Prayer and Providence: Imagining God’s Power in Change
by Mark Smith
The Fatigue of Changing Circumstances
“We’ve only been in school for three weeks, and we’ve already had two and a half weeks of quarantine!” was my thought as I drove my seven-year-old home from school. He was our last kid who was still in school until that moment. Now, all three kids were at home under quarantine.
Don’t get me wrong, his school has been fabulous in their preparations and ability to reduce any spread of COVID-19 from other students, but my other two kids were already home from the same risk of exposure. So, in just a few weeks, the optimism of a fresh new school year had the growing shadow of fatigue quickly covering it.
Why do we grow weary so quickly? What is it about change that exhausts us? I’m sure there are a multitude of reasons, but rather than dwelling on the fatigue, I’d like to focus our attention on two gifts the Lord has given us to combat the fatigue of ever-changing circumstances. However, the gift might surprise you: it is the gift of limited imagination and uncomfortable circumstances. In them, we discover the power of prayer and the reality of providence.
Limited Imaginations and Uncomfortable Situations
I don’t think I’ve been able to adjust to the sporadic COVID schedule change, even as I have 18 months under my belt. The jolt of it all still leaves me uncomfortable. The number of what-ifs can leave me in a place of making a quick solution instead of praying for one. I don’t think I’m alone here.
I believe one issue is primarily due to our limited imaginations and discomfort in the unknown. When we get hit with change, our imagined solutions often gravitate toward what we know. There is this option or that, comparing and contrasting one thing over another, resolving us to eventually land on an idea we are comfortable with. Contemplation of this sort is nice but dependent on us. The trouble is all the moments beyond our control. What are we to do then?
Our imaginations give us a launchpad to improve things, but unfortunately, our imaginations are limited. Despite our best efforts, we go with what we know, resolving to walk areas previously trekked to stay safe. When this is revealed and reality does not match our solution, we become uncomfortable. We are uncomfortable because we are walking outside our comfort zone and doing something we didn’t imagine. It’s simply not natural to act outside our comfort zone, and yet it takes a moment beyond our scope of insight and comfortability to grow us beyond what we know. Thankfully, it is in the space of unimaginable circumstance and discomfort that the beauty of the gospel is ours to experience if we trust God’s timing.
Gravitate Toward Prayer
The next time you find yourself in an abrupt schedule change where a quick solution is offering itself to you, gravitate towards prayer. Prayer offers time to draw near to God and ask him to take over, calm our nerves, and look to His grace in the fatigue. Our weakness is made perfect in His strength; his company soothes and never forsakes. We can bring those stressful “unknowns” to him.
Imagine the Power of Providence
In Ephesians 1:18, Paul tells the Ephesian church, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.” Leveraging our imaginations towards God’s providential care is not merely imaginative wishful thinking; it is faith in our God’s ability to act on our behalf and demonstrate his greatness. He is good. His providential care is both subtle and dramatic. Our imaginations could never fathom the reality of His work throughout the universe, and yet He invites us to try.
In our time of circumstantial fluidity, pray in the discomfort and imagine the power of God. That circumstance may be out of your control, but it’s not out of His. He is holding onto you tightly, more than you can imagine.
Mark Smith is our Hallows West Seattle Expression Pastor.