When God's Will Is Hard

Gaye and I have been prayer partners for years. Although we live in different states and were born into different generations, God knit our hearts together a long time ago; not a week passes without one of us checking in to share a need or a word of encouragement.

So when Gaye told me her husband's recovery from open heart surgery had taken a sudden—and dire—turn for the worse, I packed my bag and drove the seven hours from my home to the hospital where she was watching and praying in his ICU room.

One of the many reasons we pray is to prepare to walk in God's plans—not as the scrutinizer and critic of His will, but as the loved subject of His plans.

Church friends asked God for a miracle in a twenty-four-hour prayer vigil in the waiting room. There were two young college students, confused and frightened over what was happening to their dad. And there were well-intentioned but misguided acquaintances who tried to counsel Gaye on how to pray and respond during this severe trial. "Go home and prepare a room for your husband to recover in," one friend advised her. "God will see your faith and reward you."

But he did not recover.

What words do you use with God after the "do not resuscitate" papers have been signed? How do you pray for your friend as you hold her hand and she strokes his in that sterile room as God changes her title from wife to widow? How do you pray when you thought there would be so many more years together?

"Help me not to critique Your plans but to prepare to walk in them, whatever the outcome."

In the ICU, Gaye taught me to pray as Jesus did: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Matt. 26:39; Mk. 14:36; Lk. 22:42). With her own words, she echoed Jesus' heart: "Father, I am not the assessor of what You are doing but the object. Help me pray—not to critiqueYour plans—but to prepare to walk in them, whatever the outcome."

It is right and healthy to pray, "If it is Your will, please ______." But we must also never forget the last part of Christ's prayer: "nevertheless, not my will but yours." We are to pray—not angrily, bitterly asking "Why? Why now, God? Why me? Why this?"—but with an open hand reaching up to Him. "Hold me, God. Show me more of Yourself. Who are You in this? Prepare me for all You will do in and through this awful pain and darkness. Here is my hand. Take it" (Is. 41:10, 13).

One of the many reasons we pray is to prepare to walk in God's plans—not as the assessor, not as the critic—but as the loved subject and fulfillment of them.

Thank you, Gaye, for this costly reminder. You teach me even as you grieve.

Are you asking God "why?" or asking Him to reveal Himself to you? Have you ever struggled to know how to pray during trials? How did God help you move from, "Not my will, but yours be done"?

About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund is the Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries. Serving Jesus through writing, speaking, and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and her husband Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and fifteen grandchildren and … read more …

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