Q: I’m 67 and I haven’t been able to pray for months. I read your column each week, and I note many comments that speak to me. I do believe in God, His endless love and power, and His tremendous sacrifice so my sins would be forgiven. However, I seem to have lost, or misplaced, my ability to be productive, to use the gifts He gave me, and to find any purpose in life.
My family, two sons and a husband, don’t “see me.” My grandchildren are my joy and delight and always remind me that I’m loved. I need guidance to pray and find words in the Bible that will give me comfort. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11, which I read every day (“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”)
I’ve experienced tremendous emotional and physical abuse in my life and I struggle daily to believe in my own worth. Then, I feel guilty because of God’s sacrifice to prove my worth to Him.
Could you provide some guidance as to where in the Bible I should begin? I’ve attended Bible studies and I go to services at my Methodist church regularly, yet I need to find a voice that speaks to me – just me. I feel lost. Can you help? – L., Cyberspace
A: When I seek help on the blue dog days of my life, I try to begin with myself and end up with God, rather than beginning with God and ending up with myself. I begin by doing some spiritual balancing. This involves setting a time limit to admit all my worries and doubts, then spending exactly the same amount of time explicitly stating all my blessings.
The balance between what I lack and what I have is then restored. You’ve already done that in your heartfelt question. You seem clear about your loneliness and also clear about the joy you experience through your grandchildren. I’m proud of your ability to resist the temptation to be overcome by your woes.
I encourage you to let go of your need to prove your worth to God. The essence of God’s love for us is that it’s unconditional. We’re loved not for what we might do, or even should do, but for who we are right now.
Our brokenness is a flaw among people but a virtue to God. God is the healer of broken hearts, and that healing is a free and eternal gift, not a reward for some arduous task.
After you realize that your blessings more than balance your burdens, and once you can accept that God’s love is a gift rather than a reward, you can go to the Bible for spiritual maintenance. Your go-to text of Jeremiah 29:11 is wonderful.
Let me offer you a few of the biblical texts most comforting to me. Many are in the Psalms, where spiritual agony is the fuel for so much spiritual hope. I love Psalm 131, one of the shortest psalms but among the deepest in meaning:
“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
“I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.
“But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.
“Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.”
Close your days and your eyes with this abiding truth: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)