But God Prayers
By Beth Demme
Sometimes it comes out as a whine. “But God, I’ve been waiting for so long.” Other times, regrettably, it comes out like a toddler-style tantrum, “But God, that’s not what I want (or how I wanted it)!” Sometimes it comes out like a plea, “I hear you, but God, please help me!”
These are “but God” prayers.
My prayer life over the last year has sounded something like this:
- “But God, I’m not smart enough to serve as a pastor.”
- “But God, Stephen and I already have a plan for the next phase of our life.”
- “But God, Seminary is expensive.”
- “But God, I’m waaaaaaay too old to go back to graduate school now.”
In response to my whining, God has given me opportunities to teach, each one building up —and on— a base of knowledge. He’s given Stephen and I both a sense of excitement about serving a congregation. God has also revealed ways to pay for Seminary. And about the age thing? I recently had the chance to celebrate the life of a law school classmate who was fifty-two years my senior. When we started law school I was only 20 years old and Joe was 72. Can you guess who made the better lawyer? (Hint: It wasn’t me.) I was sad to attend Joe’s funeral, but it was a potent reminder that age is no excuse.
A Pivotal Pivot
Understanding that God is at work in my life has changed my but God in an important way. Instead of “but God” it’s now “but God.” I’ve pivoted from saying “but God, I can’t,” to understanding, “I can’t, but God can.” In fact, as I’ve tried to understand my call into ministry, I’ve written that very phrase in my journal over and over again, “I can’t, but God can.”
There’s good biblical witness for this truth. Psalm 73:26 says, “ My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
“But God” defeats our expectations and ignores our limitations.
The Apostle Peter had a but God moment. He told the Jewish-Christian leaders of the early church, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) In other words, I thought I knew the rules and the “right” way to worship, but God showed me a better way.
And the best but God moment of all is the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross, “but God raised him on the third day.” (Acts 10:40, 13:30)
Do you need more resurrection in your life? More “but God”?
Maybe you, like me, currently face a season of life that seems bigger, harder, scarier, and also richer than you ever thought possible. Maybe you know you can’t, but God can. Or maybe you’ve already come through something that felt impossible, but God made it possible. Maybe you’ve been asking God for something, but God where are you anyway?
Wherever you find yourself, I hope you will find a way to embrace the pivot from “but God” to “but God.”
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