Weathering Faith – How to Handle Unanswered Prayers

Weathering Faith

We all go through hard times when our faith is challenged. Too often, we either shove down the tough questions that arise or walk away from God all together. Unanswered prayers can present a significant challenge to a Christian’s faith, but the discouragement doesn’t have to remain. Pastor Sarah shares her journey of healing from the loss of their newborn son and how she struggled towards God in the midst of her turmoil.

YouTube player


Weathering Faith 

For the last twenty years, until about 2020, we have experienced unprecedented peace and prosperity in the US.   We are used to being able to find what we need in the grocery store, access to medical care when we need it, that sort of thing.  That’s a huge blessing.   But it’s also made us a bit…soft.  Fragile you might say.    It’s created an entire generation who struggles with just a little bit of trouble.   We complain if we can’t find our favorite kind of coffee in Kroger.  We get into fruitless arguments on social media, and we’re watching the moral fabric of our society disintegrate around us.    

I believe that revival, awakening, is on its way and that it will look, at least in part, as an awakening for purity, for righteousness, for character.   Jesus is coming back for a pure spotless bride that is in LOVE with Him and is LONGING for Him.  A bride on her wedding day is focused on one thing – she’s getting married to the one  her heart longs for!   The universal, big C Church’s heart has been divided and she is entering  into so many areas of compromise.   As a people, we stand, in faith, loving Jesus and living in purity, holiness, and righteousness, not out of a religious spirit, but out of LOVE.  I want to please my husband because I LOVE him.  Not b/c he demands of me, or just b/c it’s the right thing to do, but b/c I love him!   It’s the right thing to do for sure, but the motive is LOVE.    This needs to be the heart posture of the church.   We want to be walking in the ways of Jesus  because we LOVE Him.  Living in faith and in trust because He is worthy and we LOVE  Him.    

This call to whole-hearted devotion to Jesus involves being really real about some things.   One of those things is that life can be hard.   Life can be hard for a lot of reasons.   1. social media pressure  2. family & relational pressures  3. financial pressures  4. health challenges 5. disappointments    Who has had some hard?   

Sometimes, when those hard things come, our hearts can become accusatory towards God.   We can feel abandoned,  rejected, or overlooked. My friends, we need to adjust our expectations rather than have a crisis of faith every time we encounter some trouble.

There is a call for us to become less fragile and more able to weather the storms that will come.   I would love for us to have a life with no storms.  But that’s not reality.  The good news is that the Holy Spirit empowers us – Romans 8:26   The Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness.   

Storms will come.  

Sometimes, in this Christian life, we can start to buy into the lie that if we’re Christians, we’re protected from the hard things of life.  Become a Christian = nothing tragic will happen to us.    

When our expectation becomes that nothing hard or tragic will happen b/c we’re Christians, what can happen to our faith when it does?   When you lose someone you love?   A job you’ve worked for for years?   Sickness strikes?   Too many people, and never ya’ll I hope, turn their backs on God and walk away.    They treat Him like a heavenly vending machine – give your life to Jesus, pay your tithe, and nothing bad will happen.   Too many people say, well I turned away from God when fill-in-the-blank “my mom died, my parents got divorced”, etc, and it takes them 20 years to come back.   This is my call to us to be a resilient people who press into God, into that place of worship when hard times come, instead of turning away.     

The Bible prepares us that times will get hard, and we will need to be a people who are able to stand – and we need to teach our children and grandchildren to stand.  

1 Pet 4:12-15  Beloved friends, if life gets extremely difficult, with many tests,  don’t be bewildered as though something strange were overwhelming you.  13Instead, continue to rejoice, for you, in a measure, have shared in the sufferings of the Anointed One so that you can share in the revelation of his glory and celebrate with even greater gladness!  14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are greatly blessed,  because the Spirit of glory and power,  who is the Spirit of God, rests upon you. 15Let none of you merit suffering as a murderer, or thief, or criminal, or as one who meddles in the affairs of others. 16If you suffer for being a Christian, don’t consider it a disgrace but a privilege. Glorify God because you carry the Anointed One’s name.

