The Fear of Answered Prayers

So like I mentioned earlier, the past few months have been a season of growth in prayer. Which has been good for me. I’m learning that being faithful in the little things is a really big thing. It’s amazing how differently my day pans out when I keep an open line of constant communication with God.

But I’m not gonna lie. These past few months have also been difficult ones. Ones of doubt and questions and wondering if maybe I heard the wrong calling.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m a med student. I spent about two years away from everyone I loved so I could sit in a classroom and study for 15+ hours a day (everyday, even weekends, even Sundays, even during nap time) while all my hair turned grey, my body got fatter, and my wallet got thinner. Y’all, it was hard. But I did it and I didn’t regret it because it was part of the process. I needed to learn these things so I could come home, take my boards, do rotations in a hospital for two years, take some more boards and then finally, finally be an MD.

You guys. Studying for boards is hard. I’ve been home for a while now but I haven’t started rotations yet because studying is taking so much longer than I anticipated. And it’s hard. Did I mention that? Med school is hard.

Med school is so hard that I did pretty awful on my last exam and had to ask for approval to take it again. And as in all things, waiting for an answer was the hardest part.

I think back on the years I’ve spent working towards this goal. It’s been such a long journey and I’ve faced more obstacles than I ever could have expected. Waiting to hear about my retake gave me some time to reflect on them. Well, maybe less reflecting and more agonizing. Because when you look back on your failures in isolation, it makes it hard to imagine a successful future. I started to question if God really did want me to be a doctor. Could I have gotten it all wrong?

So I prayed my fears. I asked God that if He truly called me into medicine, He needed to remind me of it. Make me sure. Give me a sign that this is Your will by letting this approval come through. I literally wrote down those words in a journaled prayer. And I told God that if this wasn’t what He wanted for me, He needed to open doors to show me what the next move was.

I received word last week that I was approved to take my exam again in a few months.

And I had no idea how to feel.

I waited to feel a sense of elation. Triumph. Validation. Something.

But all I was met with was a distinct sense of fear. I had essentially been told that I had another chance to study for the hardest exam I’ve ever had to take. Another few months of stretching my brain to its farthest limits, without any assurance that I’d see a different outcome.

I am so well acquainted with failure. What if failure is all I will know?

So I prayed again. I asked God why I was afraid. And as soon as I did, I remembered Peter.

Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
Matthew 14:22-31 (NASB)

I think Peter is such a crowd favorite when it comes to the disciples because he’s so flawed. Sure, now he’s the gatekeeper of Heaven, but back in the day, Peter was a little bit of a psycho. He was impulsive. He spoke without thinking and he had a tendency towards violence. Yet there is something rather endearing about a man who was passionate and eager but who got things wrong sometimes. It reminds me that God has long been in the business of using imperfect people.

But I have always had an issue with Peter in this story. Peter. Buddy. Listen. You have no right to complain about drowning in the sea because you asked for it. You literally asked for it. You asked Jesus to command you to walk on water with him. So He did, obviously. And only then does it occur to you to be afraid? Why would you ask for something, get what you asked for, and then be scared that Jesus did what you asked?

Oh. Oh.

Sometimes the weight of God’s revelation hits me so hard and so fast, it leaves me a little breathless.

Beloved, what if our deepest fear isn’t that God will say no to our prayers, but that He will invite us into miracles to say yes? What if we are scared for our turn to walk on water?

I wonder if I am too quick to throw out a bold prayer at times. I’m faced with uncertainty and almost without thinking, I ask God to intervene. But I don’t know if I always believe that He’s going follow through. If I’m honest, I think I was praying about my exam with a bit of an empty faith. Have I made God so small that part of me believed there was no way I would get a second chance?

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

When I quiet my heart, I can feel Jesus ask me this question. And the thing is, it’s about so much more than med school. There are moments when my faith is so frail that I doubt if God is able to see me safely to the other side.

But I believe that faith, like a mustard seed, can grow.

In this season, I’m learning that faith is believing in the sovereignty of God. Not only can He answer my prayer in the way He knows to be best but He can also use me in the process. And really, that’s been the story since the beginning of mankind. God calls us to be intricately entangled in the fulfillment of His will, even and especially when it seems humanly impossible. Which means that Jesus will invite me into scary situations sometimes. Places where I cannot stand in my own strength. But He is still Lord over all. When the waves seem too big and when the storm seems too wild, I can be sure that He knows what He’s doing. He will not let me sink. He’s holding on.

So I’m back to studying, y’all. And I’ll admit, it’s still scary. I have no assurances that things will turn out differently this time. But I’m trusting that the God who answers my prayers will be faithful to accomplish the work He started in me.

And out on the water, in the midst of the sea, my faith will grow.

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