Each month we ask two writers to reflect on a quote by Dr. Stanley. For August, C. Lawrence and Tim Rhodes comment on an excerpt from Dr. Stanley’s sermon “Solving Our Problems Through Prayer”:
When you come to God, telling Him that all hell has broken loose in your life and this is the end, He doesn’t wring His hands. He knows all about it. And He doesn’t get perturbed about our response. When you come to Him with doubts and fears and anxieties and all the rest, He doesn’t get upset. He sits upon His throne (Ps. 47:8). He’s interested in whatever’s troubling you.
by C. Lawrence
If God is all-knowing, everywhere present, and filling all things (Jer. 23:24; Col. 1:17; Eph. 1:23), we have to ask, What’s the point of telling Him anything? Surely He knows the height and depth of our trouble, beyond our own ability to see or understand it. So how on earth could He be “interested in whatever’s troubling you”?
First things first: The Lord needs nothing. Let that sink in. He’s all-powerful, already knows everything, and suffers zero lack. God is not merely some “higher being”—He is the ground of being itself, subject to no laws or demands. He is the beginning and the end, the source of life and sustainer of existence. The Lord needs nothing: Not our good behavior, generous tithes or service, our talents or affection. He certainly doesn’t require our insights and information about what an awful time we’re having. And yet, He welcomes the fullness of our laments and woes to the very last drop.
The Scriptures reveal the heart of God as one who seeks the lost, welcomes the lonely, and heals the sick. He comforts the afflicted, gathers the outcasts, and provides for the destitute. He's a patient, loving Father who races to meet the prodigal. He is the victor over death, setting the captives free. To say God is interested in what troubles you is to say that His heart is to be with you—a fact made clear by His incarnation, crucifixion, and the conquering of hell, as proven by His resurrection. Knowing there’s nothing we can say or do to deter His love—that there’s no length He’s unwilling to go to in order to be with us—should encourage us to run to Him the way a young child runs to his mother concerning every delight or terror, no matter how mundane or minor.
The Lord needs nothing: Not our good behavior, generous tithes or service, our talents or affection. He certainly doesn’t require our insights and information about what an awful time we’re having. And yet, He welcomes the fullness of our laments and woes to the very last drop.
Everything we do as part of the Christian life, in working out our salvation with fear and trembling, is for us—not Him. Prayer, fasting, and the like exist for our sanctification, which rightly understood is the process of becoming like God as we grow closer to Him.
The Lord’s instructions and invitation are one and the same—and they couldn’t be simpler or more profound: “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is comfortable, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).
Come—that's how it all begins, and how it all ends. Come tell Him everything and find the life you’ve always wanted. Find the Love that makes all things new.
by Tim Rhodes
Early in my Christian walk, I understood God is both omnipotent and unconditionally loving. But I continued to feel uncertain about making appeals to Him concerning my worries. I anticipated He would act as an authoritarian—that coming to Him with my problems would be an annoyance at best, or the cause for outrage at worst.
It’s hard to peg exactly why I came up with such an idea. Perhaps, in my immaturity, I had mistaken God’s ways for those of history’s kings and rulers, with their less-than-stellar track record of care and compassion. In many historical narratives, they’re the villains of the story, after all. But the sharper my perception of God became and the greater my awareness of how the Bible describes our Creator—as a Shepherd, a Father, and so on—the more I recognized an altogether different picture emerging. Not a picture of a tyrant but one of a Sovereign who is intimately concerned with and connected to those who depend on Him. A King who is slow to anger and rich in love (Ps. 145:8).
The more comfortable I am in opening myself to God, the more I welcome Him to my doubts and questions. I am no longer afraid to express my anger and lament, knowing that He holds me and all my worries in His loving hands.
Now, instead of feeling dread at bringing my problems to the Lord, I readily share my concerns with Him. I’ve taken the words of 1 Peter 5:6-7 to heart: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you” (emphasis added).
And it gets better—the more comfortable I am in opening myself to Him, the more I welcome Him to my doubts and questions. I am no longer afraid to express my anger and lament, knowing that He holds me and all my worries in His loving hands—hands with the power to reshape and transform. To make all things new.