Well, I may not have had these thoughts exactly, but on some subconscious level, it's as though I place a value on things like physical healing - things that alleviate the immediate cause of suffering - whereas things like "peace," "strength," "wisdom," and so forth are just kind of nice, fluffy words that sound good but don't really mean anything. They're things to pray for when you don't have anything better to pray for.
Can anyone relate to that, or am I alone in this?
I'm starting to realize something about this, though.
I think specifically back to last year when my dad passed away. He was in the hospital for quite a long time, and had been sick in various ways a long time before that, so it was definitely not sudden or entirely unexpected, but it was still very difficult.
I remember one of my friends asking me a pretty awkward and blunt question during the week of the funeral - "So what's it like," he asked, "losing your dad?" I was a little startled by this - it's not something I was super comfortable talking about, but I tried to answer anyway. "I don't know..." I said. "I'm just... sad." "Just sad?" he repeated back. "Yeah." It may have sounded like a cop-out to him, but that's really all I had. I was just sad.
In my head, I wondered whether he thought I ought to feel a stew of other emotions. Was I supposed to be angry? Guilty? Hopeless? Fearful or worried? For the most part, I honestly wasn't any of those things. And it occurred to me. I easily could've been. I could've been angry at doctors and hospitals for not doing what I thought they should've been doing (as clearly I know so much more than everyone). I could've easily felt guilty for things I should've done better - ways I didn't help enough, or wasn't there enough. In fact, at various points along the way, I had felt these things. But right then, at the moment where my sadness peaked, I didn't feel any of that stuff. Whatever anger and guilt I might have felt was gone. There was no hopelessness, no fear. Just sadness.
And although it feels a little weird to me to say, being "just sad" suddenly felt like a huge blessing. And I mean blessing in a very literal sense. It felt like being able to be "just sad" had been provided as a gift. It felt like I was being prayed for, and consequently protected to some degree. It was a surprisingly strong feeling. The book of James famously tells us that "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective," and it felt to me like there were people out there praying for peace for my family, and God, mercifully, was answering it -- in a way that I could understand and feel.
I think about one of my favorite passages in Philippians 4:
"6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."Do I believe that God will do that? That God can give a peace that transcends all understanding?
I think he did. It certainly transcended my understanding.
It turned out that peace, in that particular time, wasn't just a nice-sounding, fluffy word. It was an actual, comprehensible, visceral gift.
This may be something that other long-time Christians are way ahead of me on, but where I am now, I'm starting to realize that things like "peace," "strength," and "wisdom" aren't just fluffy words that mean little - they're actual blessings that God can and does provide in ways that surprise and glorify him. They're things we can ask for and things he can give, and they mean a lot. And I'm grateful for it.
I know very well that not all prayers get answered the way we want, but there are times when God says "yes" to a prayer for peace, and I think it pays to keep those times in mind. I now remember hearing other people share similar experiences in their own life - but I guess it takes experiencing it oneself to let it sink in sometimes.
So I encourage you to treat those prayers as prayers that God will answer, and in a way that people will notice, and will be to his glory.