Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
— Philippians 4:8
Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist best known for her work on radioactivity. Among her many accomplishments, she discovered the elements polonium and radium. She was the first person in history awarded two Nobel Prizes, and her lasting legacy is that she established the theory of radioactivity. Her life ended in tragic irony, because she also unwittingly discovered the fatal effect radioactivity can have on your health. She died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia caused by radiation exposure.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about why unanswered prayers can be so detrimental to a person’s faith. As a pastor, I have often found myself sitting across from brothers and sisters who are in the middle of very difficult circumstances. Sometimes it is a direct result of their own choices and actions, sometimes the situation is completely out of their control. Either way, it’s hard to listen to the stories and not get sucked into the pain and doubt.
We all suffer and, in those times, doubt and fear are often part of the experience. Many people will lose faith in prayer or, by the end of it, even in God. I often hear unbelievers say that it is the suffering they see in the world that proves there is no God. But the truth is that, like Marie Curie spending time with radium every day, It’s not the disasters of life that will destroy your faith. It’s the little drops of poison from your thought life that will kill it slowly.
When you say to yourself, “God does not care,” or ”God doesn’t exist, because he doesn’t answer prayer,” over and over again, when you convince yourself that you are alone or that your suffering is unique, those thoughts become the object of your faith and, ultimately, the reality of your life.
The solution is actually very simple, and extremely hard: control your thoughts. Instead of saying that God has abandoned you, say, “I’m hurting but I am not alone, because God has promised to never leave me or forsake me.”
When you suffer the absolute worst thing you can do is have a toxic thought life. It will not help you. Force yourself to think good thoughts. Force yourself to trust that God is for you not against you. Then your soul will thrive.