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Ask Jani: “How do we live in the tension between our longings and God not seeming to fulfill them?”

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Episode Synopsis

Is it wrong to keep longing for a husband, praying for a godly man, when God doesn’t seem to be answering? What should we think when we find ourselves caught in the tension between our desires and our actual day-to-day lives?

Audio Transcript

Jani: Hi everyone. Welcome back and Happy New Year! This is Jani, along with her co-host Heidi Howerton, and we’re so happy to be back together with you. We hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas break and that you’re settling into some “New Year” routines. Maybe some of you are going back to work or maybe your kids are back in school. Can I hear a cheer from the moms whose kids are back in school?

Jani: Well, Heidi and I want to thank you for listening in. We are praying that these times together will help bring you to God where he himself will grant restoring mercies for your heart, which will flow out into every area of your life.

Our question for Today

Jani: Now, Heidi and I have been talking about and have been praying over some goals for this year’s podcast, which we will share with you in a minute. But before we do, Heidi and I want to go back to an “Ask Jani” question that came in a while ago while we were discussing prayer. Heidi, will you read this question please?

Heidi: I will Jani, I think it’s such a great question and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Here’s the question:

“Jani, I am a single Christian woman in her late twenties serving the local church and seeking to grow in knowledge and love for the Lord daily and imperfectly, of course. God has given me the strong conviction of my heart to give up my own will to his including the longings and desires of my heart for what I want my life to be. That being said, I do desire to have a godly, gospel-glorifying marriage. It’s a desire that I pour out in tears to the Lord while asking him to be my heart’s greatest desire even still. As someone who has grown to know the disproportionate longings of the heart distorted by sin, I often find myself hesitant to pray for marriage or a godly man and often don’t know how those requests can be made in a way that is pleasing and glorifying to the Lord. I know marriage is a good design from God, but as single women who want to wait on him while putting our hope in him, I think we can often struggle with how to still long in a Holy way. I know I do. I’ve strived to put my life on the altar for so long that I don’t even know how to be confident in prayer for a godly marriage. Any words of wisdom for a woman desiring purity of heart and singleness and the gift of pursuing Christ alongside a godly man?”

Jani: Wow. What a great question…

Heidi: …and I just love the way she puts her heart, so sweet.

Jani: Yes, real and authentic. She loves the Lord, she’s serving the Lord, and she’s crying out to him with real, heartfelt tears. She wants to be married. We understand that, don’t we, Heidi?

Heidi: We do. We’ve all walked through seasons of our life wondering, am I going to get married? Who’s the man you have for me? That’s a hard season.

Jani: It’s so hard for a woman.

What do we do with unanswered prayer?

Jani: I just love this listener’s heart because, most of all, she seems to be desiring purity of heart. Surely God sees that and it pleases him. She’s in the middle of this very hard tension of unanswered prayer. You think you’re giving your life to God, so is it okay to keep begging, pleading, asking him over and over again for the desires of your heart? You think you’ve sacrificed it all on the “altar of her life,” I understand that.

Jani: Now sometimes our hearts do desire the wrong things. They may be good things, but God doesn’t will them for us. So in that way, they’re not right for us. Only His will is what’s right for us.

A personal example from Jani’s life

Jani: I think of an example in my own life, Heidi, which I’ve mentioned before (some of our listeners might remember) is when Ray was working on his doctorate in Scotland. We had four little children. We had sold everything and invested with an investor and we were beginning to get some hints that our investor was having difficulty managing the money. I got scared and I started praying, begging God, don’t let our investor go belly up. That’s every penny we have. And we’re in Scotland where Ray cannot work and he does not have a work visa. And I was scared. I begged, I pleaded nearly every day, “Lord, please preserve that money.”

Jani: Well, God didn’t. He did not answer my prayer. And you know what, Heidi? I don’t know why. I still don’t know why. I might not ever know why. It could be in heaven some day that the Lord might take me aside and talk with me about it, but it could be that it will never cross his lips as he speaks with me as his daughter. So I have needed to learn to live within that tension of begging God for something that seemed right—we needed money to feed our children. We thought we were obeying God by selling everything and going to Scotland to earn this doctorate. We thought this was his will for us. So now what? How do I think through theologically who God is in this? Why is he responding this way? What should my response be?

