Confession time: Most of the time, when I pray, I have a specific solution in mind that I’d like God to use as the answer to my prayer. I try to tell myself that it’s plain ol’ fashioned good etiquette to offer a solution rather than to just whine about something. (Yeah – that’s it… I just have really good manners. I’m not a total control freak…)
God doesn’t usually use my suggested resolution. In fact, I’m pretty sure he’s NEVER used one of my suggestions. His solution is always way better than mine.
While I was reading 2 Corinthians, there was this part where Paul was experiencing some kind of trouble and I started trying to guess how God was going to resolve it. Shocker: I was totally wrong again.
It starts out with a problem that’s not all that unfamiliar to us today:
“When we arrived in Macedonia there was no rest for us. Outside there was conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear.“2 Corinthians 7:5 NLT 1996
Okay. Now, if that’s not what the world has been feeling like lately, I don’t know what is. “There is no rest for us.” When’s the last time our culture has felt truly restful? There is conflict coming from every direction, too. Every day it seems like there is a new major decision made or a new snag that developed or a new natural disaster or a new breed of deadly wasp…
And “inside there is fear“. Now, the “inside” Paul was referencing was most likely inside the city or inside the church community. But, when I read it, it made me think about the fear that’s inside me. It’s definitely there. I’m not going to lie – I really do try to avoid fake news and too much social media so I can keep a clear head but the fear is there. It’s almost like I’m trying not to look directly at it so I don’t have to acknowledge it’s existence.
So this is where I start brainstorming solutions so that, when I talk to God about it, I have the problem and the solution ready to hand to him all wrapped up in a bow. This time I’m thinking God could just eliminate all the discord and we could go back to being just a little out of wack, as opposed to completely crazy.
God didn’t immediately wipe away all the crazy back in Macedonia and he’s not doing that here and now, either. God did something else.
“But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.”2 Corinthians 7:6 NLT 1996
God saw Paul’s struggle and his solution was to send in the reserves. He sent a fellow believer to be with Paul and to help carry the burdens in this mission. He sent a friend.
Now, at first glance I thought to myself “That’s like trying to use a squirt gun to put out a forest fire…” But the more I thought about it the more I realized what a powerful solution that was. In fact, remember what Solomon said about that topic?
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.“Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV 2011
I think this solution speaks volumes about how God designed friendship. I also think it shows that I’ve been under-valuing it. Just being there for someone might be an answer to their prayer. Friendship may not make the world any less chaotic, scary or overwhelming but, through it God can give us the courage to stand up a little longer and stronger in the mess.
Good thing God answers prayers his way instead of mine. I think I might start working on praying a little more “Your will be done” and leave the problem solving for my kids’ math homework help.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I don’t know why I keep thinking that my ways are better than your ways. You created the universe and you know all – everything that has ever been and will ever be. Please help me to trust you more in my life and in my prayers. May your will be done. Amen.