A couple of months ago, I decided I wanted to strengthen my faith. Being raised as a more modern Christian, I automatically figured that was it. That no matter what I said or did, I was a Christian simply because of the fact that I believe in Jesus. I guess you can say that I pretty much felt entitled to the label of being Christian without putting in the work.
Although, that changed when I decided I wanted to actually dedicate myself to my faith.
At first, it was sort of for the wrong reasons. Actually, I realized almost right away that I wanted to dedicate myself to faith for reasons that weren't coming from the purest places. I saw these people living amazing lives and crediting it all to God and I wanted that... I'm not proud of that. As soon as I recognized that those were my main reasons, I really decided I wanted to change. I wanted to be Christian because of my love for God, not for anything else.
So, I started off by doing what most do in this situation; praying. I prayed and prayed and prayed, but I made a promise to myself that I wouldn't pray for anything material or beneficial until I felt extremely confident in my relationship with God. By that, I mean that until there was a day that would come where I wouldn't feel guilty asking God for something, I wouldn't ask. I'd ask for guidance, strength, peace, and a stronger faith. To this day, I'm still not quite to the point where I can pray for something relating to my career or money. Not really, not yet. I know that trust needs to come first and I am not an easily trusting person. That's what I'm working on; learning to trust God unconditionally.
I started paying attention to what I was praying for and it changed a lot for me.
I realized that no matter what I was praying for in terms of praying for myself, I always prayed for my family first. If I didn't, then I ended even the shortest prayers by praying for them. I literally could not end a single prayer without somehow making it known that all I really wanted was for their safety and happiness. Whether it was the beginning or the end of my prayer, it was what I prayed for because it was what my heart truly wanted.
When it came down to it, whatever it was I was praying for paled in comparison to the people I love.
I also realized that whatever it was I was initially praying for didn't actually make it into the prayer. I think it was mainly because when I started to pray, ill intentions went away. I was able to see what it was I actually needed to pray for. Asking for strength became more important than asking for whatever it was I wanted at the moment. Prayers became about long-term healing, the bigger picture.
Focusing on my prayers changed my perspective
I asked God for strength and He gave me pain, and that's okay. You need something to be strong for in order to gain strength. You feel pain for the things that you care about.
I asked God for patience and He gave me a stressful situation, and that's okay. Patience takes practice.
I asked God for clear skies and He gave me a storm, and that's okay. That way I could appreciate the clear skies even more after experiencing a storm. I wasn't doing that before. Now, the skies are clearing.
I asked God for wisdom and he gave me a tough situation where I needed to choose, and that's okay. That way, I could actively be in a situation that would call for wisdom and I would know what to do. In the end, it was wisdom earned.
I asked God for healing and some wounds came along, and that's okay. I needed to feel that pain in order to learn how to find healing. Now, I know how to heal a little easier.
Each of these things could be taken out of context. It could be said that it would be cruel to put a human through these experiences. But, it could also be looked at as God showing me his utmost love by believing in me so deeply that he handed me the situations, not the cures because he knew I could survive them and learn from them. I had to work for the cures and they are now life lessons that I will carry with me FOREVER. God did not give me a quick fix and take away all of my problems. Instead, He taught me how to handle them. He taught me how to appreciate and heal and grow.
If God fixed all of my problems instantly, what would I have learned? Nothing.
I would have learned absolutely nothing about strength and courage and patience. Looking back, I would NOT want God to fix my problems instantly. That would be too easy and it wouldn't do me any good in the long run. Sometimes God's love is tough love, but that tough love makes for a more fulfilled life. When you learn how to handle things gracefully or appreciate things while you still have them, that never goes away. You carry that with you for the rest of your life.
God will NEVER put something in front of you that you can't handle, and if he does then he gives you the strength to handle it. Or better yet, he teaches you how to harvest that strength while walking beside you, not handing it to you.
I could be bitter about it and misconstrue God's actions in my life, or I can choose to see them as a lesson learned and another mountain climbed. I can appreciate that instead of handing me everything on a platter, God saw me as willing enough to take his lessons and make something out of them to better myself. God sees me as someone who is strong enough to learn things hands-on. He teaches me as I go, rather than just pulling me out of a bad situation. That is the greatest blessing I could ever ask for.
Yes, those situations suck sometimes. Yes, they are difficult and can be painful. But, what would be the point of life if it was just easy? It would be boring and unappreciated. It would be pointless. If God took the easy way with me, I'd never learn anything. I'd never be able to handle anything. His greatest gift to me is the gift of learning how to be stronger by experience. I'd rather be strong than weak, and you only gain strength through experience. If a time comes where God sees that I simply can not handle it, He never leaves me in the dark. But first, He gives me the chance to grow.
Paying attention to what exactly it was I was praying for, and then the outcome? It changed the game.