When God Un-Answers a Prayer, Part Three: We Wrestle

Are you still with me? We’ve reached the final installment of this little series and quite frankly, I’m a little bit glad. Some time between Part One and Part Two I wished I hadn’t started this series this week but I decided I needed to finish what I had begun. 

When I say “finish the story,” I more accurately mean “finish talking about the story for now.” I think this story is still being written. As I mentioned yesterday, we have been waiting for a decision to be made regarding the location of K’s new job. Last week, we were told that a preliminary decision has been made. K came home with an ear-to-ear smile and told me that it looks like we’re back on track to be in the same town as my family. Wow, right? Nothing’s permanent until it’s permanent and one of the states that wasn’t chosen to be the location is raising a bit of a stink, so we’re still waiting for a few last pieces to fall into place. That said, at this point it would be a big surprise if we didn’t move back home.

My reaction to this news? Guardedly optimistic. I want to jump up and down and do a cartwheel, but first, I don’t know how to do a cartwheel and second, I am afraid I might be once bitten, twice shy. I had mentally begun to prepare myself for a move to anywhere but home and now I need more time to accept that home is an option again. 

One night last week I was hopped up on caffeine, unable to sleep, with a million different pieces of thoughts racing past each other in my mind.  Nothing seemed to fit together and I just couldn’t make sense of it all. What did all of this mean? Maybe God was rewarding K with a better job because of his willingness to put his family before his career. Maybe God had wanted me to stop and deal with some of the emotional baggage that I had stacked in the corners of my heart.

That night a Bible story kept coming to my mind and I have no idea why. It was the one about Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32. Frankly, that’s always been one of my least favorite stories. For one thing, I’m not a big fan of wrestling. For another, that story never made a lot of sense to me. The gist of the story is that Jacob was moving back home (now that part sounds familiar) and one night he sent everyone ahead of him and spent the night by himself. That night a “Man” comes and wrestles with 100-year-old Jacob all…night…long. At daybreak, Jacob tells the Man (Who was actually God) that he won’t let go of Him unless the Man blesses him. God blesses Jacob and Jacob walks with a limp for the rest of his life as a result of an injury he sustained during the wrestling match.

So what in the world does that have to do with me? I’m not exactly sure. I do feel like I’m “wrestling through” some things that I really don’t understand.  I don’t know why it seems that God sometimes un-answers a prayer.

I’ve been thinking of Baby Stellan this week. Some of you might not know who he is. When Stellan’s mom was pregnant with him, the doctors told her that Stellan would probably not make it . He defied the odds and entered the world as a healthy baby boy. Then a few weeks ago, this precious four-month-old sweetie ended up in the hospital with a deadly heart condition that has baffled the doctors. He’s fighting for his life. His parents praised God for healing their baby while he was still in his mother’s body. Now they’re praying that God will spare Stellan’s life again.

Six months ago, my dad left his position as the worship leader in his church, a position he’d held for twenty-three years. God had given him a passion for pastoral care ministry and especially for Celebrate Recovery, a program for people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. He was full of ideas and dreams of the part he could play to reach hurting people for God’s glory. Less than two months later, he was in a hospital room listening to doctors tell him that if he were one of the lucky ones, he’d live another year.

Sometimes it certainly does feel like God  un-answers prayers. No matter how hard I try, I can’t make sense of it all. I have wrestled with God the last few weeks. I’ve read and re-read parts of the Bible looking for glimpses of His plan. I’ve worked through situations in  my head, analyzing and debating the issues. I think the reason this post was so difficult for me to write today is because I’m still writing it each minute of the day. 

Here’s where I am at this very moment:

Deuteronomy 29:29 says that “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” I believe that some things that happen in this life we will not understand on this side of heaven. We can’t see what’s around the next corner. We don’t always know what’s best for us. Even though not knowing can be scary, when I really think about it, I’m glad that I don’t know as much as God. I’d have a hard time trusting a God that was only as smart as I am. I think the title of these posts may be a misnomer. I don’t think God “un-answers” prayers, even when sometimes it feels like he does. Sometimes the answers are not easily understood by us, but I fully trust that He knows what He’s doing even when we don’t.

I also believe that God wants us to wrestle the tough issues with Him. Like I said yesterday, I believe we need to remember that we’re talking to the Almighty Creator of the universe Who deserves our utmost respect, but I believe that, just like I want my children to talk to me and tell me what’s going on in their heads, my Father wants to hear from me as well. 

I was sitting at the table talking to K earlier this evening. I remarked that right now our lives are one big question mark and remarkably, I’m okay with that. After all, my not being okay with that wouldn’t replace a single one of those question marks with an exclamation point. So today I’m very grateful for what I know for sure:

I have a personal relationship with God. He loved me enough to send His son to die on the cross for me (John 3:16).

One day, I will live forever in heaven with Him in a wonderful place free of question marks.

Until then, I can completely trust that my Father has every single one of my days already planned  (Psalm 139) and I don’t have to worry about what comes next.

Whether we give it to Him or not, though it is truly my heart’s desire to do so, God will get the glory in whatever happens in my life and in my family’s life.

I can give all of my worries to my Father because He cares for me (I Peter 5:7).

Finally, whatever trouble I experience in this life is just a temporary bump in the road. This life seems like a big deal now, but it’s not my final destination. What we see? It’s all temporary. What we can’t see? That’s forever (2 Corinthians 4:18). For any other C.S. Lewis lovers out there, this place is not the true Narnia.


