Getting stuck. . . grinding to a halt. . . immovable. . . trapped. . . . Stuck. It could involve a situation we find ourselves in, or being trapped in rush hour traffic and unable to move, or being required to do something we absolutely do not want to do but we have no choice in the matter. Whatever the case may be, it’s usually not a pleasant situation to be in. It could have to do with a relationship ending or a job loss. The kind of “stuck” I’m writing about isn’t about getting stuck in the past, getting stuck in a poor self-image, or getting stuck in a bad attitude. It’s about getting stuck in situations we didn’t see coming; it’s about getting stuck in something happening in the “here and now.” And we aren’t looking for “ten steps to acquiring a better attitude.” We want solutions. And we just want to get “unstuck.”
Given the world we live in today, with all of our technological wonders and “sleight of hand” negotiations, it is almost trite to say the solution to our “getting unstuck” relies totally on us and acquiring a more “positive mental attitude.” I’m not discounting the need to have a positive mental attitude in the midst of being stuck, but this blog post isn’t just another “be positive” bandaid to cover a cancerous situation. And, our focus should not be on a “woe is me” attitude because of our situation, either.
Most of us have been through enough battles in life to know that nothing goes our way all the time. Or even most of the time. Perhaps not even much of the time. And in any battle it is a given that we need to be positive and hopeful even in the worst of it. After all, Jesus opened his parable about the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8 with these words (the parable is included):
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
Jesus used two main characters from opposite ends of the continuum of power and privilege: a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow.
The picture Jesus gave of the persistent widow breaks significantly with the script expected of her in an unjust world. The courts were a man’s world. But this widow did not have a man to represent her so she persisted up against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Remember that this parable is presented to teach us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
Evidently the long view of the parable reaches to the time when Jesus returns. Jesus said, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8). Yet this does not discount the immediate applications we should all make about God and prayer.
Look closely at the Lord’s purpose for this parable.
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1).
Although the parable itself contrasts a corrupt Judge and a persistent widow, the opening purpose statement implies two kinds of people:
- Those who always pray
- Those who give up
Jesus obviously advocates persistence in prayer.
When it feels like the odds are stacked against you, keep on praying! I know what it’s like to persevere in prayer, but I’ve also been guilty of giving up. To give up is to become wearied or dis-spirited. Sometimes we give up praying because we become impatient for answers. Other times we allow doubt to discourage us.
In his application of the parable, Jesus connected giving up on prayer with lack of faith, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). This is important to recognize because Scripture teaches that the trials of this life are used by God to produce perseverance in us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-5).
As we persevere in praying, we learn a lot about ourselves and God.
Prayer offers an opportunity to grow in maturity. In his book, “Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?” Philip Yancey confessed, “Prayer has become for me much more than a shopping list of requests to present to God. It has become a realignment of everything. I pray to restore the truth of the universe, to gain a glimpse of the world, and of me, through the eyes of God. In prayer, I shift my point of view away from my own selfishness…. Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”
Scripture repeatedly encourages us to persevere. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9; cf. II Corinthians 4:16; II Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 3:12-13). “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:35-36). “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:2-3). (Quote source here.)
We live in a society where is it fashionable to spend years on a counselor’s couch trying to sort out the issues going on in our lives instead of taking the words of Jesus (for those of us who believe in Him) and doing exactly what He told us to do. That, of course, is not to say that counseling is a negative and shouldn’t be considered. But as Christians, we have a power in our lives that we can turn to for help, and too often we ignore it. And that power is prayer.
In the parable above, the widow was in dire straights and had an enemy who would not leave her alone, and her situation may have gone on for years as the judge ignored her for a while (the NIV states “For some time he refused”). But she never gave up even though her situation never changed for a very long time, and her enemy continued his assault. She persisted, and, in fact, she repeatedly hounded the judge to grant justice for her from her enemy. And the judge finally relented and got the justice for her that she was seeking.