If we weren’t going to walk through hard times, there wouldn’t be so many verses in the Bible about the promise of God in those times.   His nearness, His comfort.    What’s one of the names of the Holy Spirit?  You got it, The Comforter!!   Jn 14:26  I will pray to the Father and He will  give you another helper, paraclete in the Greek, which can be translated comforter.  

We wouldn’t need comfort if life was hunky dory all the time.   The Lord’s comfort is near when times are hard.   When I have walked through hard times in my life, some of them brutal, my  comfort and my healing  came from the Lord, and from encounters with Him.   Sometimes He used counselors to facilitate those and sometimes He just met me  in my room or in my backyard.  But it was by the presence of the Lord that I was, and am, being healed.   

2. Weathering the storms.   Simply acknowledging that storms exist can be hugely helpful in weathering them.    

Jn 16:33 In this world, you will have trouble!   But take heart, for I have overcome the world!

Keep your eyes on Jesus and walk THROUGH the storms with Him.   Did you ever notice this phrasing in Ps 23 – walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death.  Not camping in it, not living in it, but walking THROUGH it with Jesus.  There’s a table prepared for you, in the presence  of your  enemies, in the middle of the struggle, where you can BE with Jesus.   

The Psalms is one of my favorite books because it is FULL of worship.   2/3 of those psalms take a minute to get to the worship though.  What do they start with?  Lament.  David, and the other authors, pour out their hearts of sorrow and honesty before the Lord.    Fun times, I’m telling you.   The start of those Psalms isn’t the funnest to read.  BUT – as you read, you can see the psalmist have breakthrough in their heart.    Their mourning, lamenting turns to worship and joy.    

Ps 84 is a Pilgrimage Psalm.  I love all of this psalm, so enjoy!    

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.[c]

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]

They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.

Look on our shield,[e] O God;
    look with favor on your anointed oneBetter is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.

Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Reread v 5-7 

As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]

They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

Valley of Baca means the valley of weeping.  They turn it into place of springs where they grow from strength to strength.    The  joyful expectations of the travelers transform the difficult ways into places of refreshment. 

We struggle in life – but we need to struggle TOWARDS God, and not away from Him.   I identify with the disciples when Jesus asked if they would leave Him too who said, “Where else would we go?  You have the words of life?”

2  Cor 4:17 -for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a lasting glory that far outweighs them all.   Losing our son didn’t feel like a light and momentary trouble  – it felt crushing and brutal.  So my perspective needs to change so my thoughts  align with God’s.

Storms have a season.   They don’t last forever.   Storms that seem so huge right now will grow smaller and fade in the rearview mirror.   Last Oct – airplane

3. Unanswered Prayers

Unanswered Prayers – we all have them.   Why do some prayers not get answered?  It’s a legitimate question and one I’m not afraid to ask.    There’s plenty of different reasons – we live in a fallen world, we’re still waiting for heaven, sin and disobedience, not asking in accordance with God’s will, not God’s timing, spiritual warfare.   This is a whole other sermon topic!   

Where the enemy wants to throw us off track is if he can get us to accuse the character of God in the midst of our pain.   

 The challenge is to not let the disappointment of unanswered prayers become a block between you and God.   The enemy LOVES to sow in lies about who God is in the midst of our disappointment.  God doesn’t care, He doesn’t like you, He’s powerless, oh there can be so many.  

One of the things we do here is go after these lies and replace them with the truth.  You were created to hear the voice of God.  He can -and does – speak to your heart to reveal core lies that we believe about who we are, about other people, and about God. 

When the Holy Spirit reveals those lies to us, it is AMAZING how much freedom can come.   After our son Peter passed in March of last year, I struggled a ton with fear and anxiety.   I couldn’t even have lunch with friends without feeling anxious and afraid.  You would have thought they were going to eat me for lunch instead of their salad!   

During one of our Transformation Basics classes (that my hubby taught 🙂  ), Identity Theft, we had an activation at the end.   We always take that time to ask God if He would show us a lie we’ve been believing about Him, about ourselves, or about someone else.  Chris didn’t even finish asking the question before I heard God.  He said that I believed, in that moment that Peter went to heaven, that God abandoned us.  

