#TellHisStory: When The Answers to Your Prayers Don’t Feel Like Answers at All

September 25, 2013 | 42 comments

The piano has gone quiet, and I can hear the girl on the bench heaving these deep sighs into the ceiling. It’s like she’s just had it. Like she can’t go on. Like the song is never going to sound like an actual song underneath her amateur fingers.

hands on piano

I wipe my hands on a damp dishtowel and walk up behind her, feeling this invisible tension in the narrowing space between us.

“Need help?” I toss the towel over my shoulder. She scoots over on the bench to make room for her mama. We’re ringed in the scent of Dawn soap.

“I hate this song, Mom. Hate. It.” She pounds clenched fists onto the black keys.

The song is called Blessings, by Laura Story.

It’s not the song she hates — at least I don’t think so. What she really hates is the fact that she can’t play it yet.

I breathe in a long breath. “How about I play the left hand and you play the right hand until you get the hang of it?” We play our fumbling duet, and silently, I read the lyrics.

“We pray for blessings,” the song begins. “We pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep.”

blessings song

I feel a tightening on my insides, like all the words have unraveled from thin pages to form this gigantic knot in my throat. I’m afraid some of the lyrics might leak out my eyes.

Maybe it was the song after all. Maybe she was afraid that God’s blessing — like the song says — would have to come through raindrops and tears and a thousand sleepless nights.

Tomorrow morning, Lydia goes back to the surgeon.

It’s kind of a long story, but the first surgery wasn’t entirely successful. Teeth are stubbornly fused to bone. Post-surgery is painful.

“Why do my surgeries never work the first time?” she demanded.  True enough, she had to return twice to the surgeon to repair a hole in her eardrum. And now, twice to the oral surgeon.

Her eyes blazed, like they held a sort of fury. She unfurled her question:  “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?”

I put on a brave face, and fumbled for weak answers, as if it’s my job to do PR for God to my child.

Right then, I quietly stormed the gates of God’s House. I nose-pressed myself to the windows of Heaven, knocked on the glass and demanded to know if God was actually, you know, home.

And did He see that a little girl was losing faith down here?

My eyes darted wildly, and I couldn’t see Him in the house, but He tapped me on the shoulder while I was in that embarrassing pose at the window. I whipped my head around and heard Him say: “I’m right here. Always.”

God has grown accustomed to my nose-pressing inquisitions. He’s seen how I never quite grew out of my questions. Maybe I grew into them.  I think my questions saved me.

I remember what Philip Yancey says: “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”

So I hold firm to the faith, believing I’ll have a rear-view vantage point someday.

Later, after we finished our duet and turned down bed-covers, my daughter and I curled up in her bed.

She asked more of her “whys.” I fumbled around with more of my flimsy answers. I thought about some verses in Scripture, and I had some pretty good Bible stories on the tip of my tongue.

But tonight, she didn’t need exegesis. She didn’t need a hermeneutical examination of suffering. She didn’t need theological treatise.

She’s 11. She needed her mother.

“Mom,” she whispered hoarsely into the dark. “Just make me feel better.”

And maybe we’re all 11 years old. Maybe we all just need someone we love to wrap an arm around us, to sing softly in our ear, and to let us cry as long as we need to cry. Maybe we need someone to cry with us. Maybe we need someone who isn’t afraid of hard questions, and someone who is willing to stick around long enough to hear every one of them. Maybe we need someone who doesn’t feel the need to offer long-winded answers. Maybe we’re all a bunch of kids who need someone to let us know it’s really going to be okay, simply by being present with us when we’re not okay at all.

Maybe we need someone who will stay up during the night-watches when it feels like our own prayers got lost in the mail.

Before I turned out the light, I prayed for my girl. I held her hand tight. I stroked her cheek. I tried not to let her hear the quiver in my voice. I prayed for her doctor. I prayed for her little teeth. And I prayed for the comforting presence of Christ. Sometimes, I’m not sure what that feels like — the presence of Christ, the comforting hand of an invisible God. But I trust that it happens.

