When You’re Feeling Stuck

It’s definitely a day for the Chicago blues and a wailing guitar, with the snow coming down, and waiting for family to come home, and pies laid out on the kitchen table. After all these years, the prayers come easily in the kitchen: stirring over the stove, and checking the timer, and washing up the dishes yet again, mixing and measuring out…these daily movements have become the choreography of my prayer life. The medieval Carmelite monk, Brother Lawrence, had it right when he said “We might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him with freedom and in simplicity. We need only to recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have completed them.” (The Practice of the Presence of God)

So I work in my kitchen and offer it up to Him, and I pray for Him to work in all the situations that need His help, ask yet again for Him to do the things that would surely be best for everyone, and suddenly it occurs to me that I only get impatient with waiting because I want to be able to do something to fix this. I wonder how many times my prayers are no more than a begging for Him to move this obstacle or open that door, so I can get to work, an expression of frustration in my own helplessness. With that personal observation under the spotlight, it’s easier to see why He often does something entirely different, way out of my reach, so that the glory is all His own. Immediately Paul’s words from his letter to the Ephesians come to mind, “And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” We are used to hearing that in reference to salvation (which of course is what Paul is talking about) but there is a wry fact of life there too, that we would usually so much rather do things on our own and feel good about it. And more than a hint of feeling we know what is best, as well.

But I see how self-sufficiency sets itself against trusting, and how our stress-filled figuring-it-out could be laid to rest in the knowledge of the Father’s love. I can wait quietly, in total assurance that whatever God is doing will show itself to be very much bigger and way better than anything I could work out. I can be content to trade the stress and hurry of my efforts for the promise that all will be well for the people I love, because the Giver loves to pour out undeserved favor for the sake of His glory. It’s what He does best. In the space of waiting that often seems empty and unproductive, maybe there is an unseen wind of earth-shaking power that I don’t know about yet. Just ask the ancient prophets watching their people being hauled away into slavery by the conquering Babylonian armies, who are laying waste to the Promised Land. Yet during that time, Jeremiah could claim “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:25-26) And Isaiah could write some of the most beautiful and comforting words the world has ever heard: “Why do you complain..? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom….those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:27-28, 31) Wait, O Israel, because God is at work, and the silence will not last forever…only until the Savior is born, “And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together.” (Isaiah 40:5)

Some things God does give me to work out, with His strength to help, and this too is a gift. As Brother Lawrence reminds, the key is knowing what is mine to do and not fretting about the rest of it. There is a simplicity in that kind of trust that only comes through the habit of constant inner conversation with God. The humble monk in the kitchen was living out what Paul explains simply and practically in his Ephesians letter: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” (Ephesians 4:6-7) Work on the things that are in your circle of influence; wait for God to take care of the things that are not; and pray about all of it, trusting Him to show you which is which. I need the reminder that this is how to live in the presence of God; my heart turns, and the prayers change, deepen here, looking for what He is doing in the waiting spaces, listening for the whispers of His Spirit. And the world waits in the stillness, waits to see His glory.


 “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)


“God’s putting together all the pieces of the puzzle and He’ll fill what’s still missing with His peace.” (Ann VosKamp)