A few things that have helped Jani

Jani: Let me just say that a few things that have helped me when I have struggled with a prayer tension of begging God for something and he just seems not to be listening, not caring, which I know is wrong. I know he really does care, but from my perspective, it’s like, “Lord, don’t you see? Don’t you care? I really need this. I really want this.”

TIP: It is okay to have a longing in your heart

Jani: What has been helpful for me is to remember that it’s okay to have a longing in your heart. That’s not a sin. I ask myself, “Now Lord, is this longing that you preserve our investment a sin? I don’t think so, Lord. I am not striving to get rich. We’re just trying to have a monthly income to pay our rent, feed our children, and keep Ray in school until he gets his doctorate, and then have enough money to fly home and get started again.” I don’t think that longings are necessarily sin. They can be if I’m longing for something that’s sinful, the Bible spells that out. I don’t think longings are sin.

TIP: Pray PUSHY Prayers

Jani: So I think there are times when we need to push into God with our prayers.

Jani: Heidi, you and I call them…

Heidi: …pushy prayers. I love the permission to say pushy prayers, “Pray Until Something Happens.”

Jani: Yes, pray until something happens. Let’s not be afraid to pray prayers that push into the heart of God, into the throne room of God, and into the mind of God. Let’s be women who pray. Think about Luke 18 and the persistent widow. It says she “cried to him day and night.” Okay, day and night. That’s 24 hours and it didn’t bother God. He put that parable in the Bible. God has a high tolerance for our crying out to him.

Jani: Now it’s always under the umbrella of how Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come father, your will be done” (Matthew 6:10). Jesus taught us to pray that way, so that’s the umbrella, but we still can pray, “Lord if this is your will, if this will further your kingdom, would you give me a husband, please?”

Jani: Now we pray until something happens. I believe that something is an answer, so I think you can keep praying about this until he answers it. If you desire a godly husband, keep praying, keep pushing in until God clearly tells you that you are no longer to pray for this. Ask him for a clear sign if he wants you to stop. He has very tough skin. He won’t be irritated by her coming to him frequently.

Jani: Sometimes our timing is not his timing and he just wants us to keep coming to him. I have had friends who’ve remained single all their lives serving God in beautiful, meaningful and significant ways. Some of them longed to be married and now they believe they never will be. I also have friends who’ve remained single for decades and then been married. One friend at age 42 met a man, a widower, with five children and he longed to marry my friend, and at age 42 she was married and the stepmother of five children. She packed up her bags and moved across the United States down to Texas and she’s very happy. That was at 42. I have another friend who didn’t marry until she was 54.

Heidi: Yes, and spent much of her life single.

Jani: Yes. Much of her life was single.

Jani: So I would encourage our listeners who are single, who desire to be married, to push into God and keep praying until something happens and that something is an answer. If God has not answered your prayer for a husband nor given you a clear word from him that you must not pray for this anymore, keep praying!

For more on this subject, see our series on prayer

It seems we can’t find what you’re looking for.

What about purity of heart and my attitude in the waiting?

Jani: Now, she asks about that holiness, that purity of heart. I believe that continuing to pray—being willing to live in that tension—is very beautiful to God. I believe that’s a form of sanctification. You’re willing to live in the tension of it. There’s a purity in that woman’s heart who says, “Lord, I’m serving you. I really want to be married. I want my prayers to be pure. I want my heart to be pure before you.” Surely he sees that. That is a holy prayer.

Jani: You know, most of life is waiting when you think about it. If we’re not waiting for our husband to come along. Oftentimes we’re waiting for a job, or a lab report. You know about that Heidi. Oh my. Sometimes you need to wait for a paycheck. You don’t have enough money to make it until the end of the month or sometimes you’re waiting for good news–the pregnancy test or the baby is born. There are all kinds of waiting in this life. Most of life is waiting and it’s a very holy and pure thing to wait. You honor God by hoping. Hoping is part of faith. It’s a big part. Waiting is what faith does until God shows up, Dad Ortlund used to tell me.

