A friend posed a question to me recently that does not have an easy answer, if indeed it has an answer at all. But it is a question we all struggle with daily, even if we do so unconsciously. For sometimes the answers we seek are to questions we are not able to fully articulate, we mortals being often unable to find the words to express our deepest longings or to ask the questions whose answers would satisfy our souls. If only we would ask the questions.
At this point I must confess – I did not have a ready answer to my friend’s question, only the all too real realization that her question was also my question, her struggle also my struggle.
Her question? The simple version – when should we give up? (give up praying, hoping, believing) The less simple version, containing all the questions that go into the makeup of the original question – should we just assume . . . God what? doesn’t hear us, isn’t going to act or intervene, doesn’t care about our pain, wants us to stop bothering Him with our requests? In order to be at peace do we stop praying for certain seemingly impossible things?
Is giving up hope our pathway to peace? Is it resignation that resolves our constant conflict between what is and what we wish to be? At what price peace? Is the loss of hope the price we must pay for peace?
Which I think leads into the ultimate question that we may be asking ourselves everyday. How do I live in this broken world with my broken heart and still have hope and peace and joy in living each day?
Jesus had something to say about these questions of ours. In Matthew 18 we read, “Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” So I guess the answer to the question is, we are not to give up. But that means we may be constantly upset, sad, worried etc. over whatever situations and people we are praying about, so we will have no peace.
Or will we? Look at what Philippians 4:6-7 tells us. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
This is incredible news! I don’t have to be anxious. I can continue in prayer, continually petitioning God if need be and even if my requests aren’t granted now or ever, I receive a gift every time I pray. That gift is the peace of God. And that is one priceless gift.
God’s peace is a peace that doesn’t make sense to others or even to me, as its recipient, because the peace that my Heavenly Father gives me, doesn’t depend on my current circumstances. (and it doesn’t come and go as my circumstances change either) It is a constant peace, a powerful, protective peace, a gift from God that guards my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
This must be why it is called the “peace that passes understanding.” It is a peace beyond the limits of my human wisdom. And it is an active peace, a peace powerfully protecting my heart and my mind from the enemy’s attacks of doubt and fear. As I pour out my heart to God, asking for oh so many things, I may receive none of them, but I always receive His gift of peace because it is promised to me in Philippians 4:7. And God always keeps His promises.
So we are instructed to “pray without ceasing;” (1Thessalonians 5:17), and to ” . . . pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18)
We are also told, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) There’s that hope we have, we are promised a harvest, if we don’t quit during our tough times.
But living with a broken heart is hard. Although a broken heart lets God’s love in and it allows other people’s pain in, which gives me the ability to share in another’s suffering. We are supposed to do that, to bear one anothers’ burdens.
But why is it life seems to be moments of joy and hours of pain? I need to notice those moments of unexpected joy so that I can hang onto them. I need to store them up as solace against the hurts and wounds and inevitable losses that accumulate until they seem too much to carry.
Psalm 84:10 says, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere;”. One compared to a thousand seems obviously lopsided. And yet the one day is more valuable than the thousand apart from God. (I guess location really is everything)
Joy, hope and peace are possible for those who live each day with a broken heart. I know this to be true. We can be both broken hearted and joyful simultaneously. Only with God is this possible. As I pour out my heart to Him in prayer, broken over my own sin, broken over the lives of the loved ones I am praying for, something miraculous happens.
My circumstances may not be changed, my loved ones may not be changed or healed, but I am changed again and again, each time. Forgiven, comforted, encouraged, empowered, equipped, strengthened, sustained, shown new things, reminded of old truths, given new eyes to see, humbled and filled with hope, protected by His peace, fed by His new mercies – I can walk another day in this broken world, full of broken hearted people, with my own heart broken and still find joy in whatever lies along the path He directs me to that day.
When should we give up? Never! God doesn’t give up on me, may I never lose hope or give up on anyone, but persist in prayer as God enables each of us to do. And it is while I am in the act of praying that I receive God’s gift of His perfect peace that passes understanding and actively protects my heart and my mind.
Though my day may be full of trouble, it will contain moments full of joy, so full of joy that it cannot be adequately contained nor expressed. They are fleeting moments of deep knowing, glimpses of the certainty that awaits us. Eternity contained in a moment that is gone before it can be fully experienced. It is those moments which outweigh and outshine all our hours of pain. Eternity present in each and every moment of joy.
“You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
sincerely, Grace Day