When Life Is Incredibly Difficult: A Three-Word Prayer

The phone lit up — way too late at night — as a text came through that I never wanted to read. My breath caught in my throat as my fingers quickly moved across the screen, anxious to reply and find out more information.

I remember thinking “This is not what’s supposed to happen. It shouldn’t be this way.”

I remember praying “God, help. Please. Do something. Spirit, breathe. Do what only You can do.”

And then I’d begin the refrain again. It became my three-word prayer.

“God, help. Please.”

When Life Is Incredibly Difficult: A Three-Word Prayer

Circumstances beyond my control felt out of control.

I wanted to reach through the phone, make one hundred calls, hop on a plane, consult Google, and curl up in a ball and cry — all at the same time. But I just kept repeating the words and watching my phone, impatiently waiting for an update.

The hours passed slowly. I lit a candle, grabbed a pen, and opened my notebook to a blank page.

I filled the entire thing, every empty space, with three words. Over and over and over again, I wrote them out. I knew I believed them, but in that moment I couldn’t say them. And so I wrote them, slowly and painstakingly, quickly and angrily — it didn’t matter. I just kept writing them out, preaching to myself the truth I suddenly found myself desperately clinging to.

Even if not.

Even if not.

Even if not.

this is my prayer: even if not

The candle flickered. My heartbeat slowed. The page filled.

Could God intervene? Yes. Was He capable of changing the situation? Absolutely. But… what if He didn’t? What if, for reasons unbeknownst to me, He chose not to?

I kept writing, watching the white page turn to black as three words filled every square inch of the page.

I wrote a book called Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between. I spent months filling those pages, pointing to the goodness and kindness of God, the true Author of our stories — even in the messy middle, in the chapters that don’t quite make sense, the storylines we wouldn’t have chosen for ourselves.

But there I was, the one who had clung to those three words through a brain tumor diagnosis, broken relationships, and depression… sitting on the floor, tears dripping onto the page, preaching to myself.

I couldn’t speak the words, so I wrote them. I needed to see what I believed staring me in the face, not the unwelcome, pixelated message glowing from my phone screen.

As I sat there with a no-longer-blank-page in my hand, I remembered these words from Even If Not:

We can trust the unknown of the future to the God we know is authoring its pages.

We can trust the unknown of the future to the God we know is authoring its pages.

And I realized I still believed it.

God would still be good even if He didn’t answer my prayer how I hoped. He wasn’t holding a pencil or reaching for an eraser… this chapter wasn’t a mistake. He was already at work long before my phone lit up.

That night, I held a pen in my hands — but I was the story, not the Author.

2 Corinthians 3:3 says this:

Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

I love the way the Message translation puts it:

Does it sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we’re not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it. (2 Corinthians 3:1-3)

2 Corinthians 3:3

Eventually, I closed the notebook, put the cap on the pen, and blew out the candle. I watched the wisps of smoke rise and I prayed that same refrain one more time. I went to bed and woke a few hours later with the same desperate plea, followed by the three words that continue to shape my life.

This is what He’s chiseling into me, this is the letter He’s writing with my life. It’s His story and I’m honored to offer my endorsement.

May we be living letters that point to the Author of history — His story. God, help us live lives that sing Your praise and glorify Your name, no matter the chapters we wouldn’t have chosen, the storms that come, and the texts that light up our phones in the dark of night. We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know Who holds tomorrow. So we’ll look to You, light the candles, and declare it over and over and over again. Even if not, Lord. Even if not.

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