Thanks to those of you who endured all three parts of this epic drama. I hope I wasn’t, as Simon Cowell would say, too “indulgent.” Like I said in the first post, more than anything else, I needed to wrestle through some ideas by writing through them. You’ve left such sweet and thoughtful comments and I appreciate and covet your prayers for me and my family. I think tomorrow I’ll write about something light and fluffy for a change! 😉


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17 responses to “When God Un-Answers a Prayer, Part Three: We Wrestle

  1. hisgirlamber

    I thouroughly enjoyed this series. Partly because it was well written, but mostly because I know exactly how it feels know you’re living the middle part of a story.

    I once heard that we shouldn’t say some prayers are answered and some prayers are unanswered. There is always an answer. Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes- no, sometimes- wait. I discovered that what I meant when I said that God didn’t answer my prayer was “God didn’t grant my wish”- which led to a whole lesson about whether I want God to give me the desires of my heart or the desires of His.

    And let me just tell you, I’m still learning that lesson- it’s a toughie.

  2. I so admire your courage. It isn’t easy to put yourself out there, but I appreciate it so much. I like your light and fluffy, but I also like your deep and wrestly. Because it makes you real. And I like real.

  3. I echo Amber. I like real.

    I have a friend who is very real like you and I always have admired her ability to wrestle it all out with God. I think I hold back from Him sometimes- for whatever reason. Again, thanks for sharing.

    You’re standing firm, the Lord is for you in and through it all, and we know that one Day we will see in wholeness in unity with Him.

    I can’t wait for that Day…

    Much love, friend. I know it’s early, but Happy Resurrection Day.

  4. Although you don’t know where this road will lead, you have gained lots of insight and maturity along the way. Unfortunately, it seems like the times of greatest struggle, also produce the times of greatest growth. I think that everyone knows that, and everyone hates that…

    I will keep your family in my prayers.

  5. Light and fluffy is good, but this has been great! It’s made me think of times when it seemed that God was answering a prayer the way I wanted him to, then lo and behold He went and changed the plan. It (mostly) all makes sense in hindsight, but it’s still a hard lesson to learn.

    I love that you know that your journey is ongoing, the story is not finished being told. You wrote “sometimes the answers are not easily understood by us, but I fully trust that He knows what He’s doing even when we don’t.” Yes, yes, yes! I am telling myself this tonight.

    Thank you for sharing and trusting us with this part of you.

  6. Renae

    Thanks for sharing! I am praying for you & your family.

  7. I love what you said about being guardedly optimistic. . . I can certainly relate to that one. Lots of questions without answers is a tough place to be, but isn’t it just wonderful that God is a God who loves us? Just remember, God is not on plan B. I’ve heard Beth Moore say that over and over again. For some reason it always helps me when I remind myself that these things are all apart of His plan. It sounds like you have such a great peace right now . . . a peace that passeth all understanding. I think it is awesome that right now you are reminding yourself of the things you know are true. Praise His name that He works all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I’m so very sorry that you are going through this storm of life right now. You and your family are in my prayers. I can’t wait to see how this chapter in your life unfolds.

    Thank you for sharing your heart.

  8. Fantastic post. Not just because of it’s content that we all read- but because of your character that is revealed. I really appreciate folks who can earnestly and honestly wrestle with disappointments and “in-answers” with conviction and humility.

  9. Wow, thank you for sharing that. I love your honesty through it all. I truly believe that writing it all out does help with the “wrestling”. And, I’m sure, you’ve helped others in sharing this!

  10. carpoolqueen

    Ditto and Amen. And the promise to walk with you (or near you when you have to walk alone).

  11. As I read thru this, is amazing to me (another God thing…why am I surprised?) how God gave you this forum for your “working thru”, and yet…look at what an encouragement you are! Not only to those in your club, but to any struggling believer in any day to day struggle. Yes, Lord. Give me the faith of a mustard seed today.


  12. It may have been uncomfortable for you to share so openly, but I can honestly say it was a blessing to me. I stumbled upon you blog as I struggled with some of my own questions of God’s plan for me and my family. Your words helped me to put my own thoughts into order. I know that this life is a journey, and I know that God walks every step with me, but I don’t always know where He is going and I’m not always sure I want to go along with Him – not because of Him, but because the path looks more difficult than what I would choose on my own. So, as I seek God’s path in my life, I pray for your family. I pray that you will have the grand celebration on the other side of this tough time and that you will be able to see where and how God was at work the entire time.
    Blessings to you!!

  13. My sweet little snoodle…how do I love thee?

    Your “wrestling” may be tough and exhausting but because of it you/we are stronger…it IS a workout and after a workout we are sore, in pain, in tears, sweating…but when it’s all said and done. We are stronger.

    I am proud of you for wrestling and for sharing with us…

  14. Thanks for sharing a part of you…we all have unanswered questions in this world, it helps to know we are not the only ones struggling to understand things sometimes.

    Hang in there and keep the faith.

  15. Just finished reading Parts 1, 2 and 3. I so appreciate your transparency. It isn’t easy to write about the spiritual hurts while struggling through the emotional.

    I can’t say I understand with experience the struggle of watching a parent face a tragic diagnosis, but i do understand the struggle that comes from the nomadic military life…that process of thinking that I have figured out how it will all work out…only to realize I was wrong…and that God was always in control! Even when I doubted.

    Going to pray that Gods timing and plan will unfold before you…and that you will continue to hold on to his peace while we wait!

  16. Oh, Amy…those tears from earlier have just intensified.

    I don’t even know where to begin. I’m still in a place of wrestling…feels like I’ve been there for a long, long time.

    Interstingly, as I just typed wrestling, I realized that if you drop the “w” and “l” you end up with RESTING. That’s where I sense you are…and that’s where I want to join you.

    I pray for your dad daily as I know you do for mine. I hate being in THE CLUB, but I’m thankful not to be alone.

  17. Pingback: Round Infinity? « Snoodlings

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