Going deeper with people, even ourselves, means facing our brokenness. I am experiencing this, even now, as I go deeper into working with youth in our community. There are wonderful discoveries in caring for people, but there are also wearying disappointments…when you see the same issues continue to rear their ugly head…when change seems impossible.
If I’ve learned one thing over the years of working with people, it’s that you can’t change people’s hearts. This is something only God can do. So what then?
JUST ASK: For the past year or so God has been repeating the theme of talking to Him. A couple years ago someone prayed for me and reminded me that God just wanted me to ask Him for the help that I needed. I prayed here and there but it was still so hard for me to remember such a simple thing. I’d find myself in over my head in the classroom and realize I didn’t once ask him for help that day. This year, through studying the book of Luke, the theme of prayer is unavoidable as people awaited the Messiah and Jesus himself is seen habitually talking with God in the midst of all sorts of craziness. Then about a month ago at a church retreat, I was praying with the junior high boys, and one of them felt God was saying to me “talk to me.” As an earthly father listening to my baby son attempt to talk, I am learning that our Heavenly Father delights in listening and responding to us. Walking with Jesus means, at the very least, talking to Him throughout the day…even about the stuff that breaks my heart.
But what if things don’t change? What then? Often it’s easier not to care again because it hurts too much to be let down.
PERSEVERE: At least twice in this past season a little parable of Jesus has come up in my life, once in the Luke study I’m a part of and again a couple weeks ago at church. In this parable Jesus tells the story of a persistent widow who get her request by wearing down an unrighteous judge as an illustration that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” Sometimes the answer is already on the way the moment we ask but there is spiritual warfare to get through as an angel had once explained to the prophet Daniel. Just as my son continues to cry of hunger even when the milk will be on the way AFTER his diaper changing, sometimes we need to trust in the right timing of our Heavenly Father. And sometimes it’s not enough to ask just once. It’s not that God is unrighteous (he’s the opposite actually) and it’s not that He has to be worn down, but I think it’s that we need to see for ourselves what we actually depend on, especially when the going gets tough.
But what if things still don’t seem to change? What then?
TRANSFORMATION: Maybe it’s not the situation or the other person’s heart that needs to change so much as it is our hearts that need changing. When we persevere in prayer it sets a pattern of our life toward God whether we get the answer we expected or not. Prayer refines our hearts into God’s.
Let us pray then.