I prayed really hard recently for God’s help with something extremely important to me. I didn’t just want God to do something—I desperately needed Him to come through. What I asked God for wasn’t selfish. In fact, it wasn’t even for me—it was for someone else. What I prayed for was according to Jesus’ nature, so I felt confident asking for it in His name. It was the sort of thing God does—it fell under the category of “His will” so I even used a Scripture promise as a basis for my prayer. I prayed with faith and hope—more than I usually have—and I fully expected to give God glory for His wonderful answer to prayer. From a theology-of-prayer standpoint, I had covered all the bases.
Besides all that, in my personal prayer journey this past year or so, God has been encouraging to ask more and bigger. To really trust Him for the “exceeding abundantly beyond you ask or imagine” kinds of things. He’s gently chided me for praying coping and surviving prayers (“Help me just get through this, God”), urging me, instead, to pray flourishing and thriving prayers (“You have won the victory, God!”)
So I was honestly surprised when God didn’t show up in this current situation in the ways I thought He would. While the situation could have gone worse, from my perspective it certainly could have gone better. What I most wanted—needed—was for the ones involved in this situation to have a palpable sense of God’s presence and comfort. That didn’t happen. And I was disappointed—and hurt. I still trusted God. I still believed in His love and goodness. But I hurt.
Honestly, it was hard for me to find words to tell God how I felt. But I knew I had to. I’d put myself out there, taken what felt like a significant faith risk, and I felt as if God had let me down. I needed to talk to Him about it, or there would be distance between us.
I don’t remember my words to Him, exactly—I think I said something along the lines of what I just explained to you. But His response I remember distinctly: “When I meet you the way you ask Me to, you are blessed. You receive My grace-gifts, and you feel blessed. But when I don’t meet you the way you hoped yet you continue to trust Me anyhow—then you bless Me. You give Me your trust-gift, and I feel blessed.”
I’d never thought of it that way. When I continue to trust God in the midst of disappointment, when I keep the conversation with Him going, even when He doesn’t answer the way I expect He will, He is pleased. He counts that as faith, and He is blessed.
Knowing God sees things this way encourages me. Obviously, I still hope He will answer my prayers! But when things turn out differently than I’d prayed they would, it helps me to know that I can give God the gift of my trust—and He will be blessed.