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No dead ends

It was spring term of my senior year of college. I had been commissioned to do the graphics for a CD cover, in addition to my normal coursework. But, the record company emailed me to say that my design was inadequate for production. The central image, a photograph, had very poor resolution, and the client couldn’t locate the original picture or the negative to rescan the image. Where was I going to get another idea, quickly?

When faced with a problem, I find it natural to pray, but in this case I felt desperate. I could only manage to beg, “God, please let the client find the picture so that I can just rescan the image and make this situation right! I don’t have time for anything else.” After much searching, however, the client was still unsuccessful in finding the photograph or the negative.

I felt disappointed that God had not answered my prayer. But later I realized that my prayer lacked a necessary humility in order to be truly effective. I was too busy telling God my situation and predicting the outcome of my prayer to even consider that God might have a better idea for me.

A model of humble steady prayer, Mary Baker Eddy faced intense challenges in her life as a progressive 19th-century woman, author, and mother. Her severe fall on a patch of ice in 1866 was a major turning point in Mrs. Eddy’s life. Doctors said she would die from her injuries, but she was healed through a wonderful spiritual insight into Jesus’ healing of a palsied man. She was so inspired by this experience that she spent the next three years searching the Bible to fully understand what had healed her.

Later she would write in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Prayer cannot change the unalterable Truth, nor can prayer alone give us an understanding of Truth; but prayer, coupled with a fervent habitual desire to know and do the will of God, will bring us into all Truth. Such a desire has little need of audible expression. It is best expressed in thought and in life.”

These ideas from Science and Health helped me to see that instead of praying to manipulate the situation toward a certain outcome, I should turn wholeheartedly to God. Certainly, I could trust God who is good and loving. God could never lead me astray.

In fact, I have come to think of the promise that God “will bring us into all Truth” as the difference between the promise of a shopping spree and a lifetime supply. With a more humble approach, I felt the fear and pressure recede, and I was able to surrender my nearsighted view of the project to a diviner perspective. What felt like a dead-end moment liberated me from a false sense of responsibility. I realized that I had no option but to quit struggling to find a solution on my own and to start trusting God’s steady flow of inspiration.

As I prayed, I thought of how Moses had faced a dead-end experience while he was leading the children of Israel through the wilderness. When they were hungry, they complained, essentially asking, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?” God responded even before Moses asked for help, providing nourishment in the form of manna, a substance that they could use like bread. And in the evening quails came into the camp for them to eat. As I thought about God’s provision for them, and Moses’ humble approach to the many challenges he faced, it occurred to me that God is even bigger and more impressive than the “wilderness moments” we experience in life.

In my own heart, the feelings of frustration and hopelessness about the design project faded. My confidence returned as I began depending on God as the sole source of my ideas. Hey! I am an artist, I thought. Why am I worried about a photograph when I can paint this picture? So, I did a watercolor painting of the river and trees from the original photograph.

This proved to be infinitely more appropriate and suitable for the CD cover. In fact, it was the first of many albums that were done in this style. What felt like a setback ended up being a progressive experience when I learned that humility is essential to prayer.

Whether you feel overwhelmed about writing a paper, completing a project, or redeeming a relationship, God will not fail you. Even if things don’t work out as you planned, there will be a solution you can trust because God loves you. And these “wilderness experiences” strengthen our confidence that He will never leave us.

Originally published on spirituality.com.

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