Heidi: Dad Ortlund has the best quotes! I love when you share. He was so full of wisdom.

Jani: He was, he really helped me when I was impatient. He would just say, “Now Jani, remember: you’re waiting, and that’s what faith does until God shows up, and you’re going to keep waiting. I know you will.”

Jani: When we wait, when we hope, when we, in a sense, wait in hope, we’re saying, “Lord, I don’t presume to know what your will is here. You haven’t shown me yet, but until you do, I’m going to keep praying. I’m going to keep coming to you. I’m going to keep crying out to you. You know I love you. You know I want to please you. Here is my heart and this crazy, unrelenting desire to build a family with a godly man. Please answer me. I’m going to keep pleading with you until you tell me to stop or bring me that man I’ve been waiting for.” And then let’s be women who trust our wounded and worried hearts to him.

REMEMBER: You serve a God who renews.

Jani: Now, let’s not be women who enter into 2020 living off of past victories, old memories and spent energies. Heidi, will you read Isaiah 43:18?

Heidi: Sure, Jani.

“Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.”

Isaiah 43:18

Jani: Isn’t that interesting? God is telling us, don’t keep looking back over your shoulder wondering if you’d prayed harder, would this have happened? If you’d done that…if only you had thought about this. You see, if you know Jesus, you serve the God who renews. Every other god will exhaust us. Only Christ offers new mercies every morning. Think of Lamentations 3:22. Only Christ renews our spirit (Psalm 51:10), only he renews our strength (Isaiah 40:31), our minds (Romans 12:2), even our youth—oh, I love that these days!—(Psalm 103:5); Christ is the renewer.

REMEMBER: Streams in the desert

Jani: This may seem impossible in your present circumstances. This listener who wrote in this “Ask Jani” question is in a dry place in her life. She’s wondering, “How do I pray about this? What’s my attitude to be?” Well, let’s consider God’s word to us in Isaiah 43:19 right after he tells us not to look back. Heidi, will you read Isaiah 43:19?

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:19

Jani: Oh, I love that.

Heidi: What a great verse, I love it because he could just say, “I will make rivers.” I love how he chooses instead to say, “I will make rivers in the desert.” It makes me think of a dry, barren land that has nothing left, and that he’s saying, “I’m doing a new thing. I’m going to bring rivers to your desert.” How encouraging.

Jani: Yes. He gives our experience a word: it’s a desert. Isn’t that wonderful? It’s a wilderness. He understands and he’s going to meet us there in our wilderness where we feel surrounded by darkness, maybe frightened by uncertainty or fatigue. God will make a way. Either we love the God who keeps his promises or we have put our faith in a fake. Either he’s going to do this, either he’s going to make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, or he is not God. In your dry and barren desert, dear listener, where you’re tired and discouraged, he says he will make rivers of living water for you to drink from and be refreshed for him to restore your soul. That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this podcast. We want your souls to be restored. That is who our God is.

Jani: In your hard place, God wants to minister to you. Our God does not need good conditions to make something beautiful. He uses the desert and the wilderness to show his grace and provision to his own. In your desert, in your wilderness, let’s just all keep coming to him in our deserts and wildernesses this year. Heidi, let’s encourage each other to keep coming to him.

REMEMBER: When we come to God, all outcomes are really good

Jani: We only have three outcomes when we come to God, and they all are really good. The first one could be that Jesus will answer your prayer in a meaningful way to you. A second outcome would be that Jesus will not answer it, but will give you the faith, by his grace, to continue trusting him and to continue bringing you deeper into his heart, into his love, into his ways, which will bring him glory—and I can promise you, it will give you deep joy in Christ. So one outcome would be Jesus will answer it. Another outcome could be Jesus won’t answer your prayer. Or the third outcome could be Jesus will come today and we can see him face to face, and we will never, once we see Jesus, be tempted to look back with feelings of, “Oh, I really missed out on my earthly life. God didn’t understand. He didn’t really care about me.” No, no. That will never happen. You see, it’s a win, win, win situation. Hang in there. Keep praying “Pushy Prayers.”

