The past few weeks have been difficult for me. It has been hard to believe that God actually answers prayer, that he actually changes hearts, that he actually works in the world. In college and high school I saw so many answered prayers and lives changed. Things happened fast. Hours. Weeks. Months. My faith felt more alive then than it does now. I feel worn out by waiting on God to answer prayers that I’ve had for years now. These prayers are for things that I know I am completely powerless to change, areas that I know God has to step in and work. But right now it feels like he isn’t working and my faith feels dried up in the asking. At my team meeting last Friday we were asked to think of one thing that we would pray for in the next week if we knew that it would happen. I started crying. I knew instantly what I would want, and also felt no hope for it to actually happen.
I have seen God do amazing things here. He has answered so many of the prayers that I thought were impossible requests. I’ve seen him provide physical necessities, friends, adventure, and an incredibly beautiful and full life. I have had faith to hold on to in darkest days, and it did not let me down. And yet, some of the deepest longings of my heart have remained unanswered. It hurts. It leaves me feeling heavy, angry, and full of doubt. One of my biggest questions over the past several months has been, “Can God, does God, change people’s hearts?” This question has been prompted by a variety of things including having to face evil (violence, corruption, discrimination, objectification) in a much more palpable way on a day to day basis living in Kenya.
But this week, in the middle of my fear, pain, and anger, God did the miraculous. He changed my heart. My heart, which is prone to depression, anxiety, and angst when it is forced to confront the ugly parts of life, was still and peaceful. Even though this week I wept with a friend over how a powerful man had used her to try to gain more power, even though this week I had to sort through serious questions about my safety, even though I am still trying to sort out how to grieve when people I know die and I can’t be a part of the community who is grieving because of living so far away– Thursday morning I was able to worship God as I drove to work. I was able to feel His presence in the midst of all my uncertainty, knowing with a calm assurance that He holds everything together. I experienced afresh in that moment that He does change hearts because He changed mine. Apart from God, I don’t have a reason to have peace this week. If I looked just at my circumstances, I would be completely overwhelmed. Yet, I am standing on solid ground. I have found myself in the loving arms of my heavenly Father. My heart is yielded, even though last week it was hard and distrusting.
When it comes to answered prayers, I think that people actually changing is the biggest miracle there is. Most things can often be written off by coincidence, medical intervention, or other external factors, but people truly changing, turning from darkness to light, I don’t think that that can be as easily explained away. I know that I can’t explain away the change that has happened in my life or the hope that I have. Even when I want to run away, I keep on running back into it. I keep running back to this love that will not let me go. Even when I pitch a fit about not getting to understand what God is doing, even when I yell at God, even when I am consumed by doubt, my heavenly Father continues to patiently draw me in with loving kindness, not forcing me to do anything, but inviting me into fullness of life in Him. In this season of unanswered prayers and unfulfilled longings, I am getting to see the miracle of God changing me, renewing me day by day, and conforming me into His likeness. It wasn’t the heart transformation I was thinking of when I (once again) challenged God to prove Himself to me, but I’m so thankful for the gift of His peace so lavishly poured out on me this week. It helps to cope with all of the other things that don’t seem to be changing.