It’s been several weeks of back-to-back big issues. If hard things come in threes, I’ve been over limit.
First, we learned that while my daughter was on a mission trip in Brazil, Hurricane Michael wiped out her belongings in storage. On the heels of that, we had a health scare that sent us scurrying for tests and searching for answers. A different report came in raising concerns for one child at the same time I was walking another through heavy decisions. And that Saturday, as I was prepping to meet some friends, a pipe burst spewing water across the utility room into the kitchen before we could get the water turned off.
I stayed steady through the first couple of issues, handling each one as it came. But when they piled on, I began to buckle under their collective weight.
I’ve been a single mom for seven years, and I’ve grown more accustom to juggling all the things, to days with no margin and to making countless decisions on my own. When I stop to think about all of it, I realize again what an enormous task single parenting is. But who has time to stop and think about it?
And while I’ve learned these last seven years to take my need to God, the sheer weight of all these big issues together taxed every bit of my emotional reserves and maxed out my mental space. A girl can only hold so much before something gives.
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And what gave out was my apparently my focus. I began to get scatterbrained. It wasn’t so bad when I left a roast and vegetables on the counter overnight.
But two days later, I lost some very important papers. This type-B girl had been so organized! I sorted them, used them for online forms and then – poof. I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I did with them next.
I started praying like nobody’s business.
I scoured my house. For the next two days, I cleaned out drawers, my walk-in closet and stacks of mail. I sorted through our trash bags and the recycling bin. My kids searched the car, under pillows, behind furniture.
I prayed constantly God would help me find them. I brooded. I stewed. I went to bed begging God to help and woke up scrutinizing my memory for a clue.
Finally, I went onto Instagram and asked you to pray. I got messages from so many of you that you understood losing something precious and I know you prayed.
Not because I found the papers – I haven’t.
But I caught myself humming that night.
I’d asked for prayer and expected my papers to appear — not peace.
But that evening, my worry lifted. My heart calmed. And as anxiety gave way to peace, I gave myself grace for losing the papers.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Phil 4:6-7
Does God really answer prayer? we ask ourselves.
I got two stark reminders last week.
Sometimes God answers prayer not in giving us what we want but giving us what we need.
My important papers have never turned up. I fully expected to have a huge praise party for God answering that prayer.
But weighed down, beating myself up and preoccupied by all the hard, what I really needed was peace.
God’s peace was the surprise answer to prayer.
My papers weren’t the only thing lost that week.
Hurricane Michael had destroyed the storage facility with Rachel’s belongings. When she called to tell me, she said was okay with losing her stuff except for one thing: her dad’s surfboard.
That surfboard was the one thing of his she wanted after he died. Her dad had taught her to surf and passed on his love of the ocean and waves. She’d surfed with it on Father’s Day and moved it with her as she moved. It was irreplaceable.
I started prayed she’d find the surfboard and several friends were praying. Despite reports of intense destruction coming in, I hoped we’d have a huge praise party for God answering that prayer.
And when the storage facility sent a picture — there tucked among piles of things strewn about when winds ripped off roof and walls was her dad’s MTB surfboard.
That alone was reason for a huge praise party! But God had more.
God’s abundance was the surprise answer to prayer.
Because sifting through the piles, Rachel also found the pearl necklace her grandmother had given her, soiled but in one piece.
Sometimes God answers prayer not only in giving what we want, but giving more than we asked.
Oh how we want to expect an outcome. To demand that if we’re doing right, we deserve it. But God is not a genie in a lamp, here to make happen what we want when we pray for it.
But we can expect God’s best. And his BEST may surprise us.
God’s best may be grace that sustains in unchanged circumstances.
God’s best may be joy that wows in painful circumstances.
God’s best may be peace that calms in unpleasant circumstances.
God’s best may be abundance that amazes in disastrous circumstances.
Our God answers prayer. And we can be certain that His answer is our best.
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