An Answer to Prayer Even Better than Clarity

Recently I told a friend that I would give my whole bank account for clarity. He said, “No you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes I would.” He said, “No you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes… I would.” He said, “You really want clarity, huh? Okay, I will pray for that for you.”

The next morning—less than 12 hours later—I woke up and continued listening to Aimee Joseph’s Demystifying Decision-Making. She said, “We far too easily demand clarity from our Creator when, instead of clarity, he would rather cultivate faith in us.”

I suppose God answered my prayer for clarity quicker than expected—only instead of giving me clarity of direction, he gave me clarity of priority. In this moment, I believe God was graciously reminding me that trust in God is infinitely more valuable than clarity on what to do. If God chose to increase my faith rather than give me clarity in this situation, that would be a treasure of far greater worth. (Let’s hope God doesn’t come for my bank account now that he’s cleared this up for me!)

Consider three ways that trust in God is more valuable than clarity on what to do.

1. Clarity might help us now; trust will help us for a lifetime.

In one sense, the difference between clarity and trust is similar to the difference between a painkiller and true healing. We often long for the narcotic of clarity because we long for a quick fix. Clarity takes us out of the uncomfortable—out of a place of dependence—and makes us feel back in control. But is that really what we need most?

If God gave us clarity, that may (or may not) help us in a particular decision, but it would never help us again. But if he gave us trust, that would help us for a lifetime (Psalm 125:1-2).

Those who trust the Lord don’t thrive because they always have clarity, but because they deem the one who holds the future worthy of their soul’s deepest rest. The security we long for doesn’t come from knowing the future, but from knowing and trusting God.

Don’t misunderstand: clarity in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, clarity is often the satisfying fruit of faith in action. But don’t miss the goodness of the seasons of life that feel unclear. Don’t rush past them. Don’t live in the future and miss the preciousness of what God is trying to teach you right now. Remember, if you can learn to trust God in this season, it will bear sweet fruit for the rest of your life (and for all eternity).

2. Clarity allows us to move on; trust allows God to move in.

One of the hardest parts of unclear seasons is the feeling of stuckness—like we can’t move forward in any areas of life until we get this area figured out. But let two things be clear.

First, if you do nothing in this season except deepen your trust in God, this will be one of the most productive seasons of your life (James 1:2-4). The product of clarity is a decision; the product of trust is a relationship. Which is more productive in the long run? I appreciate Ann Voskamp’s observation: “Too often we want clarity and God wants us to come closer.” Is it possible that God is allowing this season of waiting in your life to deepen your communion with him?

Second, God may be slowing you down in some areas of life, but he doesn’t want you to stop moving. Don’t sit on the sideline while you wait for clarity in this area. Ironically, God usually gives us clarity not while we are sitting on our hands and fixating on a decision, but while we are being the hands of Christ and focusing on his mission.

3. Clarity gives us something to run to; trust gives us someone to run to.

One of the most precious gems in Joseph’s book is a story she tells of her son after he made a poor decision. Whether you’re feeling uncertain about the past or the future, be encouraged by this today!

My nine-year-old son stood with his bicycle at the top of the steep hill in front of our house. His gaggle of neighborhood friends stood at the base of the hill where my husband and I were doing some gardening. Suddenly my son cried out from the top of the hill, “Hey guys, watch this!” My husband and I immediately looked up in alarm, as those are dangerous words coming from a young boy. Much to our surprise, our son’s next move was not to ride down the hill on the bike but to send the bike down the hill without a rider. Our eyes moved back and forth between the bike, which was picking up speed, and the new-to-us car toward which it was headed. Sure enough, the bike slammed into the side of the car as we watched in shock and horror. My son, recognizing what he had done and not even understanding himself why he had done it, began running down the hill. I fully expected him to run to his room in embarrassment, but he did something we did not expect. He ran directly into my husband’s arms, paying my husband one of the greatest compliments of his life. In a moment when fear of shame and consequences might have made him run from his father, he chose to run to his arms. He knew his father well enough to know that there would surely be consequences, but he also knew that his father loved him far more than he was disappointed with him. (Emphasis mine)

Here we see the all-surpassing value of trust. Trust not only helps us make decisions without being paralyzed by fear, but it also gives us someone to run to even when we make poor decisions. 

Interestingly, idolizing clarity can sometimes lead us to make wrong decisions. The presence of clarity is not always a stamp of God’s approval, nor does it guarantee good outcomes. But when we trust in God, we can be confident that no matter what the outcome is, we have a loving and sovereign Father who is always with us and ready to embrace us in his loving arms (Luke 15:20).

Rest in the arms of the Father

Our future is unknown, but God’s character and promises are not. Let’s rest knowing that our God is supremely trustworthy, and that he will redeem all of our decisions for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn)Challies.com (Tim Challies)Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Which Memories Should I Dwell On?” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.

