You may already be aware of this, but praying for growth and change in our lives may be a fairly painful action. It’s simple, God answers prayers. This is a lesson He’s tried to teach me time and time again. The thing about prayer is that God does not think in the same way that we think. His perception of us and the world very different from our own. His way is so far beyond our comprehension that it would be foolish to pray for change and expect it to happen in the way that we would desire it to happen. To put it simply, God will give us the answer we need the most, not necessarily the one we desire the most.
To get my point across, I’m going to use an example from my own life. I’m warning you it’s a little long. So use the bathroom now, get a snack and buckle up boys and girls, we are going for a little trip. Okay, it’s not going to be that long, but you get the idea.
I’ve often thought, like so many people do, life would be so much better if I only knew what my future held. Well, the more I think about it now, the more I think that it’s more of a mercy that we don’t know what’s coming down the road before we are ready for it. If someone had told me long ago what I was going to have to go through to have real, lasting heart change, I don’t know if I would have ever prayed for change. I doubt that I would have been willing to ask God to bring my heart more closely in line with His own.
Now you may be asking yourself, “what if God told you what you were in for if you didn’t change? Think of it like, your parents threatening you with a punishment.” Great question. With that example, I don’t desire heart change, I desire to avoid punishment. I would be seeking an opportunity to avoid pain. That is not the same as realizing I need to change and having a desire to change. For real, lasting heart change, it had to come from me and not some external threat.
My wife and I often refer to our married life as a wild roller coaster. It’s been 15 years since we said, “I do,” even if it feels much longer. For the first few years, everything was great. We had very little stress, worry, or hardships. We had a lot of friends, a great church, and were generally very happy. I see now that this time was God’s way of preparing us for the struggles that were coming down the road. He gave us a safe place to bond and grow together so that we might be strong enough together to come out the other side whole.
From that point on, we had to deal with many nights and even weeks in the hospital. We have had to come to grips with several miscarriages, financial struggles, medical scares, and years of endless, sleepless nights. I spent several years as a burden to my wife and family, simply wasting away from illness. We both struggled with depression, living on the edge, partially hoping that today would be the last. I for one spent many, many nights, lying in bed, wondering if my family would be better off without me. I had many long conversations about it with God and every time He always left me with a firm, no.
You know what, let’s stop there. I think you get the picture, just imagine more of that but with 4 kids and a car accident thrown in. Actually, let’s go into the car accident. I was sitting in my car, stopped behind another car on the road. In my rear-view mirror I could see the grill of a Mack truck, all polished up and reflecting the cold, afternoon sun. At one point, literally all I could see was the word MACK in my rear view mirror. In fact, that’s an image I’ll probably never forget. In my head I was saying to myself, very calmly, “Don’t panic, you’re already dead.” My body wouldn’t have it, and was like, “You’re nuts, if there was every a time to panic, now is that time!” Not that either suggestion did me any good. A second before impact a massive invisible hand slid the truck to the side so that it only caught the corner of my car. It was still pretty brutal, but let’s be honest, it should have been so much worse. Even the guy driving the truck was shocked that he was able to swerve so far out of the way in an instant. I’d just like to say, “Thank you Lord, for not letting me take that hit full on.”
Now, you’re probably wondering, what does this have to do with change? I’m so glad you asked. As the old saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Well it’s true. In the last few weeks, God has stripped away my very hardened and stubborn heart. He made me face my past. In one swift motion He tore down the walls I had built to protect myself from the reality of my past actions, and let me see the reality of who I was. I was shown how my actions had hurt people really care about. He shed light on a heart that is cold, prideful (arrogantly so), selfish, impatient, lacking in true thankfulness, and has little compassion for others.
It would be safe to imagine that my brain had set up a wall full of photos from my life with God at the center. Using tacks and red yarn I made this huge spider web connecting God’s hand in my life. This probably makes me sound a little crazy. To be fair, had I not lived, had not been there, I’d probably think the same thing.
I’m going to be honest, this experience broke my heart. I don’t just mean emotionally, but there were moments when the grief and regret I felt physically pained hurt. Through all of these experiences in my life it was evident that God had been preparing my heart for growth. Through every experience He had been slowly chipping away at who I was for the purpose of getting me to the point to where I would be open to His will. I’m actually pretty ashamed that it has taken so long for me to get to this point.
I don’t know what God is preparing me for. For the first time in my long life as a Christian, I’ve been able to completely set my future at His feet. I’m going to assume that it’s taken care of, no matter what that might be.