Unspoken Words

When it comes to maintaining faith, it can be very frustrating when you feel like God has not answered your prayers. We all have what seems like unanswered prayers. And it only gets harder as those unanswered prayers seem to come when we are praying for dire things. When I was young, I was bullied quite a bit in school. I was made fun of for not being able to read until the 3rd grade. I was not invited to play with the other girls on the playground. They claimed I was too stupid to play with them.

I often felt ostracized and bad about myself. I spent many of those early years feeling like there was something wrong with me and that I was a less valuable person. I remember praying, even in those early years of life, asking God to change the hearts of those girls or to change me so that others would stop bullying me and so I could just fit in for once. I prayed every day before going to school which I dreaded. I would pray every night as I laid my head down to sleep. I just wanted to be normal, like everyone else.

But day in and day out I dealt with the bullies. My prayers seemed to go unanswered. So I worked even harder to learn how to read. I worked even harder on my school work to become smarter and eventually I started to stand up for myself. But I still did not feel better about who I was and I was still not invited to play with the cool kids or the smart kids. I still felt ostracized and I remember feeling mad at God because nothing had changed. But the friends I did have were good friends and at least when I was home I always felt loved, wanted, and valued.

Since then I have learned that sometimes what we want the most does not always happen, no matter how earnestly we approach it in prayer. And most recently I read this quote from Father Jacques Philippe, “The Lord can leave us wanting relative to certain things (sometimes judged indispensible in the eyes of the world), but He never leaves us deprived of what is essential: His presence, His peace, and all that is necessary for the complete fulfillment of our lives, according to His plans for us”.[1] God has done great and wonderful things with my life since then. And I now know that friendships with those people were not necessary for fulfillment of my life and my purpose. I would even venture to say those experiences made me a more sensitive and compassionate person. My unanswered prayers were in fact answered even though it took years for me to mature enough to see those answers in God’s unspoken words.  

God always answers our prayers even if it is by remaining silent. God answers by taking care of that which needs to be cared for the most. And this is exactly what he did with Elijah. God’s judgment had come upon the people of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the northern kingdom, in the form of a drought, a drought that lasted 7 years. With drought in the ancient world, comes illness and mass death. Elijah had nowhere to live, no way to make money, and no food or water. So God sent him to the Wadi, a brook, of Cherith and God appointed the ravens to share the carrion they ate with him. This was not kosher according Jewish laws but then who was Elijah to question the mercies of God when they came. Then the Wadi dried up and the vegetation died and there was nothing left for him except death.

At this point, Elijah went to a Phoenician woman for help at the direction of God. She became his salvation and through Elijah God became her and her son’s salvation. They learned that though prayers are not always answered as we would like that God would give us just what we needed at the right moment in time to sustain us and to remind us of his compassionate presence. The woman’s jars of oil and grain never ran out but she never had abundance either. She had just what she needed to feed the three of them for the day.

God didn’t change the hearts of those mean girls in school. I never became friends with them. But I did learn to read. He brought the right friends into my life at the right moments and revealed his plans to me with time. So when we are desperate, when we are feeling badly that God has not answered our pleas, we need to remember that perhaps he has or will and we just don’t recognize it yet. We need to remember that he will sustain us with just what we need when we need it the most. If you remember nothing else, remember the image from today’s scriptures, “For thus says the Lord the God of Israel, ‘The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth’”.[2] So work to place your trust in the Lord when you pray and wait to see the answers that are there in the different ways that he cares for our needs. Pair your prayers of need with prayers of Thanksgiving and in time you will be able to more quickly see the answers in God’s unspoken words. So be like the Psalmist from this morning and

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.[3]

God is with each of us in every experience. God is listening when we pray and finding just the right way to fulfill the need that is deep within our souls. So place your confidence in God today and tomorrow and see his answers in the experiences of the everyday. Let those experiences give you the confidence you need to trust in God when tomorrow’s troubles hit.

[1] Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A Small Treatise on Peace of Heart”, French Catholic Priest and Author, 21st Century.

[2] 1 Kings 17: 14, RSV.

[3] Psalm 30: 4-5, RSV.