn’t blow my chance for His love. I was lamenting and He was still there, speaking in that still, small voice, saying, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” Isaiah 55:9.
And also, I love you. I love you. I love you.
When our circumstances are bad, God is still good. We don’t have to pray and journal the right words to earn His favor. We have His favor already. His love for us is based on the good work of Jesus, not any feeble attempts of ours, handwritten or otherwise.
In our grief and anger and discontentment, when we sink into silence and despair, we can release our laments onto the shoulders of a God strong enough to carry them. He will carry them. He will carry us.