"If This is my Lot, then what is the Lesson?"
The Bible is filled with many scriptures and promises about suffering. We are promised that in this world we will have trouble.[i] We are promised that when we go through deep waters, God will be there[ii]. We are promised Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us[iii]. And we are told to pray and ask God for what we need and believe He will provide[iv].
So what about those times when your trial lingers, your prayers for healing or the burden to be lifted go unanswered, and you couldn’t feel further from God?
You shift your prayers.
This doesn’t mean you don’t keep asking for the miracle you’re praying for, but while you’re wading through the deep waters, begin to ask God why you’re there in the first place.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 12 that Paul had what’s called a “thorn in the flesh.” Many commentators give their opinion on what this “thorn” could have been, from a physical infirmity to a literal, evil spirit tormenting him, but the truth of the matter is, we don’t know for sure. The bottom line is this: Paul prayed and asked God for relief from the thorn three times, and God did not take it away.
So the question we are left with is: why?
If God is all loving and all-powerful, why didn’t he honor Paul’s prayer? After all, Paul was a warrior for God, spreading the gospel and making converts left and right.
I believe the only answer is the Lesson.
The lesson of the thorn was imperative to Paul’s growth and dedication. God knew the story would be passed down from generation to generation, both comforting and challenging those in it’s hearing. Paul needed the thorn. His lot was crucial for him to learn the lesson.
I found myself in that place a few months ago, where I’d been praying for different thorns in my life to be removed and they remained. Right in the thick of it, through listening to different sermons and Bible readings, I believe God spoke to me and challenged me to shift the trajectory of my prayers. Instead of continuing to beg God for relief from the struggles, instead I started saying, “God, if this is my lot, then what is the lesson? If I never find relief from my suffering, then I know it’s for a purpose. So what’s the lesson? What do I need to learn that I keep unlearning? What habits do I need to change so that I can finally ace this lesson and move on?”
Since that time I’ve witnessed different people in my life encountering the same situation; the prayer that seems to continue to go unanswered, the weariness of asking for the same weight to be lifted, only to continue having to carry it.
My challenge to those people and to you today is simple: maybe you’re weary with praying the same prayers over and over and feel like you’re not getting an answer.
So change your prayers.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep asking for relief or healing, but shift the attitude and the angle at which you’re broaching the subject and see what the Holy Spirit reveals to you about your heart instead of your situation.
[i] John 16:33
[ii] Isaiah 43:2
[iii] Deuteronomy 31:6
[iv] Matthew 21:22