I recall a period in my life when it felt like God wasn’t listening. I’d heard that when we sin, we are separated from God. So, in this season of life, while I was struggling with sin in a big way, I just assumed that God had written me off. I know now that I was wrong. I had been saved years earlier. I’d just stumbled since then — a lot — falling in and out of a sin cycle. I was struggling with trying to please the world when I was with certain people and then trying to please God when I was alone or around church people. I wanted to do both. See, at the age of 16, I met a guy who I would later refer to as “my baby daddy.” We dated, on and not-really-off, for about 12 1/2 years. We grew very much apart during those years, but we continued to hold on to one another, despite the clear dividing line that I believe God himself was drawing.

At a certain point, I began to feel a tugging to let go of this relationship. I knew it was God speaking to me, but I just ignored it because, more than anything, during many of those years, I was not living out my mission for God but, rather, living out my own mission that I’d decided was more important. I was on a mission to marry my first love. I won’t go into much detail, but I will say there was a lot of compromise of Christian values to try to prove myself “worthy” enough to be chosen. I wanted to be sexy enough, fun enough, outgoing enough — conforming enough to this guy’s every whim, so that he would ultimately choose me to settle down with. This relationship went from innocent to toxic to dangerous and, finally, to over. But over those years, I can’t tell you the number of times I prayed that God would make that guy see that I was the one, that he would marry me, and that we would live a happy life together. I prayed that prayer so fervently for many years, and I meant it. I wanted an imperfect human man more than the perfect God. And so my prayers continued, but God did not answer my prayers. Instead, God began to work on me.

I didn’t stop going to church during this time, although I might have missed a Sunday here and there because of being too hung over, or because what I’d done the night before left me feeling too ashamed to enter into God’s house. I even did a Bible study that came at a perfect time: When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore. It was a transformative time. God was preparing me for my great escape. As time went on, there came moments of real clarity. A shift was happening. I finally wanted out of the hole I’d dug myself into. I wanted to start over, reinvent myself, and be the good Christian lady I knew God was calling me to be.

Despite the strength God was building in me, temptation and fear remained strong contenders. But God, of course, prevailed. My prayers to make this man want to marry me changed to prayers for God to move me, figuratively and literally, away from the place I’d allowed myself to stay in for far too long. And finally, finally, the chain of insecurity that kept me held in that nowhere place was broken, once and for all.

God was faithful, even when I wasn’t. Even when I felt he was no longer listening, I just kept praying. And my prayers changed from the wrong prayers to the right ones. God, through all that, was changing me, little by little. But it wasn’t until I began to be obedient to his prompting that I was finally free. See, we can say that God doesn’t care all we want when he’s not answering our prayers to fulfill our plans for our lives. But he’s a good Father. He doesn’t give us what we want, but rather what we need. As a parent now myself, I understand the importance of giving my child what he needs over what he wants. Why? Because what he wants is sometimes not good for him. This does not mean I don’t let him suffer the consequences of his own bad decisions. That’s where the learning takes place. And because God is a loving father, he does the same with us. He gives us free will. Either we will come to freely want the gift of Jesus that leads to righteousness or we will continue to chase the mirage of fleeting contentment offered by this world. We choose. But God never gives up on us. We give up on ourselves. We stop loving ourselves. We stop caring about ourselves. And those feelings? They’re not from God.

Oh, God cares! Do you?