"Lord, why won't you help me?"
How often I've moaned those words. Although God has intervened repeatedly in miraculous ways in my life, at times God and his help have seemed a million miles away. This has been especially true in long-lasting struggles such as my battles with PMS, depression, and relationship problems.
In the past I viewed God's hand as closed with his help tucked away inside; I thought I just had to do the right things and then he'd open his hand to help me. As I result, I often felt ashamed when it seemed like I couldn't figure out what those "right things" were.
But over time I've realized that God's hand of help is always open. When it seems to me that his help isn't available, the problem isn't God's closed hand but rather my closed heart. I tend to refuse God's help the same way rebellious teens refuse parental assistance because they think they know better than their parents.
As I reflect on times when God's help seemed to be flooding into my life, I realize I was doing three things that opened my heart to truly receive God's help.
1. Expect God to Help—In His Way
Even though I ask God for help, sometimes my prayer is merely words and I don't actually expect God to give it. Then when God does help, I often refuse to accept the kind of help God is offering me.
This is particularly true in my marriage. God may be using conflicts and my efforts to work through them in order to help make me a better wife and a maturing Christian. But often the help I want is something different: I want God to give me a conflict-free and pain-free marriage. I want wedded bliss!
My prayer is often, "God, change my husband." Instead, God offers help for me to change. I plead, "God, deliver my husband from this sin in his life." God responds, "I will give you the gift of mercy, so you can forgive." As I've let go of demanding that God help me my way, I've begun to see amazing changes God has worked in my heart and in my marriage.
When I remember that God's ways are above my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), my perspective changes. I stop expecting God to help in ways I prescribe and I begin to lose that "God isn't helping me" feeling. When I remember our marriage isn't all about me and what I want—but about what God wants—my heart opens to God's help, which is sometimes given through "a word fitly spoken" by my husband (Proverbs 25:11, ESV).
The truth has finally dawned on me: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly" (James 4:3, ESV). When I insist that God help me my way, that's pride, pure and simple. There's no getting around the truth of this convicting verse: "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, ESV). When I seek God's help in humility rather than pride, I acknowledge that ultimately God knows best.