Not too long ago I listened to a woman describe to me her year long affair with a married man. It was a painful story to hear and she was obviously miserable. When she had finished her tale the first thing I thought to ask was this: Where does God fit into your life? She responded by saying that she prays a lot. I assured her that I was sure of that. My next question caught her off guard:
Do you think God is listening?
I told her about my own anguished prayers originating from my life of self-indulgence. Whether as an addict or someone caught up in an affair or someone struggling with a desire that is not of God – but it feels so right! – prayers seems impotent. We offer them up because we don’t know what else to do, but no one seems to be home.
There is a reason for this. The reason God seems distant despite our emotional pleas for help is a simple yet hard truth:
We love ourselves, and our sin, more than God.
There is a passage in Psalm 66 which cuts through all the excuses and charades we who love our sin love to play. It reads,
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18)
God knows the heart. He sees our innermost thoughts and motives. God sees what and who we love and knows when our cries for deliverance stem from a selfish desire – such as restoration of a marriage or career or reputation – rather than a desire to serve and honor a holy, jealous God who demands our sole allegiance.
The sort of prayers my counselee, and myself at one time, prayed were not honest prayers, desiring to be broken and saved from our wretched selves. They were instead Hail Mary’s to God in hopes that somehow our desires would be blessed and the circumstances around us changed so that we would not be. Our sinful nature wants the path of least resistance and God is not fooled.
And so it is that God will turn a deaf ear towards us in our darkest hours until our worldly sorrow is replaced with godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). Worldly sorrow, the sort of sorrow that regrets the consequences of our sin, leads us deeper and deeper into the pit. Godly sorrow, the sort of sorrow that reckons our behavior as sin and despises it for how it offends God, leads to true repentance, and therefore, life.
Be honest with God. Confess the love affair you have with your sin and ask God to help you see your sin the way God sees it. This is a prayer God is sure to hear and desires to answer.
Psalm 66 is not without hope. Hear this great promise found within it, and may it be your testimony as well:
For you, O God, have tested us;
You have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
You laid a crushing burden on our backs;
You let men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
Yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.