“Even when I call out or cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer.” Lamentations 3:8 NIV
To feel heard is a very basic human need. We all want to be listened to, to know that our needs and desires matter. This is perhaps especially so when we are talking to God, the one person we are told we can count on, who will never let us down. And yet, so often, we feel that we are talking away to the Almighty and no-one is on the other end of the receiver. “Are you really there at all, Lord?” we ask, or “What’s the good of my sitting here just talking to myself?” We convince ourselves that we are truly alone and maybe even, like Jeremiah in the verse above, that God is deliberately shutting us out, as though he had his fingers in his ears and were singing “nah na na nah na” like an obstreperous toddler.
But perhaps by now in this year’s journey we are becoming aware that just because it feels like something is a certain way, does not mean it is truly like that. Appearances are deceptive, and so are our emotions and our often selfish ways of looking at and experiencing things. I have found that as my prayer life has grown and matured, I am able to complain differently to God, including when I feel unheard. I can be confident that the very real pain or sorrow I am experiencing or expressing is not being ignored, that it is okay to feel it, as long as I know that what I am really doing is getting it out of my system.
God is never out, never not there, he hears and sees it all. He is always paying attention. He is always aware of what is going on in my life, and not just because I tell him about it. There is truly no danger of my being more informed about my world and my problems than God is. And yet God’s understanding and ours can feel very far apart. The solutions I would like can seem obvious and I would like them to be immediate. And yet I know that heaven doesn’t work like that. So I sometimes need to just say that it hurts to have to wait, or that it hurts to feel that God isn’t listening, because he seems to my human perceptions to be so slow to act.
And I believe God is okay with all of that. He knows our smallness and our limitations and our breathtakingly selfish vision. He is patient with us as the most loving parent to a frustrated child who is simply not capable of understanding why the mortgage has to be paid first before she can have her pocket money. We can snuggle into God at the same time as we are throwing a tantrum or sobbing or sulking, and it is okay. It is really fine, and even healthy. Just as long as we remember somewhere deep down, that we are love, that there is a plan, that there is a loving, wise, all-knowing God, and that we are not her.
All is heard, taken on board, our pain will be processed with grace, and we shall be comforted and consoled. It may not happen at the same time as we are angry or confused or lost or frightened, but it will happen. And from my own experience, I have to say that, like the analogous child I just mentioned, it is often beyond us at the point of deepest upset or frustration, to be comforted or consoled, or to have anything explained to us. Pain, especially when it has even the tiniest (and even justified) root in self-pity, acts as a barrier between us and God, partly because a small piece of us wants to be cross for a while. Letting it out is okay. And a sleepy face streaked with tears is always precious to a parent, and our ultimate father-mother will gather us up and kiss our cheek at just the right moment.
“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:17 NLT
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