Does life ever seem overwhelming? Do you feel battered by life?
For fifteen years, Terri Blackstock has written about her wobbly journey as a Christian in the “Afterwords” and “Notes From the Author” at the end of her best-selling novels. She’s heard from many readers who’ve been blessed by them. When she compiled some of them into the first edition of this book, readers bought it by the case and passed it out to their friends.
SOUL RESTORATION: HOPE FOR THE WEARY has been revised with new meditations and confessions designed to encourage those who are life-battered and soul-weary. With several new confessions and meditations, along with Scripture and prayers, it is now a 30-Day Devotional meant to focus your thoughts and sharpen your perspective as you embark on your day.
Read it in one sitting or in thirty segments, then pass it along to comfort others.
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28)
Day 27: Whiny Little Prayers
“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
Psalm 50:14 (ESV)
I have a problem with gratitude. While I have so many things to be thankful for, I never seem to dwell on those much. I rarely talk to God about them. I dwell on the negatives in my life, and those are the things that occupy most of my prayers.
Today it occurred to me that God sees all of the suffering in the world, and then he sees me with my whiny little prayers that seem so urgent to me. Last night I got a cramp in my toe, and I couldn’t get it to go away. It literally occupied my every thought. I prayed and whined and put compresses on it, and asked God why.
But how does that sound to God? I tell Him my foot hurts, and I beg Him to make it feel better. He sees people who have amputated feet, people who are paralyzed, people who have flesh-eating bacteria on dying limbs. He hears their passionate prayers for healing, and then he hears mine. “God, my toe is really killing me. Can’t you fix it? I don’t want to hurt.” And he knows that my pain is nothing–absolutely nothing–compared to theirs.
I pray for my back pain, which can be significant for me. He hears my prayers, but he also hears those millions across the world from people with backs that have rendered them quadriplegics, backs with debilitating nerve damage, backs that keep them doubled over, unable to look up. He feels the pain of all that suffering, and then he feels mine. While he’s compassionate, I can’t help wondering if he’s sad that I’m not more grateful that I don’t have cancer eating me from the inside out, that I can walk upright and move my hands and do the things I want.
I complain of having migraines, but there are people whose brain chemistry has been out-of-balance for years. I complain that my house isn’t nice enough, yet there are people who sleep under bridges. I complain that my job is difficult and stressful, yet there are people who walk miles for water and do desperate things in order to support their families.
I complain about my church, how the air conditioning is too cold, how the pews are too hard. And God sees people across the world who are risking their lives to assemble together in underground home churches, so anxious to worship God that they’d give their lives for it.
I imagine it’s like spending time in a famine-ravaged country, where people walk around like skeletons, desperate for food. And then you come home to America and walk in your own home, where the pantries are stocked and the refrigerator is full, and your kids whine that there’s nothing to eat. It would be more than irritating. Yet that’s what God sees in us all the time. Yes, he still loves us, just like we love our own children when they’re ungrateful. I’m sure he also realizes that we don’t know how fortunate we are. Unless we’ve seen what he’s seen, how can we know that we sometimes sound like cry-babies squealing in His ears?
If earth is a training ground for heaven, then what should we be doing here? Revelation says that thanksgiving and praise will be a huge element of our lives in heaven. Maybe that’s because we’ll then be able to see clearly all the good things that God gave us, all the ways he worked strength and endurance and perseverance into our lives. All the ways he prepared us for our heavenly work. We’ll be overflowing with gratitude, because we’ll know all the close calls he protected us from, all the devastation, all the heartache, all the help, and we’ll learn how he used the things he allowed.
But we’re not supposed to wait until we get there. We’re supposed to train ourselves in thanksgiving now. “Pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NIV). “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phillipians 4:6, NIV). “I will give thanks to you with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1, ESV).
So how do we keep our prayers from being narcissistic and self-centered? We take time to focus on how fortunate we are. I know a lady who has ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s. Though her muscles no longer work (she’s paralyzed) and she can hardly hold her head up or speak, she manages to go to the local jail to do prison ministry once a week. She has hired troubled women (who have been in prison themselves), to care for her during the day. And most of what she asks them to do for her centers around Bible study and praising God. As they’re helping her, she’s helping them. These women say their time with her has changed their lives. This lady will minister to others and praise God until her last breath. Through all her suffering, and it is extensive, her life is a testimony of praise and thanksgiving, because she knows Christ died to cleanse her of her sins, so that one day soon she’ll be raised to new life–completely healed, with an everlasting life to serve the God she served here on earth. And since thanksgiving is already a way of life for her here, she’ll enter His gates with even more thanksgiving, and live in joy and gratitude for eternity.
So let’s be more grateful for what we have, and in our pain, be thankful for how God will use that pain someday. Let’s remember those famous first words in The Purpose-Driven Life: “It’s not about you.” If God never did another thing for us than send His son to die a substitutionary death on the cross for us, so he could forgive us of our sins, he’d still deserve overwhelming gratitude. But he’s done so much more.
Heavenly Father: Thank you for having patience with me even when I come to you with such self-centered prayers. Your perspective could fill you with disgust at my whiny little prayers, but the fact that you’re filled with love and patience instead testifies of your loving fatherhood. I adore you. Amen.
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore, I have hope in Him.’” Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB)