“I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice” (Psalm 34:2).

Ole Hallesby describes a process of spiritual growth that can be extremely uncomfortable. Since we cannot fully understand God and his way, we can grow distressed when he doesn’t seem to be coming to our aid. Why does he not answer our prayers? What’s going on? Hallesby says we can endure many things calmly if we see the purpose for our suffering. But if it seems meaningless, we don’t know what to do and may feel rebellious or fearful or both.

However, even though we may feel distraught about our uncertain circumstances, if we stay in the presence of our incomprehensible God, we eventually experience a miracle of decisive importance: God breaks down our self-conceit and self-sufficiency, and we are drawn into fellowship with him. We become reconciled to two things: our inability to understand many things about God, and our helplessness. It’s this helplessness that becomes the sustaining power of our prayer lives.

“A humble and contrite heart knows that it can merit nothing before God,” writes Hallesby. “We are moved to pray every time the Spirit emphasizes anew to us our helplessness, and we realize how impotent we are by nature to believe, to love, to hope, to serve, to sacrifice, to suffer, to read the Bible, to pray, and to struggle against our sinful desires.” The struggle is lifelong, for we often fall away from what Hallesby calls “this blessed attitude of helplessness before God.” Self-conceit and self-sufficiency reassert themselves, and we again feel anxiety and perplexity—until we come once more to God as helpless sinners. “We ask God to have mercy on us, to love and care for us. Then our helplessness re-establishes us in our right relationship to God and others.”

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement