No matter where any of us are in our spiritual journey, including those who haven’t yet begun, I would venture to guess that, “Does God Answer Prayers?” is one of the most widely asked questions- whether we are brave enough to voice it or not.
Nothing weighs heavier on the mind of believers that are struggling; I speak from experience. Is this end game of the glory of God in heaven that we are seeking really what it seems to be? Are we merely speaking to ourselves, or out loud, with no one on the other line to hear us? Are we praying to a God that is not listening…or does He even care at all?
A Fall From Grace
In the early morning hours of November 27th, 2016, my mother passed away, after a tremendously horrific fight with ALS. I am the oldest of three siblings, and we have been a close-knit family of four for the past 15 years, clinging to each other through the unpredictable twists and turns of life. It would be very difficult to place on paper words that adequately articulate the bond that my siblings and I had with my mother- a bond that only strengthened after she and my father divorced.
Much different from a sudden, unexpected passing, this disease slowly took my mother. Each day brought a different struggle, and heaped another coal onto the already insurmountable blaze of heartbreak.
I was standing in the kitchen, nine months pregnant, when I received the call from my brother. He simply said, “Mom has ALS. She’s not gonna make it.” I thought he was joking. After realizing that this was not a joke at all, I thought to myself, “OK, well, surely we will be able to fix this. We will take her to her regular doctors appointments, and they will be able to do something.”
I had no idea at the time how difficult and draining the next two and half years would be. My strong, independent, funny, God-fearing mother was replaced by a fully functioning mind residing in a crippled, numb, disabled body. And my siblings and I had a front row seat to every progressive stage of deterioration, every day, every disappointment.
In the beginning stages of the disease, we were full of hope. We did research on stem cell therapy, different medications- and my sister moved in with my mother to help take care of her. There was a lot of time, so we thought. And God would come through and lift this peril from my mother if we just kept praying, and kept our faith as intact as possible.
As time went on, my siblings and I began to arrive at the solemn realization that we would need to put our 56 year old mother in a nursing home. We simply could not give her the care that she needed. Just before Christmas, in 2014- just a few months after she was diagnosed- we moved mom into a nursing home. It was the first time that I can vividly remember reality peeking its ugly head through the door. “She might not ever leave”, I remember thinking.
Long story short, during the almost two years that my mother was in the nursing home, we attempted everything that we could think of, pursued every lead where there seemed hope for a cure, expended every available resource. To no avail. As time for her grew short, reality was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge. If you are not familiar with ALS, basically by the time the disease has run its course, every muscle in the body is paralyzed…including the involuntary muscles. All three of us silently knew how she would leave this world, and it was beginning to become a constant gray cloud enveloping each of us constantly, with no way out.
When I received the call early on the morning that she passed, all I could remember was the last time I saw her- one day prior. As I stepped out of the room that she lived in, she had a desperate look on her face. Like she wanted to tell me something but she was impaired to the point that she couldn’t. I’ll never forget it. And I’ll never forget that, at that exact point, I fell into such an immense, black, spiritual dead zone, that I completely cut off contact with God.
He didn’t help. He didn’t answer our prayers. My friends, my family, my church, my Bible study groups…everyone had been praying, and it didn’t work. God took my mother, and He seemed quite unremorseful about it, at that.
I didn’t feel the peace that I thought I was supposed to feel, and I certainly didn’t feel any closer to God in my time of need. I didn’t want to hear people tell me that, “God has a plan”, or “Draw close to Him”, or “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. I had fallen, spiritually. And I had no desire to get up.
More Than You Think I Am
In the days and weeks following the passing of my mother, it became too overwhelming to continue with my job. I had recently discovered that I was newly pregnant (found out the same day my mom passed away), and I was overcome with depression, anxiety, and consumed with exhaustion and anger. I quit my job, and spiraled further out of control.
I was angry at anyone who still had their mother. I stayed in bed for days.I cried until I had no tears or energy left in my whole body. All things that most anyone associated with the lost of a close loved one is probably familiar with.
And then, slowly, but surely…and in the smallest (yet decipherable voice), I began to hear things popping up in my mind. At first very faint, yet enough to make me want to resume going to church. And then pick up my Bible again. I was still quite angry and hostile toward heaven, but I felt an ever so slight tug in the direction of God that I couldn’t ignore. I began praying and crying pouring out my heart to God and letting Him know just how upset I was at the entire situation.
You know what’s interesting? When you are in a situation that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy (and you shouldn’t anyway if you are a Christian), and you fall to your knees and dissolve in an attitude of prayer, time after time- God does not always change the situation, but He DEFINITELY changes your perspective. As I prayed and started to lend myself back to the spirituality I was once immersed in, and once I began to open my eyes to what God was so desperately trying to speak into my heart, my heart began to soften.
My perspective changed. I began to notice…all around me…people who had gone through loss so horrible, through situations so devastating, and they had been there around me the whole time. People of such strength, which gave me hope that it would get better. The world consisted of more hurting people than poor, pitiful me. I began to wholeheartedly pray with praise and thanksgiving in my heart. I asked God to fill me with his peace, and to make me fully aware of how blessed I truly am.
The undeniable truth that began creeping into my heart and spirit, is that YES! GOD DOES ANSWER PRAYERS! God reserves the right to answer our prayers with a “yes”, “no”, “not just yet”, or even maybe a “We’ll see”. It hit me like a ton of bricks, and continues to wash over me day after day that I spend in close fellowship with Jesus: God hears us. He is there every single step, He listens to us, He loves us, and He ALWAYS answers our prayers. To truly and fully give yourself to Him in hope means that you trust that God is answering your prayer with loving kindness, and that sometimes he has to say no so that the better way- HIS WAY- can begin to evolve in our lives, ultimately placing us somewhere that brings uncontainable joy.
I swear, over the past couple of months as the anniversary of my mother’s death began creeping up, I have felt an almost tangible presence of God in my midst, guiding me through each day, each hour, each minute, reassuring me that He is here, and He hears me. And though I don’t know why this had to happen, I do know one thing. God is forever and always more than we think he is. His love for us reaches to the heavens and back. He listens, and He knows, and one day we will too.
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Have a blessed and beautiful day,