Many metaphors help us relate to specific aspects of life. Paul talks about running a race, boxing, and wrestling. Jesus points to farming and nursing. James uses sailing. Each one points to a certain facet of life under the sun. However, one the bible does not use for obvious reasons is driving down the highway or cruising the autobahn.
Life is a car going down the highway. The engine is purring as the tires grip the surface to propel us down the road. Everything is clicking, the audio system is cranked, and our eco-friendly bottle of water is in the cup holder. Life is good, smooth, exciting. Then we hit a pothole and blew a tire. Life gets interrupted. The road trip stops.
We see it all the time. Someone is cruising through life then suddenly everything falls apart. Maybe they get cancer or other diseases, lose their job, or bury a loved one. Overnight, it all changes. What seemed important the day before is now insignificant. What was a priority is forgotten.
Life is not always smooth. When life turns upside-down, when the storm rolls in, or when we hit a major pothole, what are we supposed to do? How do we respond? Someone observed that trials reveal our true character. Christians ought to respond differently than those outside of Christ.
Christians respond in prayer, but those outside respond in blame. Some want answers, someone, or something to blame. However, Christians turn to God. Through their tears they see more clearly their dependence on God. Sometimes the power and impact of prayer are minimized or are treated tritely.
We need to pray for God to remove the trial. When we are hurting and life has been disabled, ask God to take care of it. Ask in faith, knowing God can take care of your trial (James 1:5-8). Paul was fully convinced God had the power to remove his thorn; that is why he asked. However, we must be prepared for God to say, “No. My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9).
We need to pray for God to grant us strength to get through the storm. If God chooses not to remove the trial, ask for strength to get through it. The Psalmist said, “O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear” (Psa 10:17). We pray our hearts will be steeled against discouragement and disbelief.
We need to pray for God to walk with us. One of the worst parts about any rough patch in the road is the feeling of loneliness. We are tempted to feel isolated because others are not facing the same trial we are facing. Elijah felt that way, “I, even I only am left” (1 Kings 19:10). But God’s promise to his people still rings true, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa 41:10).
We need to pray for God to give us wisdom to see purpose in our suffering. James assures us our trials have purpose (James 1:2-4). Is it making my faith stronger? Is it making the faith of my children grow? Is the church encouraged by my success in trial? Our potholes and storms shine glory upon God.
Finally, we need to pray for God to surround us with his peace. When the road is not smooth, it can rob us of peace. We have anxiety about medical treatment, life without a beloved child, begging for bread. Despite the chaos the devil throws at us, God offers peace, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Of course, we don’t have to wait until a pothole hinders our journey to pray for these things. Even when the road is smooth, we can pray for God to keep potholes at bay and to strengthen us in preparations for any coming storms on the horizon. We should pray for God’s presence, wisdom, and peace to always be with us. Not all roads are smooth, but prayer enables us to make our journey in peace.