We asked our bloggers to share where they’ve seen God at work in 2016. Here is what they shared.
As a pastor, I have the privilege of praying with people in times of deep distress. Sometimes this feels like less of a privilege and more of a burden. Pain, stress and grief are pervasive; prayers for relief seem hollow, especially when they go unanswered. A dear friend of mine has watched her husband’s body and mind be taken over by a rare form of dementia. Adjusting to his rapid decline and being thrust into the world of caregiving and advocacy just as she retired has been hard. I pray for relief – for a break from crises. But the crises keep coming. As my friend has reflected, “Nothing about this disease is easy.”
And so, the last time we gathered to pray, my friend questioned the wisdom of praying for a break from the crises. “God doesn’t seem willing to answer this prayer.” At first, I heard frustration and doubt in her questioning. After all, I had gone through a health crisis. When healing did not come, I wondered if God cared about me, my illness or my prayer request. I assumed that the question my friend was asking about God was similar to my question. When God does not answer our prayers in the way that we pray them, is that a sign God does not care?
“Oh, no!” my friend responded. “That’s not what I mean. God has shown up in lots of ways – just not in any of the ways I asked for.” For example, my friend saw God in the unexpected friends who came out of the “woodwork” – people she didn’t know well who showed up to help her husband and care for her. God is not beholden to our wishes and desires, even if our deepest desire is the good of someone we love.
By noticing God in unexpected answers to prayer, in the middle of the disappointment of not getting the answer she wanted, my friend inspired me. She inspired me to keep showing up for people suffering and to keep praying, no matter God’s response.
As I look ahead into a new year, I pray for the resolution not only to pray boldly, but to watch for God to show up in unexpected times, places and people.
Rachel Young is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas. She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Presbyterian as the director of contemporary worship and media.