I have a friend who has a favorite quote that he has to use often. He plans out his week, prioritizes things and works his plan. All week long people come to him and ask him to stop what he’s doing in order to help them. They give excuses and sob stories to try to get him to stop what he’s doing so he can work on their project. Some will even invoke the boss’ name to try to get him to work on their stuff. “The boss says you need to work on this right away.” He’s learned that rarely has the boss ever asked him to stop what he’s doing in order to do an immediate request. So his normal response is, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” He then adds them to his list and gets to them later.
Being around him and watching people beg, barter and demand he do their project now always gets me to thinking how often I treat God that way. “God, if you get me out of this, I’ll do better next time.” “God, please! I need you to do this right now! Hurry!” “God, your Word says you have to do this and you can’t be untrue to your Word, so do it in Jesus name!” Sound familiar? I’ve prayed every one of those prayers in the last couple of weeks. I try to paint God into a corner in order to get Him to give me what I want. If that’s the on,y time we’re talking and that’s how I’m treating Him, there’s a spiritual maturity problem on my end. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” often comes to mind in those moment when I want it to be, “My will be done.”
In Psalm 69, David starts his prayer off, “Save me, O God! The water is up to my neck; I am sinking in deep mud, and there is no solid ground; I am out in deep water, and the waves are about to drown me” (GNT). He’s clearly in an emergency situation as he describes throughout this Psalm. However, in verse 13, his tone changes and he prays, “But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord; answer me, God, at a time you choose.” Instead or telling God when to help or even how to help, a sign of maturity is asking God to help in His time and in His way. I often wonder how many of my prayers go unanswered or that I don’t recognize the answer because I tell God how and when to answer, but those aren’t what His plans are. Jesus started the Lord’s Prayer giving God permission to have His will be done. Since He was teaching us to pray, let’s focus on the words we use in our prayers to make sure we’re asking according to His will and not ours.
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been desperate for hope. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was in ICU at the M.D. Anderson cancer center. I remember living in that holding room for families. Each family in there lived day to day desperate for good news. Some families got it, but most of us didn’t. We were tired, exhausted, mentally drained, and were looking for a ray of hope that might mean our loved one would walk out of there.
Another time was after my first wife left me. My business was failing and the world all around me seemed to be crashing in. When I thought I had hit rock bottom, the bottom would fall out. When I thought I had good news, it turned out to be wrong. I just wanted something to hold onto in order to keep from from falling deeper in that hole, but everything I grabbed seemed to slip between my fingers.
To be without hope is a dangerous place, yet so many of us live there. Our lives seem to have no future, and we just want something we can believe in to brighten up the darkness a little. The writer of Lamentations was there too. He was in a desperate place having lost everything. As he recounted his trouble in chapter three, he then wrote in 3:22-23, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue” (GNT). His hope returned when he took his eyes off his situation and focused on God.
I love what he goes on to write in verses 25-26. He says, “The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us—.” God sees us in our hopeless darkness. Looking back, He used those times to shape me and polish me. Trusting God when you can’t see a future is hard, but be patient. The Lord is good and is working things out for your good. Hope will return because God has not forgotten you.