No wonder I felt scared all the time!!!   

I repented for believing that lie and I instantly saw an incredible picture.   We were back in the NICU, I could see myself and Chris from behind, holding Peter.   I had seen that image before, in the form of traumatic memories that replayed!  

Only this time was different. 

This time I could see angels circling our section of the room.  And then I could see Jesus.   He was standing in front of me and Chris and He had His hands under ours, as we cradled Peter.  Then He lifted Peter and held him to His chest.  In that moment, I literally felt a piece of foundation fall back into place in my heart.   In the most terrifying and panic-stricken moment of my life, I knew Jesus was there. 

And His Presence changes everything.    

Rom 12:2 Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  

As we encounter Jesus, He transforms us.   And we move out of places of fear and anxiety and torment into peace and joy.   

We all have core lies that the enemy would love for us to continue to believe.    So I want to invite you to join us for our Transformation Basics classes!    

Luke 18:1  Jesus tells us to pray and don’t lose heart!   When you get an answer to your prayer, keep praying!  When you  don’t get an answer, keep praying!   After Peter went to heaven, we didn’t stop praying.   We didn’t stop pressing in in faith to see God move, and to see God heal.   Just recently, Selah had a bad headache on the way home from youth.  I prayed for her and she said, “Mom!  Your hand feels so hot!  And my headache is gone!”    Praise God.    

For all of us, after the last 2 1/2 years, it’d be hard to emerge without some disappointments.   To move forward in God, we have to let go of those, choose trust, and look to Him in expectation for the new thing He’s doing.  

When I think about trust – what makes us trust God, people?  God didn’t heal Peter on earth and I really struggled with trust.   Look, ya’ll, one of your pastors is admitting from stage struggling with trusting God.  Is that allowed in church?  You bet.   We are real around here!    But I didn’t stay in that spot b/c God.   We are committed to going after those core lies and  replacing them with the truth.    

God asked me, Sarah, what makes you trust a person?  Consistency over time.   I realized that, in my human logic, God had not followed through the way I wanted and expected Him too.  Peter died, after all.  So how could I trust Him?    God asked me, “Would you trust someone who loved you enough to die for you?”  Mic drop.  

Definitely.  No doubt.  Guess who loved me enough to die for me.   And in that encounter, my trust was restored.   AMAZING.  

4.  It’s time for a new thing 

Is 43:19 Behold, I am doing a new thing!  Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past!  Do you not perceive it?  It springs up!!  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.    

God is calling us forward into HIS new things today.  For some of us, this will be new things we haven’t even conceived of yet.  They are utterly unfamiliar to us.  In Genesis 4, we read the story of how Eve gave birth to a son.    Something new jumped out at me this time.  Listen to this:    

“With the Lord’s help, Eve gave birth to a son.”

No one had ever been pregnant or had a baby before.  No one to ask advice from, she had to trust the Lord.   

We need to be open to new things God wants to do in us, that is new perhaps in our family or in our circle.   Learn from Him. Trust Him.  She acknowledged that God helped her.  What are the “nevers” in your life that God wants to help you with?  Things that look too hard, or maybe walls you’ve put up, or a new business idea that’s been in your heart but looks too big or hard.   

For some of you, God’s been nudging you towards His new thing, perhaps doing something you’re already doing in a “new” way and you’re walking step by step, patiently waiting as those doors open.   Others of you are walking through pain, waiting for “the new” to come.   For each of you today, I want to encourage you in Faith and in Resilience.    

The disciples in the boat, fished all night and caught nothing.   Jesus told them to throw their nets to the other side of the boat.  They were tired and ready to go home.  Yet they obeyed.  They moved their nets just a few feet and got a drastically different result!   

We need weathering faith that doesn’t waver in the storms or night watches but presses into Jesus in love and trust.    

What do you need to let go of to walk into the “new” of God in your life?  Jesus has abundant life for us.  

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

abundant – in the Greek perissos (per-is-sos)  all-around, “more than” (“abundantly”); beyond what is anticipated, exceeding expectation;