Please, God, open up a decent spot. Tapping the steering wheel, I circled the local Walmart for the twelfth time, the need to hurry cramping my stomach. Couldn’t leave Kyle alone too long. What if something happened to him while I was gone?
I muttered the prayer a few more times, took a few more laps, but the only spot God opened in the rain-drenched, puddled parking lot was so far past left field that if the asphalt had been built for baseball, the remote corner would never see a player.
Wishing I’d made a better choice in footwear, I glanced at my sandaled feet and parked. The wind blew the trees in front of my windshield so hard there was no chance I wouldn’t be soaked in cold rain the second I stepped from the shelter of the car. Tears filled my eyes. “God, seriously? You couldn’t even find me one stupid spot today of all days?”
I wanted to go home. But Kyle wanted donuts, the bakery had already closed, and since donuts were the one food my 19-year-old son kept down during this phase of chemo, that’s what he was getting. With or without God’s divine intervention.
Already shivering, I took a deep breath and made a run for it, just as a minivan pulled out of a front-row spot.
All I could do as I hurried to the bakery counter, dripping wet and shaking, was wonder why God didn’t care. I’d prayed about that parking spot. I’d driven around and waited. And… nothing. Until it was too late and I’d already gotten out of my car.
It may seem small, but in the midst of my anxiety over Kyle, God not answering my prayer felt like a meteor hit on my faith. Didn’t God love me? Didn’t He care? If not about me, then at least about Kyle. Kyle needed donuts. I’d needed that spot. And now I was freezing and crying in the middle of day old pastries, my freak-out probably being filmed on some People of Walmart reel I’d later find online.
Fast forward a few months. Same parking lot. Same wind and rain. Same prayer. Only this time, an SUV gave up a front-row spot the second I turned into the lane, and I pulled right in.
I looked down at the giant boot covering my massively broken left ankle and over at the crutches sitting next to me on the seat. Because this time, with the throbbing pain and the way I shook every time I was upright, I’d be part of a puddle before I made it three car lengths. Parking in left field wasn’t an option. It was front-row or go home. Even if Kyle was back to his donut-only diet chemo cycle.
I can’t tell you for sure God’s motivations behind why I got a spot that second time and not the first. My example might seem trivial in light of greater burdens and prayer requests you might carry. Trust me, I carry them too. The kind of longing for God’s answer that makes my heart ache to the point where it almost breaks. But trivial or not, I learned something deep about my faith in that parking lot.
God’s timing and God’s thought processes aren’t mine. I can get lost sometimes when I forget that. I also have a hard time differentiating between wants versus needs and inconveniences versus crisis.
But He doesn’t.
That first time, I wanted that parking spot for the convenience of staying dry, and because I thought I needed to rush home. The second time, I needed that spot in my physical crisis of not being able to walk.
Have you ever prayed and prayed and prayed for God to move, to change a situation, to please help… and nothing happens? I have.
On the other side, have you barely mumbled a half-hearted prayer or not asked at all and watched Him almost instantly answer? I’ve seen that too.
And it shakes my faith.
Sometimes it’s hard to understand God’s perspective. He sees our lives differently than we do. In general, we’re a fast-food, soft-on-suffering, high-on-anxiety society. We want what we want now and we want to avoid discomfort—even if it’s just walking in icy rain. We take on worries we don’t need. In that first donut run, even though Kyle had been fine when I left him, I’d been panicked over a million scenarios that could go wrong while I was gone.
But God didn’t panic. He knew Kyle would be safe during my 20-minute absence. He didn’t ask me to worry. I took that on myself. He also knows the difference between my wants and needs and inconveniences and crises. Even when I don’t.
Our relationship with Him is intensely personal. He’s our Father, and parenting is intensely personal. For those of you who have a child, this makes complete sense. We see beyond what our kids think they need in the moment. We have a bigger view of their lives. We think ahead and plan accordingly. So does God. Often when our faith is shaken, it’s because we’re looking at a 12-inch section of a 180-inch screen.
He knows what we need. Knows how He wants to grow our character. And like any parent of multiple children, what He allows for you might not be the same as what He allows for me. What He gives us won’t look the same. Neither will the timing of our answers when we pray. Or the way our faith is stretched and blessed.
So how do we deal? Here’s what helps me.
1. When I’m frustrated that I’m not hearing from God, I ask myself if my petition is a want or a need.
2. When I’m in panic mode, I step back and focus on whether what’s happening is really a crisis or just a major inconvenience.
3. When my petitions don’t get results, I ask God if I’m rushing after what He doesn’t want me to have or if I’m longing for what He wants to give.
4. When I’m drained and exhausted and tired of waiting, I remember the timing isn’t a choice. Whether I try to hurry God’s process along or not, the speed of His answer remains the same.
5. When the answer comes and it’s not what I want, I question if I’ve closed my eyes to what God’s really trying to do and ask Him to open my heart.
Please pray with me:
Lord, You are mighty and worthy and full of perfect love. Everything I’m not. When You said in your word to, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NIV), that passage doesn’t mean You’d give me everything I asked for when I asked for it. It means that if I take delight in You, You’ll fill my heart with the desires You want me to have. Next time I come to you in prayer, build my faith. Open my eyes to the way You see things whether my prayer is answered the way I want or not. Change the way I think. Make me more like You. And thank you for taking care of me in the very best way, even if sometimes I don’t understand your decisions. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com.
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