Thoughts and Prayers

Nathalie MichelleMotivation, Self-HelpLeave a Comment

I wish words like: tragedy, abuse, grief, cancer, school shootings, and genocide were as foreign as the gibberish babies and toddlers spout when they’re learning to talk. I wish tears were solely reserved for excessive joy and laughter. I wish there was no such thing as “bad news,” only “good and better.” Alas, life doesn’t work that way. From the beginning, we have had to navigate the delicate balance between good and evil, happiness and melancholy, and turmoil and peace.

Daily, we are bombarded with news that makes you wonder if you’ve somehow landed in the Twilight Zone or a warped episode of Black Mirror (check it out on Netflix…it’s frightening how much it mirrors current events-pun intended). It’s gotten to the point that I’ve grown desensitized to the worst bits of news coverage. It’s so horrible- you can’t imagine it getting worse, and then it does; I grow numb to protect my sanity and emotions. As if that weren’t bad enough, add the abrasive struggles of your personal life and you may quite actually find yourself in a veritable cesspool of depression, anxiety, and stress.

What gives? What ever happened to God’s goodness? Why would a good God allow bad things to happen? How do you maintain hope and a sincere belief in a God that allows pain and nightmares like this to take place?

This is territory that many Christians shy away from…I used to be one of them. I was so accustomed to highlighting the benefits of walking with Christ, that I tended to avoid the realities of pain and tragedy that take place right beside Him. The struggles that occur, even when in obedience to Christ, are enough to make one question the purpose of being a Christian in the first place. I never realized when I said “I accept You as the Lord and Savior of my life,” that meant totally surrendering my timeline, plans, and control. It meant that I would follow Him even when it hurt, made no sense, or get this, actually ushered in chaos and pain! I tended instead, to focus on biblical promises of a day when “there would be no more crying…”[1] but what about the tears being shed today?

How do we make it through now? What do you do when “thoughts and prayers” are just not enough?

  1. Realize that faith requires your personal participation coupled with patience. Too often we treat prayer and God like a Yelp review. We read about others’ experiences, but rarely visit or write our own review. When we do have a personal positive encounter, we tend to treat it as an expectation, rather than savor it for the pleasurable experience it was. However, the moment something unfavorable occurs, we’re the first to tell everyone to stay away! There will be some bad days, but they should never outweigh the hope the good ones inspired us to have.
  2. Fight back and take action. Don’t just talk about what you wish would happen, do something about it. If you’ve been praying about the state of our nation, take action through voting and educating others on the issues. Praying for healing? Do what’s in your power to maintain what health you do have. Consider your health professional’s advice and follow directions. Feed yourself positivity and speak life despite what it feels or looks like. Concerned about our growing energy crisis? Recycle, use sustainable bags, take the train, and bring your own water thermos. Turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth and doing the dishes. These are simple, yet practical steps that work in tandem with what you’ve asked God for.
  3. Get serious and raise your expectation level. Sometimes, we pray in defeat. We don’t really expect the situation to change, but we know that we’re “supposed” to talk to God, so we do, but we don’t really believe it. The Bible says in Hebrews 11 that “…anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who seek Him.”

Prayer is an action rooted in the belief that an omnipotent God is hearing your concerns, fears, and needs. Once you’ve submitted them to Him, you must move in the full confirmation that they’ve been answered.

“Thoughts and prayers,” the trite phrase that circulates the media after every school shooting, unsavory presidential mandate, and international catastrophe, does little to assuage the very real pain felt by those directly affected, unless supported by effective legislation and real action towards ensuring it won’t be repeated.

As a Christian, I used to think that choosing to submit my life to Christ would result in a life of safety, blessings, and little trouble. I relied on my own system of “thoughts and prayers,” with no real action on my part to be an active member in my faith.

I have no idea where I came up with such an alien concept.

At some point in my Christian walk, I thought I was entitled to certain assurances and promises. I thought if I followed the list of rules on the invisible contract I compiled between myself and God, I would be eligible for a set of rewards that would make all of my sacrifice worth it. Isn’t that how it works?

Quite frankly, no.

There are truly no guarantees that we won’t face difficult times and uncomfortable periods of testing. I’m constantly learning that difficult circumstances are not meant to destroy my resolve or eradicate my hope; they’re allowed by God to elevate, stretch, and mature my faith into something that truly can withstand the storm.

As poetic as that sounds, I wish there was another way, but there isn’t. Sometimes, life hurts your feelings, and there isn’t a reason to rationalize the pain away. It just hurts. Feel the pain, but don’t stay there.

I never realized how much my brand of Christianity was rooted in a non-existent checks and balances system. If I did this, then I should get that, and vice versa.

According to my calculations, I was definitely getting cheated, however, it seemed that each time I tried to complain or get justice, things either remained the same or seemed to digress. Where was the fairness in that? I feel the same sentiment when I catch up on current events.

Life can feel downright hopeless when it seems as if nothing is changing for the better. The things we think should bless us, end up being the very things that stretch and test us; inevitably giving us a choice to react with faith or flight. We can either believe that things will have to change for our good or we can try to run from the reality of our process. It’s not easy, but it’s best to move forward in faith. Fail-safes that I assume were put in place for my security and comfort, end up revealing themselves to be alternate passage ways designed to make me feel anything but safe. I don’t understand it. It doesn’t make sense.

Our human mind cannot comprehend how pain is supposed to bring peace or how difficulty should bring contentment; that’s where faith steps in.

Faith that there are still good people who care and who are passionate about change. Faith that you and I are among that number and that we will do our part to effect positive transformation of the status quo. Faith that God is sovereign and in total control. Faith that it won’t stay like this.

Dig deeper into the foundation you stand on and remember Who is still in charge. Get reacquainted with God’s nature and remind yourself that a Father who would sacrifice His own Son for the sake of an imperfect people, would spare no resource or action to save us from the nightmare of our own creation. He won’t leave us alone in the chaos that is our new normal; when thoughts and prayers aren’t enough, He is.

Be encouraged, we’re in this together. #prettybigfaith

[1] Paraphrased from the verse in Revelations 21:4a NKJV: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.”

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