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What Do We Do When We Don’t Receive Answers To Our Prayers? Part One

Waiting. I’m not a fan of it. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the things I dislike the most! In hindsight though… I can whisper a prayer of thanks because as each year passes, I see more clearly how Jesus knows what’s best for me. He knows our lives, the lives of those we love, and all that concerns us. He understands timing in a way we have never been able to and He looks with eternity in mind; not just our short lifespan here as we travel through this side of Heaven. Oh, but in the midst of the waiting… when we’re right in the middle of a trial and struggling with worry ~ with the pain that sometimes holds hands with unanswered prayer ~ where does our heart dwell? Do we think of eternity, and see our time here on earth for what it is: the short first chapter of a never ending story? Is our focus on Jesus and what He may want to work into our hearts (or possibly adjust in them) before He answers our prayers? Or do we prioritize the present, our heart centered on what it’s longing for, desperately hoping the Lord will fix things the way WE believe they should be fixed? That definitely describes who I was, for many years. And still does at times, to be honest.

In Luke 18, Jesus spoke of a widow who sought justice and won it due to her persistence; He presented her as an example of what it means to pray with earnest tenacity as we knock at the door of Him, our Righteous Judge. In keeping with this, I have volumes upon volumes of journals that are filled with my crying out to Jesus: for a child, a situation, a heart condition I see in myself or in others. Praying the prayer of faith, earnestly knocking upon His door.

I truly believe ~ no, I KNOW ~ that Jesus hears the cries of my heart, and will answer those prayers as I wait on Him. The answer may be different than I’d hoped for and the wait longer than I’d planned, but they will come nonetheless. We’ll dive deeper into that, but first there’s a question I want us to consider, as we look at what it means to wait on the Lord for an answer to prayer: What is the difference between crying out desperately to Him while struggling to let go in a situation that breaks our hearts with overwhelming grief or fear, and walking in the manner of the “persistent widow?” There’s a definite difference; of this I am sure! Oh, for His wisdom and grace to know it and live accordingly. I’ve come to understand that the answer to that question is found in SURRENDER.

FULL SURRENDER of all those we love…full surrender of all the contents of our hearts to a God who loves us far deeper than we could ever fathom with our finite minds. His love and watch-care over us…I’m not sure we will ever plunge the depths of it until we reach Heaven. Even there, it’s my belief that all through eternity we will be continually seeing, in greater measure, His love for us and how we are His precious treasures! Oh, but alas, the pain associated with unanswered prayer is oftentimes deep and unrelenting. It tears into our hearts. We feel solitary. Alone. It besets us as we carry it around, the blanket of worry that seems to wrap itself around our minds… never letting us forget we have a most troubling, nagging situation we are facing continually.

We may be experiencing the torment of fear, the devastation of a torn relationship, the loss of a precious child (either physically or spiritually), worry over the ill health of one we love, or perhaps real concern over our own health. Whatever it is that remains unanswered, we feel like it has the potential to crush us, rendering us undone in our own minds and hearts. Oh, but feelings are so deceptive…

When we FIX our gaze on Jesus, taking Him at His Word we will NEVER BE UNDONE! "Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair, we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed." II Corinthians 4:7-9 This is why full surrender is such a gift to us— Because as we fully surrender we are never crushed. We are rescued! We are delivered! We are set free from the plaguing weight of carrying our own burdens; the burdens His Word tells us clearly NOT to carry. Jesus is our Burden-Bearer.

"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" Matthew 11:30 Am I alone in holding onto my burdens, alone in worrying about unanswered prayer? I wonder, why don’t we let go? Why aren’t we quick to surrender it all to Jesus? How do you, personally, handle unanswered prayer? I think in my case, I find myself hesitant to relinquish my grip because of the underlying, unspoken fear that I may not receive the answer I so hope for. As if holding onto my situation ~ whatever it may be I’ve prayed for ~ would ever change the outcome.

The Lord may have a different plan from the one we hope for… the one we beg for. I have found that it’s ONLY in full surrender, coming to TRUST the God I profess to love, will I truly find that peace the Scripture speaks of; the peace that surpasses all human reasoning… the peace that passes all understanding.