“Always pray and never give up.” By turning first to prayer in any situation we find ourselves in, we take the focus off our ourselves and place it where it belongs–on the One who is able to change any situation in His timing and not ours (and our timing is usually “please do it now”). For reasons we may never know this side of heaven, God’s timing in our situations is never what we expect it to be, and we usually want immediate relief. Perhaps it comes from living in an instant access 24/7 society, and patience is not one of our virtues.
James 1:2-8 (verses 2-5 are mentioned in Cornell’s post above) states:
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
When our faith is tested (and we don’t fall away in the heat of the battle), our endurance (perseverance) has a chance to grow and develop. Our faith isn’t genuine faith without being tested, and when we hold on to our faith even in the midst of the most severe of troubles, we acquire endurance and perseverance. It also makes clear to an unbelieving world Who we believe in, even though that world is often not receptive and does not want to hear it. It also is a testimony to other Christians to hold firm to their faith when trials comes their way, and to “always pray and not give up.”
James 1:12-18 continues by stating:
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
There is much in our society that pulls at us and causes us to live with divided loyalties when it comes to Jesus. Money and materialism, fame or accolades, prestige, power, sex, not to mention anger, jealousy, revenge, and a host of other emotions we let get in the way. . . the list is endless. Sometimes even friends and family can try to divide our loyalty. Christianity is not a playground to get what we want in this world, but a battleground where we must clearly choose whose side we are on by the way we live our lives and the decisions we make (see blog post titled, “This World: Playground or Battleground” by A.W. Tozer). Too often, as James noted above in James 1:8, “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
Getting back to the topic at hand–“getting unstuck”; even in the midst of “being stuck,” we (as Christians) should be some of the most winsome people on the planet. If the God of the Universe thoroughly knows our situation and He is intimately involved in all our ways and our lives (and He is–see Psalm 139), the joy described by James in the verses above comes from knowing that God is fully in charge no matter how “stuck” we might feel in any situation, and regardless of how long we’ve been stuck in that situation. And we should still always pray and never give up.
We can only see a tiny glimpse of what is really going on behind the scenes regarding any trial that we go through. Far more is actually involved then we can even comprehend. In a devotion by Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) in “My Utmost for His Highest,” titled “The Faith to Persevere” (May 8), Chambers states:
Because you have kept My command to persevere… —Revelation 3:10
Perseverance means more than endurance—more than simply holding on until the end. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in awhile the saint says, “I can’t take any more.” Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly. Entrust yourself to God’s hands. Is there something in your life for which you need perseverance right now? Maintain your intimate relationship with Jesus Christ through the perseverance of faith. Proclaim as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15).
Faith is not some weak and pitiful emotion, but is strong and vigorous confidence built on the fact that God is holy love. And even though you cannot see Him right now and cannot understand what He is doing, you know Him. Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love. Faith is the supreme effort of your life—throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.
God ventured His all in Jesus Christ to save us, and now He wants us to venture our all with total abandoned confidence in Him. There are areas in our lives where that faith has not worked in us as yet—places still untouched by the life of God. There were none of those places in Jesus Christ’s life, and there are to be none in ours. Jesus prayed, “This is eternal life, that they may know You…” (John 17:3). The real meaning of eternal life is a life that can face anything it has to face without wavering. If we will take this view, life will become one great romance—a glorious opportunity of seeing wonderful things all the time. God is disciplining us to get us into this central place of power.
“I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Keep that note of greatness in your creed. It is not that you have got God, but that He has got you (quote source: “My Utmost for His Highest,” May 8).
If you find yourself feeling stuck in a situation that seems immovable right now, I hope this post gives you some inspiration to keep praying and never give up, no matter what. And, may “the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26); and, as stated in Romans 12:12, remember to . . .
Be confident in our hope . . .
Be patient in trouble . . .
And keep on praying . . . .
YouTube Video: “Revelation Song” by Phillips, Craig and Dean: