Disclaimer: I am not a theologian or anything of the sort. These are just my observations as a human being living in God’s creation.
When I was a kid, attending Sunday School, I always imagined miracles to be of the Biblical kind: God closing the mouths of lions, or stopping time for a bit, or parting the sea to make way for Moses and the Israelites. I never imagined that God’s miracles would come in smaller, harder-to-see ways, or that sometimes in my life, it would appear as though He wasn’t there at all.
Flash forward a decade or so and I’m entering a phase of my life where everything feels like a failure. There are many, many days when I feel as though my prayers just bounce off the ceiling. And while I believe that God always hears my prayers, I sometimes have trouble believing that He actually answers them.
A good example here is last October, when one of my guinea pigs got really sick. Usually when a piggie gets sick, that’s the end to it. I’ve never had one get sick that ever truly recovered. But I was already having a tough year full of heartbreak and seemingly endless rejection. I remembered the earnest prayers I prayed every single day : God, I know you’ve got a plan for everything. But what difference does it make if you let my little piggie live?
When my guinea pig died, it was the cherry on top of a lot of other things which had turned out very, very wrong. I was furious. Why couldn’t God let this one live? Why do my prayers, my wishes, seem to be so small and insignificant? When I was discussing this with my friend, months later, I sporadically burst into tears, because I still didn’t understand. The answer could have been yes. Why hadn’t it been? I know the odds were against my little guy, but wouldn’t a miracle have made more sense?
I have plenty of other stories like this one, and I’m sure you do, too. Another one is more serious: I applied for admittance into a major at my university, and despite my prayers and pleas to God, as well as years and years of hard work, the answer was still no. I was heartbroken. I remember slamming my fists so hard into my desk that my knuckles bled. I screamed and sobbed and yelled, “why, God?” Why is the answer always no? Why does it seem that everyone around me is experiencing miracles, except me?
I want to admit here that this is all a little fresh, and maybe this post is a way of me hashing through it. But, inspired by a recent sermon at my church, and a conversation I had with another spiritually strong woman of God, here are a few of my thoughts.
Maybe my ambition has become an obsession.
Sometime in the middle of me crying and screaming about the things I’d been denied, this idea popped into my head.
There is a fine line between ambition and obsession. I think I’m an ambitious person. I get up in the morning with my day already planned. I have big dreams which I intend to see through, no matter the cost. I’m not a quitter in any regard. But while these things make me successful in a lot of areas in my life, they have their pitfalls.
One of the red flags is that a lot of times, the very first thing I think about when I wake up is my goal. I think about what I’m going to do about my situation, or what I’m going to do to make things happen in my life. A lot of times, I don’t think about what God’s will is. In fact, God’s plan seems to only be prevalent when things in my life are going really wrong.
This is a problem. My ambition has transformed into a time and attention eating monster – and maybe that’s the reason sometimes I get rebuffed in my endeavors. While I don’t think that I am being “punished”, I think that God will allow certain things in our lives in order to call our attention back to Him. Maybe the “no’s” are to teach us to reach to Him first instead of relying on our own human strength.
There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus talks to his disciples about worry. It’s a story you’ll hear a lot if you’re in church for any length of time – it discusses how God provides for birds and flowers and all the rest of His creation, so He’ll provide for you, too. I think this applies to ambition as well.
One of the ways I find comfort is remembering the verse Matthew 6:33, from this same passage: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” What this verse says to me is that I don’t have to throw away my dreams in order to please God – it’s more that if I fix my eyes on Him, He will fill my heart with the dreams and ambitions which go along with His plan.
It’s possible that those things are already there. But it’s also possible that they’ve become corrupted by my own selfishness, and I won’t be able to fully pursue them until I my heart is in the right place and I’m doing it for the right reasons.
Maybe I’m being re-directed.
There’s a cute little saying that goes, “it’s not a rejection, it’s a redirection” and I find it quite annoying. The first thing about it that really puts me off is how sing-songy and cutesy it is – which I don’t find realistic AT ALL and when I’m frustrated, it’s the last thing I want to hear. But maybe there is a little merit to the saying after all.
I think the annoyance here comes from the idea that if I’m being re-directed, so to speak, it implies that my hopes aren’t important to the person deciding the outcome. This is a difficult thing to hash out, especially because I don’t necessarily think that’s true. But when it comes to God’s plan versus my plan, a lot of the time, my plan actually does make sense. And it can be difficult to have faith in God’s plan when I don’t necessarily know what it actually is. There’s an element of faith here that I don’t really like. It’s also really hard to think this way when we are hurting and confused.
Not too long ago, as mentioned earlier, I was told that the area of study I wanted to enter had been closed off to me. Although the rejection was written politely, even kindly, I still only heard these words: you are not good enough. Just quit and go home.
My thoughts here are scrambled, because even as I’m writing this I’m tearing up and feeling dejected. But maybe there’s a little truth to that.
Not that I’m not good enough – I don’t think that’s the case. But what I do think is that maybe, although this is what I want, it isn’t where I’m supposed to be. There’s another area of my academics which has been drawing my attention, and maybe now that the first one is a solid NO, I can have the focus to pursue this other area. Maybe God is showing me directly that I’m meant to do something else with these talents, and if I’ll just trust Him, He will provide me with everything I need.
Maybe the pain I feel today is nothing compared to the pain I would have felt.
When I tried out for the marching band at my school, it was the most terrifying thing I’d ever done. I worked so hard. I faced all my fears. I wore myself out both physically and emotionally. And at the end of the day, when it seemed impossible, I was cut from the band – I was told that everything I’d done wasn’t enough. I was crushed, especially because I remember feeling empowered. I remember crying out to God, and feeling Him giving me courage and strength. So why allow me to overcome these obstacles, if only to be told that it wasn’t good enough?
Even worse, I watched my friends and family get everything I wanted. I had to learn how to be happy for other people even when inside, I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come back out again. You can probably imagine the confusion I felt. Again, why had God allowed me to come so far, if only to tell me that He had something else in mind?
However, that semester, things got really busy. I was also pursuing another goal which took up most of my time. Although it’s hard to say, perhaps God was saving me from stress and emotional exhaustion (and maybe even physical exhaustion) by not allowing me to continue on the path I had chosen. Maybe He was letting me build up this strength in one area, but asking me to use it somewhere else.
This is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to deal with, and to this day I don’t know what the answer is. I have a friend who I trade ideas with, and she and I have similar ideas: God isn’t cruel in that He will show us a glimpse of something just to take it away from us. A reminder of this is the story in the Bible right before Moses’ death. While Moses was never able to enter the promise land, God was true in His promise, and brought Moses up onto a mountaintop to see it in its splendor. I can only imagine the view.
I am not a Biblical scholar, and I think that if anything I’ve written resonates with you, you should definitely cross-reference it with someone who knows better than I do. But as someone who thinks a lot about this kind of stuff, I feel compelled to share these experiences with other people.
The takeaway here is that we are not alone. No matter how we feel, no matter how horrible things may seem, there are other people out there who feel the same way, and who’ve come out of painful situations victoriously, if a little black and blue. And I also want to say that God is not a wicked God. He may say no to our prayers – but, as I can verify with my own personal experience, it is always for a reason that is for our good. Even if we don’t feel that way.
We may never know those reasons in our human lifetimes. But there is always a bigger picture that we can’t see, and maybe having a little faith in the fact that we don’t know everything will bring us some kind of comfort. I know it does for me.
Thoughts? Feelings? Ideas? I’d love to hear from you!