As I write this post, I believe the Lord is leading me to include a painful story. I find myself resistant; I’m uncovering one of our darkest chapters for anyone in the world to read, which can be a frightening feeling. As you’d imagine, part of sharing this includes revisiting the pain that began when our family was thrust into a tragic and terrifying situation. But as I work to open my heart to you and share what the Lord has patiently taught me about trusting Him to answer prayer, I realize it’s time to share this story. To protect those who are part of what I’m about to tell you, I will not write all the details. You will realize, however, we were in a long season of waiting for answers. We are still waiting to see the fulfillment of what we believe God has spoken to us. It’s been almost six years. It started in 2014. The first chapter of this heart-breaking trial was a three and a half year wait, in which we labored and languished, seeking a specific answer to the cries of our hearts. We believed without doubt that our prayers would be answered… and we were confident in what that answer would be.

During that time, I don’t believe I even realized that I hadn’t fully surrendered my dear one.

But after three and a half years, when we received an outcome that was far different than we had begged God for, I plunged into a deep depression that rendered me close to helpless. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I was so heart-broken, so terrified, I actually begged God to let me die. The raging battle seeking deliverance for the one for whom we’d cried out for so long became a battle for my own deliverance. I was too heartbroken, too war-torn to even fight anymore. I’d received an answer, but I couldn’t face it. I couldn’t accept it. I felt abandoned. The hole into which I descended was so significant, my husband didn’t leave my side. He awoke when I awoke, rose when I rose, and went to bed with me when I went to bed. Not because he was afraid I would hurt myself ~ not at all ~ but because he knew I needed to be surrounded with love, kept close in prayer, and treated like fragile crystal that could shatter at any moment.

In the midst of this period, I fell and broke a bone in my foot. Now I was truly couch-bound with the doctor’s orders being NOT ONE DROP of weight on my foot! It was through this frightening time that I first came to understand the devastation of depression. I was overtaken by it. Fear and grief for my loved ones consumed my heart and mind. I ache now for precious people who fight the battle of depression daily. I felt abandoned by the Lord for not answering the continual cries of my heart for three an a half long years, the way I thought He should…the way we all begged Him to answer. It’s hard for me to admit that now, for the world to read.

But if I felt abandoned, I can only imagine how this dear one felt. My sense of abandonment was compounded by the fact that I had received a Scripture verse that I STILL BELIEVE God gave to me. The passage clearly stated we would see victory, and I received it the day before we got the answer that stunned us. I’d interpreted it to mean that our dear one would remain with us. Despite the many layers of pain within this situation, when it flipped and we knew we were faced with our worst fears, my greatest grief was the abandonment I felt by a God I loved so deeply. My own dear God, who I had spent relentless hours with in prayer over this traumatic situation. The pain was unlike any I had ever felt. I KNEW God had given me that verse. How could it not have played out the way it so clearly said it would? While I grappled with that question, my husband Bobby said this to me: “Honey, God doesn’t time-stamp His Scriptures. Because this hasn’t come to pass right now, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future.”

Two months came and went, and I remained in what felt like a heartbroken state beyond repair. I remember telling a few of my older granddaughters how badly I wanted to just go to Heaven and not have to face our heartbreak anymore. This rocked my dear treasures to the core; what a horrible witness I was during those months. Imagine: a Grammy they loved, strong in her faith, never wavering in her love for a Living God, now unable to gain a drop of hope. I so wish they never had to see their Grammy like that. Before I knew it, spring was upon us. With it came an annual tradition: a Mom’s Luncheon, hosted by my husband, myself, and several other dear friends and family members. It’s been a joyous part of our lives for 30 years or so, and now it was just around the corner… and I was slated to speak. How does a woman who feels abandoned by the God she has loved for decades get up to share in front of 150 women? One thing I’m not is a phony…so I knew either God was going to do something HUGE in my heart, or I was going to have to relinquish the speaking to another. (That’s what I preferred to do.) But days were growing short and no one was in sight to take my place; I knew I was going to have to face this, keeping my commitment to share. One day ~ too close for comfort to the time I had to speak ~ I was in the library trying to hear God’s voice as I considered what I might share. I remember telling the Lord I couldn’t possibly be a speaker. I had nothing to say. I remember saying, “Oh God, how do I climb out of this awful, terrible depression? How do I share about you, when I feel that You have abandoned me? You heard my prayers for three and a half years… if I was praying amiss, why didn’t you tell me so? I am a broken woman. Lord, I cannot do this!” As though it was almost audible…I heard within my heart a voice so clear say to me… ”Who do you say that I am?” I was stunned. From the depths of my heart, I heard myself say: “You are the Living God! You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You are the Resurrected King forever…the Lord of my life! You are the Author and Finisher of my faith. You are the Most High God forever!” The response came: “Now say that out loud in the heavenlies”.

