It’s the dumbest prayer I’ve ever prayed. It may very well be the dumbest prayer that anyone has ever prayed.
“God, please make me cool.”
As my self-centered rambling continued, I got more specific.
“Make me cool like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.”
God answered my prayer with a resounding no. Man, I’m glad that he did because he had something better for me.
He gave me a broken home. At least that’s what everyone used to call it when your mom and dad didn’t live together. Now I guess it’s become the norm. Divorce had yet to gain that level of acceptance when I was a kid. Well, except for on the street where I lived. Almost all of us grew up living with only one parent. My grandmother called my street Divorce Court.
Now that I’m a pastor, I deal with broken marriages on a regular basis. I counsel married couples, advise young couples thinking about marriage and, occasionally preach about divorce. But I never talk about divorce like it’s something I read in a book. For me, it was a part of my childhood. It’s real. It hurts. And I carry that real hurt into every sermon or counseling situation. I thank God for that gift.
A lot of times people want to talk to me about the best way that they can care for their elderly parents. Those people are entering that weird stage in life where they have to be the parent to one or both of their parents. They don’t come to me for advice because they are looking for the results from my years of extensive research on caring for aging parents. They don’t care what my opinion is on the best nursing homes in the area. No, they come to me because I’ve been there.
I’ve broken the news to my own mother about having to move her to an assisted living facility. I was there when we told the doctors that another agonizing medical procedure wasn’t what we thought was best for my mother. She was ready to go.
When I sit in a hospital waiting room and talk to a woman who is grieving as she comes to grips with the fact that her mother isn’t going to be around much longer, my coolness never comes up. No one ever asks what it feels like being the new Paul Newman. But they do ask when enough is enough in regards to agonizing medical procedures being performed on their dying loved ones.
The answers never come easy. But that’s not really what they’re looking for anyway. They just want to see that I’ve been there. That I’ve made it out okay. And that the Bible wasn’t lying when it said that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35).
It’s easy to fall into a trap where a majority of our prayers consist of nothing more than requests for a life of comfort and ease. Or maybe even coolness. But think of how ineffective we would be in helping others if God always granted these requests. At best, our efforts to love those who are suffering would be nothing more than a transfer of information. God knows that information alone is never enough. He knows that human beings respond well to other human beings. That’s why he sent his Son to live as a perfect human being and die as a perfect sacrifice. And it’s one of the reasons why he allows us to suffer.
Don’t go home tonight and pray for God to give you cancer and take all of your stuff away. Ask him for good health and daily bread. He likes it when we ask him for these things (Matthew 6:11; 7:7-11). Just remember that he has more to give you. And trust him when his gifts aren’t as comfortable and easy as you would like.
Trust that his gifts are always better.
Trust that he is making you more like his Son.
Trust that he is equipping you to help those who will one day suffer in the same way that you are today.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (ESV)