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When Prayer Doesn't Take the Pain Away

"Just keep praying."

"Just trust God, He's got it under control."

"Don't worry about it. You're overthinking."

"Look at the big picture, it'll all work out in the end."

"Read the Bible, then you'll find peace."

Has anyone else heard this before in times where you were really, really struggling? While all of this is said with good intentions, it's not very helpful - and can actually be quite discouraging.

I've been walking through a really tough season of disappointment and heartbreak, and it has felt like I've been rampaged with spiritual warfare and defeat on every side. I've done "all the right things" (praying, repeating Scripture in my mind, surrendering it, trying not to think about it, thinking about it, talking with godly people about it), and nothing has "fixed" the problem. I feel overwhelmed and broken, just trying to keep my head above water, and when I hear these intended words of encouragement, I feel like more of a failure.

I'm here to tell you that it's okay if prayer doesn't take your pain away. It's okay if reading your Bible doesn't soothe all of your anxieties. It's okay if surrendering doesn't always lift the burden off your shoulders. It's okay.

I have experienced countless times the way that prayer can bring relief almost instantly. There's a peace, a hope that comes from surrendering to the Lord and hearing His quiet whisper to our soul. I often feel comfort unlike any other, and my mind is filled with a calming discernment despite chaotic circumstances.

Sometimes, though, that doesn't come. Especially when I'm feeling drained and anxious, overwhelmed by everything going on (and falling apart) in my life, no matter how much I pray, the weight of the world continues to rest on my shoulders, and no matter how much Scripture I read, my mind can't stop settling on what's going on. I feel as if I'm a bad Christian, but as I've been reflecting more, I've realized that maybe it's okay - even good - that it's not a quick fix.

If reading our Bible always relieved all of our stress, everyone would do it. If prayer solved all of our problems, no one wouldn't be praying. And if doing the "good Christian disciplines" brought instantaneous peace, we wouldn't need faith.

Walking with Jesus would be easy.

But it's not easy, is it?

When we have to wait and wrestle with God and pursue Him even when nothing seems to be happening, that builds our faith. We walk through fire and we leave refined, stronger in our faith and more secure in our relationship with Him. When we pray and there's still no peace, there's something in us that God is transforming. When we read the Bible and find no answers, God is cultivating the fruit of self-discipline and self-control. There's purpose in our struggle, waiting, and wrestling, because behind the scenes, God is working magnificently, and if we just hold on, we'll see a fulfillment of the promises that He's spoken over our lives.

And that's uncomfortable. The struggle, waiting, and wrestling is uncomfortable and difficult and discouraging, but it's necessary. It's vital for us to become stronger and more mature in our faith and to be molded into who God has called us to be. If I'm being honest, I wish it wasn't this way, and I'd rather not have to go through the hard stuff, but I'm also learning that a new aspect of your faith grows and cultivates when you walk through fire.

In my life, especially as I've experienced this recently, I've noticed that in the midst of the fire, I have to decide if I'm in it for the long haul or not. Now is when I have to decide if I choose Jesus when it's easy or when it's hard, and that's where I find what my faith is really made of.

I don't know about you, but the moment I went under the water I decided that I was going to follow Jesus with my whole life, in the midst of the good and the bad, for the rest of eternity. And that doesn't stop now.

So even when I can't hear the voice of God and the pain remains, I'm going to keep on praying. Even when reading my Bible doesn't bring all the answers my heart is longing for, I'm going to keep on intentionally meeting Jesus in the quiet places. I'm going to keep surrendering and believing and trusting, because He's never let me down before, and I don't think He's going to start now.

And I'm believing that even though it doesn't feel like it right now, the Lord is doing something behind the scenes, that He still is present in my life, and that He's working all things for His glory and my good.


The day I wrote this post, I began studying the story of Lazarus during my Bible study, If you don't know it, I'd highly encourage you to read it in John 11, but it honestly brought me to my knees and I had to do some wrestling with God.

Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters, told Jesus that Lazarus was very sick. Although not explicitly, they were asking for His help, coming to Him vulnerably with this grief but hope that Jesus could turn the story around. But He didn't, not yet. He allowed Lazarus to die. He allowed Mary and Martha and their loved ones to grieve and mourn and experience that heartbreak. And as I was reading this, I related to it more than ever before, and I had to ask God why He would allow this heartbreak to happen.

I know the right answers. I know that God has a plan, that He works all things for our good and His glory. I know that Lazarus had to die so that others would come to believe. But sometimes those answers feel shallow. They don't heal the hurt or close the wounds. They don't lessen the pain. And that's okay, I think. As I finished praying, I just had to come to the conclusion that God is sovereign, and even when I don't understand, He still loves me. I just have to trust, despite the lack of answers and overwhelming presence of pain. Sometimes, that's what our faith comes to. It doesn't appear strong, put-together, or holy, but I believe that the Lord welcomes that faith with open arms because it means that we're choosing Him even when it doesn't make sense.


Having faith when nothing is happening and when doing the "right" things doesn't seem to make any difference is a vital turning point in our faith, where we choose God for real, in the good and the bad. It's in the fire that we're refined and transformed more into His image. So if you're in a place where praying isn't taking the pain away, I get it. Me too. I'm here to tell you that it's okay. But together, we have to keep trusting, keep pursuing and clinging to the Father, because one day, it will all come together - even if we don't see it on this side of eternity. It's so hard, but it will be worth it. God is so good, and He won't stop now.

What are you believing God for right now? How can I pray for you? Let me know down in the comments below!


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