On this night, maybe the prayed-for presence of Christ felt like a mother pulling her child in tight, rubbing circles into her back, humming for as long as she needed to hum.

Maybe it feels like that moment when you know the song you’re trying to play with amateur fingers isn’t working, and you need someone to play the other hand with you until the music, at last, makes sense.

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!


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Surgery is Wednesday morning. Grateful for your prayers.

by | September 25, 2013 | 42 comments


  1. Dea

    I am certain His Presence felt like a mother’s arms. Praying right now because prayer isn’t just about getting answers, it is about getting reassurance, the deepening of our faith, the remembering of what is true. He never leaves us.

  2. Karrilee Aggett

    Oh my friend… I am praying with you! Believing with you! Covering her and you and your Mama heart… agreeing for all His best for her and that Peace will wrap Himself around her and hold you both in close!

    (I was going to answer your fb post earlier. It’s not pretty – how I deal. I tend to recite His Promises back Him, as if He must have forgotten somehow, over and over until He whispers ever so gently that He doesn’t answer to me; that I am not the Boss of Him. But He says it softly and it is dripping with so much Love that it sort of diffuses the fear and causes Peace to arise. Ah yes – the unfun work of entering in to His rest! Not always easy… but always worth it!)

    Hugs & Prayers… and my left hand extended!

  3. Janet

    Blessings is a beautiful song – and perfect for how y’all were feeling. It’s well worth the YouTube trip to hear the back story. You write with such love and share with such honesty. The image of you with your nose pressed against the windows of heaven – priceless – only because I’ve been there, too… Your daughter sees you praying. She sees your faith – from all vantages. Your example IS your PR, Jennifer – whether it’s lending the left hand, instant-in-the-moment prayer, or just curling up on the bed…
    Prayers and blessings for you both,

  4. Kendal Privette

    so hard to answer them all….so hard to see our kids scared….praying for your sweet little one right now.

  5. Kim @ Kim's County Line

    There are tears in my eyes, Jennifer, as prayers are murmured for you, Lydia and the surgery team. I love this line: “Maybe it feels like that moment when you know the song you’re trying to play with amateur fingers isn’t working, and you need someone to play the other hand with you until the music, at last, makes sense.” I know that Someone is sitting on the chair in the waiting room with you today, with Lydia and with the people who are helping her. Prayers …

  6. Lisa notes...

    “…as if it’s my job to do PR for God to my child.

    …She’s 11. She needed her mother.”

    Those two lines really, really get me, Jennifer. I sometimes think I need all the correct theological answers to properly explain and convince someone of the goodness of God. But sometimes they just need me–in the flesh–to live it out instead.

    This post is rich. Thank you, friend!

  7. Rebekah

    That is a hard song to sing, and harder to live. Praying for your daughter. Oh, the privilege of coming to the throne of grace, and knowing the presence of Christ in our lives.

  8. stultsmamaof4

    Truth right here! What you’ve written confirms in my heart what the Lord is teaching me lately. Sometimes all we can do is fall into his arms and cry, “Mercy!” Beautiful post. 🙂

  9. Shelly Miller

    Oh my. You know, I didn’t have this kind of mother. You just don’t know what a gift your presence is like this to your girls. “Mom, just make me feel better.” That says more than you know. It was the opposite for me, my mother asking me to make her feel better. It was a request I didn’t know how to fulfill. I love this little window into your relationship. It’s quite lovely, gives me hope.

