Comer: Choosing to rely on God, and not just in desperation
Last week, I wrote about the sudden realization of the power of prayer following the injury to the Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin. Those who prayed had great cause to celebrate this week as it was reported that Hamlin had been allowed to return home, less than two weeks after suffering cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the football field. It is, indeed, a miracle.
One lingering question that has been on my mind, and I have to be sure is on the mind of others, as this situation has unfolded is one that uncounted numbers of people have asked many times throughout history: Why do we wait until an incredibly difficult situation to pray to God? Why do we treat praying to God as a last resort? Deep down, we know this is not how we should treat God. If we put ourselves in the situation of being the one capable of always providing help, I think most of us would be incredibly frustrated if someone we loved never communicated with us or attempted to have much of a relationship with us except when they needed something from us. That frustration would be increased if after we helped them, they decided to go on with their lives as if we had never helped them at all. But this is how we so often treat God.
Last year, I engaged in a more thorough study of the Old Testament than I had ever done before. Not surprisingly, the idea of going to God only in times of desperation was a reoccurring theme. The story of Gideon highlighted it well.
The Israelites were impoverished because the Midianites and the Amalekites were continually robbing them of their corn and livestock. They dealt with this for seven years, trying as hard as they could to hide their property and themselves. They had forsaken Jehovah, but because of such intense suffering, they finally called on him. They had nowhere else to turn. An angel appeared to Gideon and called him to deliver Israel.
Gideon, not yet the man of immense faith that he would ultimately become, questioned whether God really was with his people because of all they had been going through.
“Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt? But now the Lord hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.” (Judges 6:13)
Gideon also doubted himself, saying, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” (Judges 6:15)
Gideon received a sign that the angel was of the Lord. The angel then commanded Gideon to tear down the grove and altar his father owned that was dedicated to Baal and build an altar unto the Lord. Gideon obeyed, and ultimately, the Midianites were defeated. To prove that the result could only have been accomplished with God’s help, the Lord instructed Gideon to reduce his army to just 300, while the Midianite army was so large that it couldn’t be counted. Furthermore, Gideon’s army went into battle armed only with trumpets, lamps and pitchers.
After the victory, the Israelites wanted Gideon to be their king, but he refused, saying the Lord should be their king. The Israelites returned to their idolatrous ways after Gideon’s death.
To summarize, the Israelites were impoverished and desperate, they prayed for help, the Lord helped them, even going the extra mile in showing them how they could have only succeeded with his help, and they returned to idolatry. What a classic example of how God is so often treated. Yet I’m compelled to temper my indignation because I realize that I can be guilty of the same thing to some degree.
So, let me ask a question that I also turn on myself: What’s stopping us from involving God in our lives all the time, and not just when we feel there are no other options? If we have the faith to call upon God in our moments of desperation, and he helps us, why not strive to have a better relationship with him more consistently? Why cheat ourselves out of the blessings that come from that type of relationship?
I try to be a solutions-oriented person, and to that end, I have come up with three steps that I believe can help all of us have a better relationship with God.
1. Desire. Desires dictate priorities. Since I was little, I always knew that I wanted to go to Brigham Young University. When I returned home from my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it was time for me to apply. But there was a small issue. My grades weren’t high enough. I had gone through two years at a community college prior to serving my mission, but my GPA there was not sufficient to transfer to BYU. In particular, there were two classes that I had taken which I had not done very well in. I reflected on my mission and the study habits I picked up as I learned Chinese and I thought I could certainly do better in those two classes if I retook them. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I was determined. My desire to attend BYU was strong enough that I was willing to put forth whatever effort was required to succeed. I had confidence that if I did everything I possibly could, I would get the grades I needed to qualify for BYU. As a result, I did much better in those classes the second time, and I was able to go to BYU.
2. Pray. Sometimes we have a desire for something but it’s hard to put it into practice. Life is busy. We can even plan to do something, but then something else happens and our original plan is foiled. I realize this frequently as a single parent of two small children. But we have to remember that God wants to have a better relationship with us. And because he knows everything, he certainly knows how we can overcome how busy we are to make that happen. I don’t have any doubt that if we ask him for help in remembering him, he’ll help us.
3. Gratitude. Look for opportunities to show gratitude toward God for all that you have. We all have no shortage of things to complain about, but there’s also no shortage of things to be grateful for. If we have an attitude that we’re going to look for reasons to be grateful, we will certainly find them. And once we start noticing them, even seemingly the smallest blessings will suddenly feel like mighty miracles. We will see clearly how much God really is involved in our lives and we’ll want that involvement more often.
Truthfully, because God loves us, he will always be there to help us, even when we only go to him in desperation. But there is opportunity for so much more help from him in our lives, and I hope we all can realize that.
Ryan Comer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.