I sat there across the table from him and I could see the pain in his eyes. He tried to smile at me, like everything was okay, but we both knew it wasn’t. That’s the thing about hurt. Even if you try to keep going, keep things normal, at some point, it resurfaces, and it’s like getting kicked in the gut all over again.
“I’ll be honest with you Kim, I don’t know if I’ll be at prayer today. I don’t want to pray right now.”
My eyes leveled with his. “No,” I said. “This is when you have to. When it hurts, when you don’t feel like doing it, this is when you have to run to God. Because even if it doesn’t feel like the pain lessens any, He’s the only one who can do anything about it. And trust me, it hurts much worse without God. You have to pray.”
When it Rains, it Pours
I remember being in a similar spot a couple of years ago. It was a Monday afternoon and I was at an appointment with my nephrologist (kidney specialist for you non-medical folks), and I knew it was going to be bad. 3 years into fighting a kidney disease plus one relapse meant I knew the signs of when things were going south, knew when my lab tests would be bad, knew when I was likely relapsing again. And still I wasn’t prepared.
They told me they didn’t know what was wrong, which is particularly bad news when all the doctors specialize in kidney stuff and they still don’t know what to do. If things got worse, I’d need to be back in the hospital, getting more tests, maybe needing a trip to the MD Anderson Cancer Research Center in Houston. Because you know, a disease isn’t bad enough, maybe it was something else, like cancer.
Then they dropped the final bomb. Maybe I needed to be on medication for the rest of my life. And the catch was that one of the medications caused severe birth defects. So suddenly, my dreams of a future marriage and kids were now marred with a new clause – choose between my own life, or giving life.
It was the first time I ever cried in the doctor’s office.
I Don’t Want to Pray
Coming back to the office that afternoon, work was the furthest thing from my mind. And then I realized that 5pm would be rolling around soon, and I’d have to be in the prayer room for the Student Fusion Prayer meeting leading worship. It seemed almost laughable. I didn’t really want to talk to God in that moment, much less worship Him. Yes, I, the campus minister, didn’t want to pray. I could hear the gasps of horror from the imaginary audience in my head.
But 5pm came, and I sat there in the prayer room. Duty and responsibility had won out over emotions, so I picked up my guitar, and started singing as tears rolled down my face in front of all the students. The words of the worship songs seemed distant to me. My mind knew that everything I was singing about God was true, but my heart wanted nothing to do with it. But still I sang, sang through the pain, the frustration, the confusion, the anger and the exhaustion. And then something happened. Somewhere, in the mess, God met me. And I was home again.
Praying Past Emotion
I doubt any of the students at prayer that day really knew what was going on internally with me. Most probably thought I was just really into worship that evening, which I guess is a good thing. But I learned an important lesson that day, and it is this: prayer and worship is beyond anything we ever feel, but is in itself an act of faith, and one that we must not only choose in all the good times, but also the bad. Especially the bad.
Sometimes we as Christians get this funny idea in our heads that following Christ means nothing bad will ever happen to us. It is a notion that sets us up for failure, because not only will things eventually go wrong at some point, but it can cause us to get angry and blame God. And blaming the only person who can help you isn’t the best start to finding peace and comfort.
Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) It’s a verse that all of us at some point, will have either read, heard, or had someone quote in hopes of offering relief. And while it might seem overused and cliche by now, what I will say is that Jesus can only help us get through things, if we’re willing to give it to Him in the first place, and often that starts with prayer.
Today I write to those of you who are hurting. To you who’s heart is broken, who are confused, frustrated, hopeless, who have had the world come crashing down and it feels like barely anyone around you seems to care. Pray. Even if you don’t feel like it, pray through the pain. And I believe that somewhere, in the midst of it all, God will meet you. Even if it doesn’t feel like anything really changes, God is with you, and you will be okay. So keep praying.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23
Kimberly Chung is the National Media Director for Campus Renewal Ministries, a ministry focused on forging partnerships in prayer to build missional communities that transform college campuses with the gospel of Jesus. She is a campus minister to The University of Texas at Austin and can be reached at email@example.com