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When Life is Unsatisfying

“For every moment of big beautiful joy or small hidden victories or tender quiet encounters with love and peace, there is the ache and the longing for everything – sometimes just one something in particular – to be made right.”

Sarah Bessey writes those relatable and poignant words in her blog post, “In which life is a little unsatisfying so I light candles and sing songs.” In it, she shares the way that she copes with being overwhelmed and burdened by the wrongness, the suffering, or the sorrow in her own life and the lives of those around her. During her time in the Anglican denomination, she learned “to light candles and love liturgy,” and she continues to use those practices for comfort and prayer during rough times.

“I don’t do the holy and hard work of long prayer, that’s not my gift, but I light a small votive in my house… after I read the news, after I am hurt, after the dissatisfaction and the longing for God to come near to us rises up in me like an altar begging for fire to descend. It’s one of the habits of my heart: I light the candle in the middle of the house and every time I see it, I breathe out the names and their places, the people I’m carrying for the day…

Tomorrow, it might be for someone else or someplace else. But the candle is lit for a few hours, I’ll remember you and put on faith and hope, my prayers are joining with yours, life can be a little unsatisfying – it’s okay to admit it out loud – and I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.”

How do you process and pray for hard times and dissatisfaction? Rachel Marie Stone remembers the phrase “Be Still” in an article for

“There is a very old prayer--known as the “fisherman’s prayer” or the “seafarer’s prayer”--that goes something like this: “Dear God, be close to me; thy sea is so wide, and my boat is so small.”To me, this prayer captures something of what life itself feels like: the world is big and wide, and not altogether safe, friendly, or predictable, and our ability to cope with it all feels as flimsy as a small wooden boat battling the waves of the open ocean…

It is good to have reminders that while the sailing will not always be smooth, and while our boats will sometimes seem pitifully small and rickety, the one who commands the wind and the waves sails with us, speaking to them--and to us--these words: peace, be still.”

In a recent interview with Crosswalk, Max Lucado brings comforting words to the problem of pain and suffering:

“The promise of the Bible [found in Romans 8:28] is simply this: that God can take all of [our suffering and pain] and he can use it for ultimate good.”

I hope Sarah’s, Rachel’s, and Max’s words lift you up today if you are struggling to reconcile your hope in the Lord and the suffering in the world all around us. Life is a struggle, people can be disheartening, and the world’s answers are so often unsatisfying. But remember C.S. Lewis’ profound observation in his masterpiece Mere Christianity:

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for

Publication date: August 28, 2013