I mean that it is hard to admit negative things that are more hidden. I remember that a few years ago, after reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, that I had to take a very hard look at myself. I documented it in this award winning post. I uncovered some very unpleasant things about who I truly was. And I have worked - to varying degrees of success - to fix those ugly character traits. This morning, I had a similar experience - with a very disturbing and shocking discovery. I was reading With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray. Chapter Eleven to be precise. I've read this book before, but my business partner Charles has been reading it all year (time and time again) and so I decided to read it again.
[Small Note Here: I firmly believe in the theory that the great Dr. Eddie Gilley taught me waaay back in '96. "The only two things that will change who you are after the age of 18 are the books you read and the people you hang around." Some try to challenge that by saying, "What about God?" My answer is, "Well that's who you hang around, and the Bible is what you read." Anyway, I push books on everyone because they can and will change you. That is why so many of these self-discovery posts begin with "I was reading..."]
This chapter was covering the Biblical passage of Matthew 21 (parallel passage in Mark 11 and similar theme in Matthew 17), where Jesus says that if you have faith, you could cast a mountain into the sea. I've heard this before many times. I appreciate the verse and how it points out the importance of faith. I've never been able to cast a mountain into the sea. So, either I don't have enough faith or this is a figurative statement or there hasn't been a good reason to pray that. Not sure. Anyway, Murray went on about this promise and how it is an amazing promise that God gave us and that many people don't really have faith in the promise - since it is so extreme. And then he made this point. It isn't really just a lack of faith in the promise - is it really a lack of faith in the PERSON who MADE the promise.
I sat there at first, nodding and thinking about that. I have a decent level of faith. I've proven that over the years, by stepping out numerous times and trusting God. Our daughter's middle name is Faith - which we chose to illustrate the importance of faith. I kept reading the chapter, and then I started praying after that. As I did, I began to realize the truth. If you read my post yesterday about being weary, you know that I am wrestling with a lot of stuff right now. And I am trying to say all the right things, and do all the right things. But when I sat there this morning in that room by myself, I realized that I couldn't keep lying to myself or to God. Right now, I don't trust Him.
That is what is hard to admit. And I know that quickly all the people around me would either try to talk me out of that statement ("You do trust Him, you are just having a bad stretch.") or they would try to lecture me on how dangerous that is to say ("You had better fix that before it becomes a big problem."). But it is true. Right now, I don't trust Him to answer my prayers. I have lots of reasons why. I have had too many prayers that were not answered (our way of saying He said no.) And they were good prayers that were about good things - like paying bills or getting a job or whatever. I have waited too long for answers. I have seen too many things that seemed like answers get ripped away - too many jobs that fell through, too many supporters who backed out, too many times that nothing changed.
As these all built up, I began to just assume that the answer would be no. I prepare myself that way. I assume the job won't work out. I assume no donations will come in the mailbox. That makes the disappointment less when that is the case. This is actually a big lie. The disappointment is still just as bad, but there was no place of hope before hand that was dashed. We as American Christians have such a screwed up version of prayer. We tack on this "if it is your will" to everything - even though we don't care what HIS will is, unless it matches our will. But we put that on there so it sounds right, and insulates us against the pain of a negative response. "I guess it wasn't His will." But it was OUR desire, and that hurts. We don't pray boldly because we don't want to "back God in a corner." But everything that is taught about prayer in the Bible involves big, audacious, faith expanding prayers. They are fleece wetting, giant killing, wall tumbling, sea parting, mountain casting, water walking prayers. We don't pray those. We pray sissy prayers - and get so upset about those that we can't move past it.
The Bible is full of stories where prayers are answered in amazing ways - and relatively few where they aren't. But our lives are the opposite. I know that is true in my case. I see so many prayers that I offer that come crashing down. So, who do I blame? God, of course. He said no. I ignore the first part of that verse in Matthew 17 - "If you have the faith of a mustard seed." In Matthew 21 and Mark 11, the phrase is "If you have faith, and DO NOT DOUBT." Whose fault is it, then? Yes there are times when God says no - and He always has a reason for that. But it seems that much of the reason our prayers are not answered is that we don't trust God can or will answer. Last week, I read a passage in Oswald Chambers' classic My Utmost for His Highest. He said that so many times we think that a little doubt it natural. It is just us being smart enough, logical enough to know that we won't always hear yes. But he said that any amount of doubt is sin - even a small amount. It is questioning God's character, His Word, His nature, His promises, His power. And, according to Jesus Himself, doubt is enough to derail our prayers - both big and small.
It is unpleasant for me to have to admit that about myself. I take pride in my faith (probably too much, actually). But, in reality, I have very little faith. In reality, I doubt God all the time. I don't believe He will follow through. Even as I am praying the big prayers, hoping for the impossible to happen, I reserve a little bit of doubt just to protect myself. But, for all I know, that could be what is keeping me from seeing victory. That little protection is actually a poison - a destructive element that is killing me. That is tough pill to swallow. And it is a tough thing to say out loud. I don't want that to be my legacy - doubting. I want to see victories and amazing things done through God's hands. I want to be a part of deliverance and rescue. Am I willing to lose all of that to try to protect my feelings? I guess that's the question I have to answer.