Remember, I’m in the library…

“Jesus, You are the Living God! You are the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You, Jesus, are the Resurrected King forever…the Lord of my life! You are the Author and Finisher of my faith. You are the Most High God forever!” I spoke it, out loud. Quietly… but I said it. I also wrote it down, as the words came out. Without delay ~ after proclaiming who God was ~ the desperate grief that cloaked every fiber of me was lifted off of my heart, off my mind, off my whole being. I felt a marked difference immediately. Relief, gratitude, repentance, and joy flooded my heart, followed by deep sorrow for ever believing for a minute that I had been abandoned. I was totally set free! I will be grateful throughout eternity for the gift of freedom that was poured out on me that day. This, to me, is one lesson I will never forget about unanswered prayer. If we don’t receive an answer, or if we don’t receive the answer we hoped for, we need to recognize and come to serious grips with the fact that it doesn’t change WHO GOD IS! Remember the truth of SURRENDER. Surrender, in my opinion, is the highest form of praise because we are totally relinquishing all we hold precious to Jesus. We are saying “I trust You, Lord, with ALL that I have, ALL that I am. I give this situation and ALL that it holds to You.” Oh, in these seasons especially, how imperative it is to guard our hearts against the lies that come knocking at the door of our minds when we are in distress. Lies like …“You’ve been abandoned by God”…These are the times, greater than any, to camp in His Word, speaking forth the promises He gives us OUT LOUD; promises that HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US OR FORSAKE US! God’s Word is ALWAYS true..we can ALWAYS count on it and on Him even when we aren’t seeing Him working. Please keep in mind that it is of vital importance, when waiting on the Lord for answers, especially of a serious nature, to have someone we trust and love to be in there with us, lifting our very arms, encouraging us along the way, and praying with us and for us. It’s been my experience that often in my most desperate times, or extended times of waiting, I may grow weary; I may be weaker than usual, and not be as apt to dig into His Word. In those seasons I am so grateful for my trusted ones to lift me in prayer, as I do for them during their storms.

This whole nightmare has been and continues to be a most significant, most profound season. Though I so long to be able to lift the pain from the hearts and lives so broken through these many years, I am grateful that I, and others, have come away with a changed heart. It’s important to note here: depression comes in many forms, with many causes. The path to healing may be different for many; I’ve told you my own… but I am not a subject matter expert on depression. Far from it. One thing I know for certain though: I have a deeper broken heart of understanding for the dear ones who suffer from it. Whether circumstantial, physiological, or other, depression is a very frightening thing to have to bear.

Although there isn’t a day that goes by that our family isn’t before our God for this ongoing situation, we have come to a profound place of peace in prayer for our dear one who has had their life altered. As painful as it still is, we have seen God’s hand in most amazing ways; He has surrounded this dear one with His favor. We wait. We are never alone. God is still who He says He is and He is very present in our midst; of this we are very confident. No matter where we find ourselves, God is there. He doesn’t ever abandon His own treasures.

So as I close for now, let me say we have only scratched the surface of what we are to do when we don’t receive answers to our prayers. Next week, we’ll visit this again, the Lord willing. I’m sorry this post is so very long. It’s hard to do life together in a few paragraphs! After enduring this deep trial, this long season of how to walk in unanswered prayer, or prayer that has been answered differently than we had hoped, LIFE has begun, once again, to spring forth from the pain Jesus has allowed us to walk through…not only for us, but also for our dear one. I’m grateful to see God’s hand of protection, His favor, and His goodness even in the midst of this storm.

I am grateful to be cherishing ordinary days, so keenly aware of the treasure of each moment we have, as I wait on the Lord to do what only He can do in the lives of my treasures… Oh, how I now know this: …my treasures are His treasures, first and foremost… I needn’t ever fear! God is ALWAYS present with us. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. I am grateful that I can rest in His promises even in the midst of unanswered prayer… or answers that aren’t what I had hoped for. It’s my deep understanding now that God doesn’t time-stamp His Word that He gives us…so I wait; today I wait in full surrender. And with surrender, comes the peace that surpasses all human reasoning…the peace that passes all understanding. On this journey together, Deb


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