3 Steps To Take When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

There are times when we pray for something and God answers with a resounding “Yes!” and we celebrate.

Then there are times when He answers with a “No” and we accept it, knowing that His ways are higher than ours.

But what about the times when we wear out the knees in our pant legs from praying so much, and not only do we not see God doing what we’ve asked, but things actually seem to get worse?

Have you been there?

I have.

And to be totally, brutally honest with you, it can feel like a slap in the face from God. But God gave me a really clear object lesson that has helped me see these situations in a new light ever since, and I wanted to share it with you, along with three steps you can take when things seem to get worse after you pray.

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The Earthquake that Rocked My World

I’ve shared before about the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that shook Anchorage in November of 2018. The end result was that the foundation of our house sank into the ground significantly and required extensive, expensive repairs.

A little over a year later, we were finally able to have the foundation fixed. We returned from visiting family over Christmas to what appeared to be a demolition zone!

There was a four foot trench dug around our entire house so the workers could access the foundation. The only way in or out of the house was a wooden plank stretching from our driveway into the garage (planks and trenches – don’t think my kids didn’t love it!).

The next weeks were chaos. Navigating around the construction was more than just a little inconvenient.

Prayer doesn't always go as planned

And yet one day as I walked outside across the plank I realized that I had been carrying around this light, almost giddy feeling ever since the construction had begun.

I wasn’t sure why the chaos and demolition of our yard would have this effect on me. Flower beds were uprooted when the trench was dug. Grass had been annihilated by heavy equipment being operated on it. I realized that it was because I knew that the uprooting, the chaos and the demolition were necessary to bring about the repairs to our home that would keep our family safe.

And it hit me: what if I had the same perspective about God’s work in my life?

3 Steps to Take When Things Seem to Be Getting Worse

What if I looked at times when I pray and pray about something, only to find life becoming more chaotic than before, as times when God is doing some digging and trenching in preparation for foundation repairs that are absolutely necessary to bring about the very best for me? To bring about the answers to the prayers I’m praying – even if it’s not obvious at the time? This brings me to my first tip for how to deal with these times when things seem to get worse when you pray:

1.) Recognize that wherever there’s movement, God is in it.

I’ve started clinging to the belief that wherever there’s movement – whether we’d label it “good” or “bad” – God is moving. This is biblical anyway, right?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

So it is so helpful to start thinking about all movement as God-movement. We know he is always at work, and when you see things start to shake and rattle and get uprooted, know that there are just that many more opportunities for God to work for your good. Even when it doesn’t look like it at first.

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2.) Ask God to increase your faith.

This second one comes on the heels of the first, because let’s face it: when something truly catastrophic happens, or when you’ve been pouring your heart out to God only to be met with silence or even with the exact opposite of what you’ve been praying for, it hurts. It can chisel away at our faith.

It’s not always easy to act on point one, even if you have the head knowledge. So we need to follow the example of the disciples in this:

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

Luke 17:5-6 (NIV)

And see, it only takes a mustard seed of faith to begin with! I know we have that. All it takes is pausing to realize your struggle and frustration with God, and whispering a prayer to Him:

Increase my faith!

I know that God will meet you right where you are. That He will grant you the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other and keep going, keep trusting. Or maybe He will place someone in your life to hold you up and pray for you until you’re strong enough to stand on your own. But He will meet you.

Related Post: God’s Promises, Grace, & Truth

3.) In the midst of the chaos, praise God for who He is, and look closely for signs that He is working.

As I walked around my house that day, the snow had started to melt and I could see the extent of the damage to our yard and grass. The mud and muck in the trench was awful.

At first glance it just looked like a huge mess. But on closer inspection, I could see deep under our house to the places where the long piles were being driven into the ground to raise our foundation up and support it against any future seismic events. This was very, very good.

As I examined the yard more closely, I realized that what I had thought was a completely destroyed yard was actually mostly dirt piled on top of the grass more often than not. And tiny tendrils of grass were beginning to poke up through it in some areas.

When we spoke to the construction company, they told us how they planned to clean up the dirt, grade the yard and spray hydroseed over the whole thing.

Praise & Perspective

In hindsight I can tell you that we’ve weathered a couple of moderate earthquakes with no further settling of our home. And after the hydroseed our yard looks better than it ever has. Better than it would have had the construction never been done.

When you’re in the thick of things getting worse after you pray, you don’t have the benefit of hindsight. But you do have two very powerful weapons: praise and perspective.

Praising God

Praising God when we don’t have all the answers, when things aren’t going our way, is a powerful weapon. It’s a privilege we only have on this side of heaven where everything is pretty much always going to be perfect!

Think about that.

Praising God even in the chaos is something we won’t always have the opportunity to do. And I believe that this kind of praise is like an atomic bomb in the heavenlies against Satan and his minions. It can open blinded eyes to God’s work. Silence lies of the Enemy, and it brings glory to God.

If you can’t generate your own praise, read a Psalm of praise, or read through a list of attributes or names of God.

Perspective is Key

Perspective is key.

Two people can go through the same circumstances and one will come away thankful and joyful while the other can come away in defeat and despair.

If we can put on our God glasses and look around at the chaos and start to see small ways God is at work – like seeing those tiny blades of grass sticking up through the dirt in my yard – it can fuel us with hope to carry on. Help us to keep on praying, and to continue to see God’s “kingdom come” and “will be done”.

A Word of Caution

None of this comes easily.

If you’re going through extreme pain and heartbreak and some of these steps are just too hard, please don’t feel guilt or condemnation.

God meets you right where you are, and He loves you.

That love isn’t dependent on anything you do or say. My hope and prayer for you today is that God will open your eyes to glimpses of His hand at work in your life. And that you will know that even if things seem to get worse after you pray that you are seen. You are heard. You are loved.

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What about you? Have you ever experienced things getting worse after you pray?

We would love to hear your stories, your victories, and your prayer needs so we can pray alongside you.

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