How To Pray With A Hurting Loved One

Note: This article is also published on The Gospel Coalition.

Praying with a hurting loved one is one of the most powerful ways to encourage her (Eph. 4:29; 1 Thes. 5:11), to sympathize with her (Rom. 12:15), to carry her burdens (Gal. 6:2), and to bring her into the presence and benefits of Christ (Ps. 145:18; Heb. 4:14-16).

As Charles Spurgeon remarked, “No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me.”

Yet, there are a few common mistakes we can make when praying with others that can hinder the impactfulness of these moments. Below are four and how we can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Praying “fix it” prayers

Imagine your friend Sally just learned some bad news. She is really hurting. After she explains what’s going on, you offer to pray for her. What should you pray for? Consider the difference between the following prayers (and ask yourself which example sounds more like your typical prayers):

Prayer #1: Lord, help Sally to seek you. Help her to be consistent in her Bible reading and not to forsake spiritual disciplines. Help her to exercise regularly, meet with believers often, and maybe even talk to a counselor. Help her to keep Jesus at the center of her life and to focus on you instead of her circumstances. Amen.

Prayer #2: Lord, my heart hurts for Sally right now. Give us the strength to trust you even when we cannot see what you are doing. You have promised to be near to the brokenhearted, so make your nearness felt. You have promised to be a refuge in times of trouble, so let Sally feel your protection. O God, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Prayer #1 is simply a “to-do” list for Sally. We might call this a “fix it” prayer. Notice that in this prayer, the primary person you’re asking to do things is actually not Jesus. It’s Sally!

Meanwhile, prayer #2 enters into lament with Sally. We might call this a “prayer of intercession.” The primary person you’re asking to do things is God himself.

There is certainly a time to give advice, but prayer isn’t the place for it. Prayer is not a free pass to share your opinions with the other person while pretending to talk to God (this is manipulative and the other person will feel it). Rather, prayer is an opportunity to join arm-in-arm with your loved one, to call on God to act, and to bring your loved one’s emotions and needs to God when she might not have the strength to do so herself.

Mistake #2: Skipping listening

Another common mistake is to jump to prayer too quickly, without taking time to listen and ask questions first. If we skip this step, our prayers will lack compassion and might even be misguided. One of the best ways to cultivate compassion and understanding is by asking searching questions before offering to pray. How are you feeling about this situation? What are you struggling with the most? How is this impacting your faith? How exactly can I pray for you?

In intercessory prayer, your job is to represent the person you’re praying for. You must be able to accurately enter into her emotions and needs and to communicate these things to God on her behalf. Your intercessory prayers should leave the other person feeling like, “She gets me.” This won’t happen unless you first take time to listen.

Mistake #3: Neglecting God’s promises

There’s perhaps nothing we need to hear more when we’re hurting than God’s Word. God’s Word gives grace to the broken (Acts 20:32), guidance to the lost (Ps. 119:105), hope to the hopeless (Ps. 119:114), peace to the fearful (John 16:33), satisfaction to the hungry (Ps. 81:10). When you pray, don’t depend on your words alone—pray the word of Life itself (John 6:68; Acts 5:20; Phil. 2:16).

My personal favorite passage to pray over hurting friends is Psalm 143:6-12. If you don’t know how to pray for a hurting loved one, open up your Bible and pray these verses for her. This prayer asks God to provide his presence, love, direction, deliverance, teaching, Spirit, protection, and salvation. Many other Psalms serve as ready-made prayers for hurting souls.

Mistake #4: Forgetting follow-up

When a loved one shares something vulnerable with you, she is entrusting you with one of her most precious treasures—her heart. Following up not only communicates that you value her; it also reaffirms to her that you are a safe person to entrust herself to.

A useful habit is to set a “follow-up with [insert name]” reminder on your phone for 2-3 days down the road (the best time to do this is immediately after the initial conversation ends). Don’t rely on your memory alone. A visual reminder helps protect us from being blindsided by the busyness of life and by the temporary lapses in memory that all of us are susceptible to.

Reflect Christ

Praying with a loved one is a powerful means of grace and a precious gift of God. Let’s steward this gift well by using it to reflect the person of Christ—who enters into our emotions with us (John 11:32-36; Heb. 4:14-16), who listens well (Ps. 66:19-20), who speaks words of life (John 6:68), and who never leaves us alone in our suffering (Ps. 34:18; Heb. 13:5).

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and republished by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings), ChurchLeaders.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Watch or listen to “Hope For Suffering Saints” here.

Read “Repentance That Leads to Death” here.

Featured image photo credit: MILKOS VIA GETTY IMAGES

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