  10. ro elliott

    I will be praying for your sweet girl…this is big when you live in an 11 yr old world …and aren’t you so glad that God is so compassionate toward each struggle in every child’s heart…and I must say I am living God answering prayers that seemed impossible…my brother lived hard and addicted most of his life ..my parents (89) have spent to many years suffering the pain…I had asked God numbers of time…just take them home so they don’t have to endure any more…but God ways are above our ways…last June my brother was given 4 months to live…God ‘s amazing grace has walked us on a most glorious journey…I wish I could share all the details…but my brother peacefully died in the arms of God…my parents got to see God redeem his life …and my brother’s fractured family found more healing…tomorrow we will bury him…such joy and grief mingled together…only God can do such a glorious work

  11. Sharon O

    wow. I loved this writing. SO full of every deep emotion of a mom, and a child and the challenges of waiting for prayers answered. beautiful.

  12. Brandee

    I’m so sorry for all Lydia’s pain, struggles, suffering. I am also a person who gets hung up in the whys…and sometimes in the fear, too. You’re a wonderful mom, Jennifer.

  13. Deb Weaver (@DebWordWeaver)

    Jennifer, praying with you for your precious girl. How often we rap on the window desperate for a glimpse that He’s home. I’m so grateful that He’s patient with us as He beckons us to turn and see that He is here. May He wrap your entire family in His arms of grace, strength, love, and peace. May He direct the surgeon’s mind and hands. May He pour out healing over Lydia.

    Deb Weaver

  14. Kristin Hill Taylor

    These words are beautiful. What a story your and your family are telling with your lives.

  15. Laura

    Prayers for you and your preçious girl.
    Gratitude for your transparent sharing.

  16. D. Farrow

    Praying right now Jennifer. I would guess you’re probably waiting for Lydia to come out of surgery. I’ve been praying for you, Lydia, and the rest of the family right now. Abba, please come and touch Lydia and the doctor who’s working on her and let the surgery be done right so that no more surgeries are ever needed on her teeth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen! God bless you guys! 🙂

  17. Kim Adams Morgan

    What a beautiful post and sweet, comforting words for your daughter. My mother loved me, and as I read your words, it took me back to times when I was sick or in the hospital. I felt her hand on my back as she rubbed and told me everything would be alright; that God is with us.Praying for you and your daughter.

  18. Sheila at Longings Ends

    Maybe we’re all eleven years old…yep, I think so, Jennifer. Sometimes. And all the time we need His big arms around us as we cry long into the night…Praying all has gone well this morning with your baby girl.

  19. Laurie Collett

    Praying for you both. So beautiful & transparent. Thanks for hosting & God bless!

  20. alecia

    Sending up prayers for your girl. I know questions like that can be so hard to answer from our kids. We struggle with the same questions that they do, so it can be hard to try and explain why sometimes God doesn’t answer the way we are praying for.

  21. monicasharman

    I tend to sing the same song over and over (or play it on infinite repeat). I will sing that song over and over and stubbornly pray for Lydia.

  22. Elizabeth Stewart

    My youngest daughter is 30 now. (Wow!) She still calls me when she has a hard time understanding God and His mysterious ways. I listen and I pray and sometimes I just cry with her.

  23. Lorretta @Dancing On The Dash

    You are so right. It all simply defies explanations and you have to get to the place where you can be alright with the “What if’s” and mysteries and sit with or walk silently, lovingly with others through them to. If we had the answers..or could figure them out…would that leave room for God. I don’t want to play God.

  24. Constance Ann Morrison

    It is so hard to watch our children walking the hard road of suffering and doubt. Your daughter is blessed to have you be the “someone who will stay up during the night-watches when it feels like our own prayers got lost in the mail.”

    praying the surgery and recovery go well

  25. Patty

    thanks for this, friend. love you, love me.

