Mean Jesus: How to Cope with the Hurt Feelings of Unanswered Prayer
If you clicked past the headline, I will start by saying, “I am so sorry you are hurt.”
I just am sorry.
In my very short writing career, I have gotten quite a few emails. Some are moderately hateful. However, the world is boldly decorated with the color crazy. Some are altogether twisted. Some guy in Iceland just offered me $200 for a video of me eating toast. I wanted more details. White or Marble Rye? Is there jelly on the toast? Is the currency in Iceland the same as in the USA? And most importantly, why?
Despite my curiosities, I just blocked him.
Many other emails have been generous and kind. Most of the emails are prayer requests. This is both an honor and frankly, horrific.
The internet, in all her power and folly, has brought about some misplaced fame and fortune. Not me per se but were I to skateboard off my roof drinking Red Bull while painting my toenails, well… Cha-Ching!
The prayer requests are a mixed bag of delight and heartbreak because, I would like to think, Jesus hears us. You who are scared and hurting, and me for the same reasons.
After all, there are so many good reasons we came to this place of belief. There were grand promises of hope and a future. Many of the prayer requests I both read and pray seem entirely reasonable. I can’t remember ever getting a letter that asks me to join the reader in prayer for lottery wins or advancement in the state Clarinet championships.
No, they are heartfelt cries for healing, resolution, intervention, and restoration.
Therefore, I am most delighted to join you in prayer.
The heartbreak, for me, comes in the second and third emails. These are the emails where I very often learn, our pleas were not answered. Very often they include, “I don’t understand, why won’t He answer?”
In short, this is my answer: I don’t know.
Lately, this seems to be my blanket understanding. It’s like the old adage on a multiple-choice quiz, if you don’t know, just pick C.
In this scantron called the Christian life, the mysteries, calculations, and formulas often read like Ulysses with Cliff Notes written in Mandarin and a pop quiz in Abstract Algebra.
I pick C.
More often than not, this is the struggle. I am not a Bible scholar. Shocking, I know. And I do not cater to the idea that I know Him better than you, or that Graham, Osteen, or Prince know Him better than me. I volley on the team where is He for all of us. He is available and real.
But darn it if He isn’t doing things the way I think He should.
Or the way I wish He would.
A few days ago, alone in my car, I cut loose and cried. My tone was laced with hurt, doubt, and honest rage. I guess it was prayer? It was directed at Jesus. Granted, it had all the characteristics of blasphemy, but it was genuine.
Genuine anguish for that which I asked for and did not receive.
Brutal truths about how devastated I was, and am.
It was a snot flinging, ugly cry (with gagging) accusations and questions.
I missed the turn into my neighborhood. So, I rebelliously drove through Starbuck and ordered something caloric and pricy. And then, I sat in the parking lot and heaved sobs. I heard myself say, “You hurt my feelings.”
And He did.
You and I both know, there’s a scripture somewhere in the mess of who begat who and talking donkeys, and resurrected Saviors, that might offer clarity. But in a real walk with a real God, the brutality of life is often the simple truth of all walks.
It is long and treacherous. My feet hurt.
So, in my most broken and less than stellar wordsmithing, this was the entirety of my emotions.
“Jesus, you hurt my feelings.”
It hurts to be unanswered.
The backbreaking pangs of feeling ignored, picked last, and without voice, often accompany the burden of belief.
Personally, I have then gone to work trying to figure Him out. I analyze His decisions and then re-evaluate where I went wrong, thereby justifying why He won’t. In this, I have found two hypothesizes for unanswered prayer.
- I was not good enough. Which I refer to as an if/then Jesus.
- I tried to answer it myself. Which I refer to as a Baby Ishmael.
I have debunked the if/then Jesus. We cannot make Him do something according to our good deeds. If I pay my tithes I will have plenty. Or if I never miss church, nothing bad will happen to us. This leaves Jesus with a bad rap. How many people do you know that do all the things, you know the ones, “they are such good Christians?” Then they get cancer or have a house fire. And the world around them is left fearful and hopeless. There’s no way we are as awesome at churchin’ than them and that happened?
I will say it again and again, if you say yes to Jesus then you are saved. Anything past that, you cannot control.
The Baby Ishmael is my attempt to be God. I pray a prayer and then because I have an inflated self-regard, I fix it myself. Nine times out of ten, this is an epic fail. And then my prayers shift to, “Hey Jesus, I got this grumpy, colicky, Arab baby, and I am really going to need a bigger minivan and a nanny. Amen.”
I have proven to myself and the world, I am not a good Jesus.
Which brings me back to the Starbucks parking lot in a heap of hurt and vanilla Latte comfort.
“You hurt my feelings.”
I said it again. Chugged sweet java and blew my nose.
“You hurt my feelings.”
On jagged breath, I sat in silence. Jesus hurt my feelings. I needed His help and it did not come. I started to wrestle with the accusation. Honestly, I considered apologizing. Instead, I said it again.
“You hurt my feelings.”
In a wave of comfort and peace, I drew in the truth of what I do have with this Jesus who died for me: relationship.
He is not a unicorn or narwhal. No, He doesn’t conform to an aged lamp that I can rub and wish upon. Most assuredly, He is not a rabbit’s foot or shiny amulet.
I know this God.
Furthermore, I love Him, and I like Him.
And He hurt my feelings.
Saying it out loud seemed to make sense. Granted, not to a passersby who saw me raging in my car all alone. But it was cathartic to voice my side. I do not prescribe to the notion this left Him furious with me or that the sky would soon break open and start raining lava and locust.
This is why He died. So that I could be in communion with Him. I am not a robot called to worship on command. He knew me before I was knit together in secret, and His ways are perfect.
And this is where I found comfort. A relationship of any kind has ups and downs. It will wholly fail without voice, opinion, and tactic. If I do not plan to know my husband and children better, our relationship will wither on dry ground. It will not mature if I make no effort to make myself known, or to know them.
So while I do not know why He doesn’t answer exactly the way that I request, the fruit of my belief is relationship.So while I do not know why He doesn’t answer exactly the way that I request, the fruit of my belief is relationship. Click To Tweet
As I drove home this was my peace. I had voiced my hurt. I still believe. He is still with me and for me. And somewhere in the jumbled mess of the Word – among the who begat who, talking donkeys, and resurrected Saviors, there is an answer to all that mystifies me and brings great promise and truth to all the hurt feelings.
There, I chose to rest.
I pray you feel most welcome there too. Rest, safely in His arms, joy, thanksgiving, and hope… hurt feelings and all.
It is well.
Jesus be all over you!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned,but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami