Troubled Times, Troubled Hearts

There’s a woman named Hannah in the Bible who was praying so fervently at the temple that the priest accused her of being drunk and scolded her. She answered him “Not so, my, Lord. I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

She was a woman with an ache in her soul that those around her did not understand. Even her husband who loved her asked “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Sometimes others humans just don’t get us. They love us. They try. But there is a place deep within us where only God can go, that only Jesus can touch, where only the Holy Spirit can minister, instruct, convict, heal. Hannah knew where to take her deeply troubled heart and He answered her.

We live in troubled times and often those around us are mired in the same sludge. Where do we turn with our anguish and grief?

In times like this, I do what Hannah did. I choose a night (or several nights), turn off the TV, grab my Bible, a notebook, a candle and a cup of coffee and sit at my table or my favorite chair. Usually everyone else has gone to bed (or I get up before anyone else is awake).

First, I write the list of everything that’s upsetting me. I tell God “Here it is. This is what’s causing my distress. I’d love it if you would take care of these things.” Then, I set the list aside and I pray, “OK, Father, I’m here because I need You more than I need answers. Please be here with me.”

He always shows up. It’s a real relationship with God so those times are different every time but I try to focus on who He is (good, wise, loving, holy, merciful, etc). I focus on what He’s done in my life and thank Him for what I have that is good. I read the Bible. I drink coffee. I cry. I stay quiet and listen. Sometimes I whine or complain. Sometimes I argue. Sometimes I focus prayer on a particular loved one who comes to mind and I do a lot of talking about him or her. Whenever something I’ve done wrong or some way I’ve failed comes to mind, I confess that and ask forgiveness. Sometimes a particular Bible verse jumps out at me and I pray, “Yes, that’s my prayer. That’s it!” I stay with God until I feel done or until I’m too tired to stay awake any longer.

Sometimes this is a one evening deal but I’ve set aside a week at a time for this type of deep, focused prayer. One time, I did it every night for six weeks and it changed my life. I don’t say this to brag but to explain what works for me when I am deeply troubled. I set aside time for all kinds of reasons – illness, visitors, vacations, special projects, work, training for an event, a new mini-series. Yet I sometimes treat my prayer life like a Tim Horton’s drive-thru.

In these days that are deeply troubling, we need to go to the One who understands us perfectly and knows how to walk into the deep, dark places in our hearts without stumbling. I bet you have time this week, tonight, now.

(Hannah’s story is found in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel , Chapter 1)

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