A prayer for our listeners who long to be married

Jani: Now Heidi, I wonder, we have a few more things to say in this podcast, but could I ask you to pray for singles who are listening, who particularly long to be married?

Heidi: Oh, I’d be honored to, Jani. Heavenly Father, I pray that you meet all of my sisters in Christ right now who are listening to this Lord and they long for a husband. God, would you please grant them the desires of their hearts, look upon them with grace and kindness and Lord bring their husband, bring him soon. I pray that they would be men that love you Father and hold tight to you. And I just pray that you would bring these women’s husbands, Dad, and in the meantime, as you ask them to wait, I ask that you would continue drawing close to them, that you would pour your heart into them on the days that they’re filled with tears, that you would hold their tender hearts, that you would comfort them, that you would show them reminders that you are with them and you love them as a father and you have not abandoned them. God, be near these women. Give them hope and encouragement. Dad, bring them into your arms and take care of them. Surround them with your love. But we do pray, Lord, that you would bring them husbands and that you would bring them soon.

Jani: In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Oh, thank you Heidi. May God answer that prayer for so many of our listeners. Oh yes.

What’s next?

Jani: Well we had been talking the last two weeks (see Part 1 and Part 2) about goals, about setting lifetime goals and then funneling down to set short-term goals. And so Heidi, I know you and I have been thinking, how can we help our listeners fulfill some of those goals and live out some of them? And we assume (we’re hoping) that some of you have made a lifetime goal of wanting to get to know God better. And some of you, who have children or grandchildren or teach children, have a goal of helping the children you know get to know God better. So Heidi and I have thought about how we could help you with those goals, along with engaging some of the questions you sent in for “Ask Jani.”

Jani: So this is what the Lord has given us. We’re going to start a new series on the Ten Commandments. We’re going to talk about what they really teach us about God, why they still matter, even in our age of grace, and how we can live them out, how we can give them to our children. Heidi and I are going to spend some time in the next several podcasts helping you understand how you can use these for your family devotions.

Heidi: Oh Jani, I’m so excited about this series. I have never done a study of the Ten Commandments before. I know them. I know Jesus’ teaching on them. It makes me think of the verses in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” I felt like the Lord gave me those verses when I first had children, but I still struggle on how to teach my children his commandments. So I’m excited to learn myself and I’m excited to gain some wisdom that I can share with my littles too.

Jani: Oh Heidi, you’re so sweet. Now you all know why I wanted Heidi to be my co-host. We love each other. The Lord has given us a sweet relationship, hasn’t he? I’m so grateful.

Jani: Well, anyhow, we’re going to be teaching on the Ten Commandments and we want to give you hints and helps on how you can teach your kids the Ten Commandments. This will be a longer series. I mean, it could take a few months and that’s okay. Why not camp on a portion of scripture for several weeks and really learn it?

Jani: It will also give us an opportunity to answer some of the “Ask Jani” questions. For instance, someone has written in asking, “How can we safeguard our marriages from divorce?” Well, that’s commandment seven about not committing adultery. We will talk about that. We’ll answer that question there. Someone wrote in a sad question about her very caustic and self-centered mother-in-law, such a hard relationship. Well, we’ll talk about that when we come to commandment five about honoring your mother and father. So we’re really looking forward to this new series and we hope you’ll join us next week as we begin it.

Heidi: You might want to get a copy of Jani’s book on the Ten Commandments. It will have helpful suggestions of ways to help your children take in this part of God’s Holy words to us. You can buy it on Amazon or Crossway publishers. It’s entitled, “His Loving Law, Our Lasting Legacy: Living the Ten Commandments and Giving Them to Our Children.” Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re excited about this next series.

Thank You

Thank you for joining us today. This podcast is generously funded through Renewal Ministries. If you would like to discover more about Jani and Ray’s ministry or make a donation, visit their website at renewalministries.com. If you have a question for Jani or would like to learn more about this podcast, please visit our website at herestoresmysoul.org.

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About The Podcast

He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund seeks to encourage women with God’s renewing power for their busy lives. Episodes include relevant biblical teaching, stimulating gospel conversations with other Christians, and “Ask Jani” sessions where we talk about what’s on our listeners’ hearts.

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