  26. Michelle DeRusha (@MichelleDeRusha)

    I so often ask the same questions as your sweet, girl. Thanks for giving me some answers today, friend. {and yes, praying, right now}

  27. lynndmorrissey

    Oh this is so beautiful, Jennifer, and does remind me of how God and Christ do mother us…….how they gather us like flustered chickens under their omnipotent wings. In Him, there is refuge in every trial……and you are that immediate refuge for Lydia. God has given her such a wonderful, tender mother. When our children hurt, it is worse than when we do. And let me tell you: It’s really not much different when your children are grown. I still rub circles into my twenty-one-year-old’s back during tough times, and my mother is duetting with my poor brother, because he needs help right now beyond measure, needs someone to help him play a very doleful song. And we take hope in God who is conducting this sometimes all-too-maddening score of discord, and who will bring it to a peaceful, joyful resolution. In the meantime, we keep playing the notes, with a little help from our friends (or moms, as the case may be). Please tell your lovely Lydia, whom I just so love and admire, that I will be praying for her. Forgive me, but I hate dentists! Well…..my own dentist would know this is not true; but I hate going! I get this!

  28. rickd3352013

    Lisa wrote the contents of my heart on this , so I’ll not repeat – just echo. Praying all goes well with the surgery.

  29. Candace

    This is so beautiful Jennifer! Praying for you and your precious daughter. Both of my children suffer from chronic illnesses and I struggle when the whys start to come. Thank you for sharing your story!

  30. Megan Willome (@meganwillome)

    Tell Lydia she’s in good company with the unanswered prayer thing. Unfortunately, I can relate. Glad she’s got a mom like you.

  31. birdiecutair

    Praying for you and your daughter. I’m glad the surgery “took” this time, and I pray for her complete healing and no more pain. Thank you for “just being Mom.” That’s what she really needed. And, yes, we all need that comforting presence especially in the middle of the night…

  32. Mindy

    Such a beautiful story and God bringing His comfort through you to your daughter. We don’t always have answers and this week I have felt like that 11 year old more than once. But faith says God is there, moving when I don’t it, listening to my whispers, loving me all the while.

  33. Simply Beth

    You are such a precious mother, Jennifer. You share your heart so beautifully. And I love those words said by your daughter, “Just make me feel better.” It’s so true, many times we simply need someone we love to wrap their arms around us. Thank you for sharing with us. Blessings to you.

  34. dukeslee

    Hi friends … I wish I could respond to all of you tonight. I so appreciated reading your comments and your prayers this afternoon. Lydia appreciated them as well. She’s resting peacefully tonight, and while the surgery had some complications (the tooth was too fused to bone to remove entirely) she will probably not have to have surgery again. Our family appreciates each one of you and cherishes these comments and prayers. Love, the Lees

    • lynndmorrissey

      Oh so grateful to hear this, Jennifer, and to know it’s all over. And to think that this girl was blogging afterward! She’s a wonder, and remains in our prayers.

  35. Sandra Heska King

    Nose pressed to the windows of heaven. I know this place.

    Loving you. Loving Lydia. Praying for quick healing. xo

  36. Dolly@Soulstops

    Yes, sometimes we just need God, or a loving mom, like you, to hold us and comfort us, and Lydia is blessed to have you as a mom…praying right now for her surgery tomorrow and for complete healing…praying for God’s peace for your mama heart.

  37. aljung72

    Your posts always bring tears to my eyes and soul. This picture of a mother wanting to help her child. It’s beautiful. I’m sure the Lord thinks so too.

  38. Alia Joy

    I have a mom like you, a wrap her arms around me, pull me close even without all the answers wrapped tidy and ready to go. I have a mom that lets me be okay in the wrestling and the lost faith and the questions and her steadfast nose pressed to the glass speaks enough. Even at my age, those prayers are being answered, the prayers and love and gentle assurances of a faithful mom. You guys are blessed to have each other. Glad you’re going through this together.

  39. Leah Adams (@PointMinistries)

    This was so beautiful…and so true. We all need comforting arms to wrap around us in those times when our prayers seem to strike the ceiling and ricochet back down onto our souls. Bless her heart. I pray Lydia will find Jesus faithful even on those days when her prayers seem to go unheard and unanswered. Growing up (in Jesus) is not always easy.

  40. Lisa @ FSL

    ahhhh, wow, tears!! This is right where I am. My nose against the window as well… hmmm that quote, I need to fuse that to my brain.



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