One of the things doctors keep track of to monitor our health is whether we are experiencing anemia. We likely know it relates to low levels of hemoglobin in our blood, but most of all we are aware of how it affects us. We feel weak, lack power, vigor, vitality, or colorfulness. And doctors want to determine the cause and help us get back to feeling and being better. That’s one of the areas of their expertise but it isn’t mine.
So why am I saying we should not be anemic?
Because it isn’t something that can just happen in our physical bodies, but in our spiritual walk as well. It doesn’t happen in one moment in time but slowly develops as we allow ourselves to be depleted. Life comes at us every day with things we don’t always expect and can sap us of energy that dwindles even further if it is something that continues for a period of time. We become tired and weary physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Dealing with hard stuff does that to us and hard stuff comes in all shapes and sizes.
It can be a sudden loss, a debilitating diagnosis, an accident that upends the trajectory of our life, or it can be too much lethargy and disconnection with people that results in a sense of isolation and loneliness.
We can little by little drop off our usual spiritual habits that sustain us when life is not coming at us sideways. We may not have much energy, so we don’t pick up the Bible to do the reading we have done previously. Sometimes if we do, what we read seems to be just words that have little or no impact on where we sense we are. We can fall prey to the enemy’s devices of drawing our attention to scripture where it seemed the Lord didn’t show up or help and we identify with those and wonder if He cares or even sees where we are. Our memories land on passages where people are miraculously healed or delivered, and we have not been, or we see that it was one or two people who received those gifts while countless others in the crowd likely went on suffering in one way or another. We may know that some things are beyond our understanding where God is concerned but that doesn’t comfort us or buoy our faith. And what happens to our prayer life when we reach that point?
The answer to that is impacted by a number of things. One of those is how we view prayer overall. For us, is it a structured approach to prayer we were taught or believed was how prayer should look so that it almost becomes rote for us or is it more intimate? Is it reverential and polite using the words we believe we should use in the Lord’s presence?
Is our prayer life bordering on anemia or do we lay it all out before the Lord in a “no holds barred” way? Do we risk asking the Lord the tough questions going on in our hearts and heads?
“…the writers of Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Job took their toughest questions, their heaviest weights, to God. They asked the most jarring questions, probed the darkest issues, and confessed their hurts and betrayals without ready apology.”
“If prayer was a safe place for those men and women to get brutishly honest with God, then shouldn’t it still be safe for us today?”Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo
Do we unconsciously believe the Lord can’t handle us verbalizing what He already sees in our hearts?
When we look at it that way, it can sound ridiculous. The Lord asks us to invite Him into our hearts and that is where some of the darkest messiest secrets lurk within each of us. It is also a profoundly intimate place that we tend to only allow access to by a very few people we risk trusting. So, what kind of relationship does He really desire with us anyway?
“God doesn’t want a surface, shallow friendship. He doesn’t want to be mere acquaintances. He wants to sort through the muck and mire that comes with any meaningful relationship.”Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo
Think about all those places where the writers were asking those tough questions. David never minced words in the Psalms and yet he was called a man after God’s own heart. He questioned God often and so did many of the writers of scripture. God asked questions as well in both Old and New Testaments. There is no evidence it knocked Him off his throne. He was more than willing to grapple with those who wanted authentic dialogue with Him.
Do we believe it is not okay to ask hard questions of the Lord? If we do at times, perhaps we could learn something from the ancient practice known as Jewish midrash. Margaret Feinberg defines it in The Sacred Echo:
“This method of study invites us to wrestle with God through his word. In Hebrew, midrash means to search out. Midrash asks the reader to look at difficult Scriptures, ask questions, and try to make sense of them before God. Midrash invites us to become venturesome with the Bible and to trade in a surface understanding of Scripture for a deeper grasp of a passage’s meaning and, along the way, to discover more of God and his ways. The questioning, the searching out, becomes a foundation for growth and discovery.”Margaret Feinberg in The Sacred Echo
I am not suggesting we tell God what to do but rather that we know it is okay to wrestle with the hard questions, the ones we don’t have answers for and that He has not answered either. And let’s be honest, there are plenty of those.
The writer of Hebrews suggests that our prayers should be anything BUT anemic:
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”Hebrews 4:16 (NKJV)
Don’t shy away from wrestling with the Lord and asking the tough questions. He wants us to bring them to Him and then trust Him with the answers He may or may not give that has the benefit of an eternal perspective.