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When we fail to persist in prayer, the hard only gets harder

I could not get to the shower quick enough—but I hardly had it in me to scale the stairs.

It had been one of those days at work.

Instead of washing away stress, the cascade eroded all pretense. And I buckled into the wall.

“I can’t do this, God. It’s too much,” I gushed. Tears spilled, mingling with the warm water streaming down my chin, as I leaned more into God than those cool tiles.

I was convinced I had reached a breaking point. And feared I would get swallowed up in it if I truly let go.

But release could be contained no longer.

Through the night I sought the path that got me to that point. And the way out.

Now, I could blame our current circumstances—we are in the middle of a global pandemic, after all.

And I could blame it on work. For months I have often felt overwhelmed and overly stressed. Short-staffed and over-worked, in an intense environment, has left all of us exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Our normal operating routines are continually confronted with the unprecedented.

But, to be completely honest, it was all me.

I wasn’t brought to the point of breaking. Rather, I was brought to the point of . . . honesty. Which is precisely where I needed to be. Because the only way to realize restoration was to take the way of honesty—about my frail, misguided self.

I identified two contributing factors. I had been trying to control outcomes beyond my control. And, I had been wrestling with God . . . and losing.

Let’s start with the control issue

Enforcing new rules and policies at work, put in place to minimize risk of exposure, morphed into my trying to control the behavior of others. Subconsciously, I adopted the attitude that it was up to me to keep people well and keep others in line.

I took the conscientious duty of infection control and turned it into a personal battle for control, which I was unarmed to fight.

Unaware, and with great futility, I tried to control what I could not. Neither was it mine to do so. And the more I had to enforce the rules, the more I felt the fight of an enforcer welling within. And I resented it. I didn’t want to be the bad guy telling people what they could – and could not – do. I detested feeling like a legalistic Pharisee.

Fighting a losing battle for control wasn’t the only issue robbing me of wellness. I heaped upon that battle a wrestling match with God.

When you can’t wrestle, you run

I wanted things to be different, you see. I wanted work to be different. I wanted the contentious way of the world to be different. I wanted my life to be different.

I wanted my will.

For months I pleaded with God for change—for what I wanted to be different—but nothing changed. And, without realizing it, I started avoiding God.

My morning and evening times with God incrementally grew shorter. I told myself I was tired. Have you ever been so overly tired that you can’t sleep? The more tired I became, the more I couldn’t sleep. So, I stayed in bed a little bit longer over time.

I can’t say I felt angry with God. But I was, at times, greatly disappointed by the global state of things. In retrospect, I also had a growing resentment to all that had changed that I couldn’t control because of the pandemic.

In this weakened state, I told myself, “I can’t.” But really, more than “I can’t,” it was a matter of want. I didn’t want to do what I was having to do.

So, you’re not going to believe what I did. I moved my alarm to another room. Now, rather than simply reaching for the snooze button, I actually have to get up. I also changed it from an unpleasant alarm, waking me to work, to a worship song, inviting me to commune with Him.

Wanna know what else I did? I offered to lead an online study group. And I enrolled in an online course. This added more to my life than all-consuming work. It changed my focus to matters of God. And restored activities of purpose and enjoyment.

The restorative power of prayer

In the ensuing days, I poured my heart out to God in contemplative prayers of submission. He helped me make sense of the mess. He washed away that fitful, frantic feeling. The restored communion ordered my thoughts and attitudes—wrapping His arms of grace around my harried days with strength and resilience.

I should have told Him sooner. Given over control to Him sooner. Surrendered to He Who Sustains . . . sooner. Thankfully, it’s never too late.

I’ve come to understand just how important it is to persist in prayer—not for change in circumstance, but change of heart . . . attitude . . . and will.

I found that it is far better to persist than resist.

Persisting in prayer grows trust. Resisting His will is to “kick against the goads,” as Paul would say.

When we fail to persist in prayer, the hard only gets harder. And the weak only get weaker.

Failure to persist means I will continue to:

  • Wrestle with God and the current state of things beyond my control.

  • Avoid Him, because I’m displeased with what He allows; therefore, closing myself off to His grace.

  • Have a growing resentment toward undesirable circumstances.

  • Shun His peace.

This pandemic has all of us dealing with a variety of difficult situations. While we all suffer at the hand of the same affliction, it is causing different troubles and trials for each one of us.

What are you facing because of it?

Are you weary that things have gone unchanged for so long?

Be honest with God about it.

I wasn’t. And that landed me in a pretty ugly place.

Life often finds us in unpleasant circumstances. (Sometimes, downright horrific, even.) In order for us to be faithful where we are, and with the things God places before us, we must lean into Him. (Which is far better than a cold, hard shower wall.)

We can trust Him to carry us through—only if we persist in prayer.


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