Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Unanswered Prayers

Has G-d Forgotten About Me?

The Presence of the Omnipresent



"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'"
Jeremiah 29:11
Recently I have found myself in an all too familiar situation. My anorexia nervosa has found a way to slip into my life yet again, leaving me physically and mentally broken. I was so exhausted this past weekend that I literally couldn't move. I missed all of my classes Monday and felt as if my life was unravelling before my very eyes. I am behind on course work and class material. My absences are quickly mounting beyond an acceptable level. My academic life, the place where I usually find it easy to excel, is becoming chaotic and overwhelming. 
"My mind reflects the chaos that is ensuing in my life."
My mind reflects the chaos that is ensuing in my life. My eating disordered thoughts are out of control. My weight is low and I have no desire for it to increase. My mind is consumed with fear and irrational thoughts. The image I see in the mirror is completed distorted, manipulated and twisted by the disorder that is ravaging my brain and my body. I am angry and frustrated with myself, with my life, and with G-d. I feel as if I have done all can do in order to create a fulfilling and happy life for myself. Yet, as soon as I get close to feeling content and in control it seems as if G-d throws another issue my way. 
"...I find myself haunted by the same eating disorder demons..."
I pray each night for fulfillment and happiness both of which sound to me like pretty reasonable and feasible requests. But when I wake up every morning and find myself haunted by the same eating disorder demons I can't help but think that my prayers have yet again gone unanswered. When we are praying for irrational or infeasible things- winning the lottery, permanent vacations, magical results- we can't help but expect unanswered prayers. But what does it mean when the simplest of requests are denied? Has G-d forgotten about me? Is my chronic illness a punishment for some unspeakable crime that I have committed but am somehow unaware of? Or, am simply praying and/or asking for the wrongs things? I really am not sure. I want to believe that G-d is this omnipresent force that is always with me, looking out for me, and protecting me and all others deserving of his gifts. But lately I have started to have doubts regarding the presence of the omnipresent. If G-d were truly and omnipresent force of good than why is it that so many of us are suffering, myself included? While I don't have an answer for any of these questions I do have a quote that is helping me find some solace during this time of fear and uncertainty-

"I pray to the G-d within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions."

- Elie Weisel, "Night"

I discovered Weisel's words today while perusing a long list of quotes that I have accumulated over time. It seemed to be calling to me and I have to believe that I came across it for a reason. Perhaps it isn't that G-d has forgotten about me, maybe I am just asking the wrong questions and looking for answers in the wrong places. Could it be that it is not G-d's duty to answer our prayers but instead lead us in the direction of questioning appropriately? Once we have learned to ask the "right questions" and correctly find responses then maybe it won't seems as if our prayers are going unanswered. Today I am using this quote almost like an affirmation-

Hoping for the ability to ask the "right questions"-
G-d will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions and pray accordingly.

Perhaps it is time that I leave the questions, which reek of self-pity and anger, behind. I need to put an end to my line of questioning which focuses purely on myself, my woes, and neglects to acknowledge the blessing that exist within my life. Farewell to the "Why would you curse me with this chronic and fatal illness?" So long to the "Why would you put me on this early simply so I could suffer and slowly kill myself?" It's time to stop asking "Why am I forced to live a miserable existence that hurts me and everyone I love?" I have to stop with this "Why me" approach because it is clearly not getting me anywhere. 
"I have to stop with this 'why me' approach..."
G-d is not answering my questions. He is not lifting me out of this metaphorical Hell. And He is not intervening in order to save me from myself. If I feel as if I am being left with a plethora of unanswered prayers then there is clearly a reason why. Weisel's quote got me thinking; I must be asking the wrong questions. Perhaps instead I should be asking G-d to give me the strength to help myself out of this unfortunate situation. Maybe I need to pray for the ability to see my own potential, a potential that could help me overcome this disease. Maybe my series of questions should sound more like "G-d thank you for the wealth of knowledge that you have given me through experience. How can I use this knowledge to strengthen my resolve and continue working to achieve health and happiness?" "I have been blessed with a supportive family; G-d can you help me learn how to utilize their love rather than shut them out?" Or, "Thank you for my G-d given intellect that allows me to think rationally even in my darkest moments. What must I do in order to utilize this intelligence when attempting to beat this disease?" "G-d, you have granted me with many blessings; how can I appreciate and maximize these gifts in order to reach my desired ends?" Instead of wondering if G-d has forgotten about me, or asking G-d what he can do for me directly, perhaps I need to ask what He can help me to do in order for me to better serve myself. It seems that I have been going about praying in the wrong way for all of this time. I have constantly focused on what I am lacking, what I need, and what I wish to be done for me. 
This quote provoked a new series of thoughts within me. Perhaps prayer isn't about requesting new tools or qualities in order to achieve our desired ends. Maybe prayer is meant to be a communication with G-d in which we recognize the qualities that already exist within us and our lives and seek guidance toward utilizing them in a more productive way. Weisel's statement really got me thinking! Well of course my prayers have gone unanswered; I have been asking the wrong questions all along. This line of thought connects to another quote that I have kept in the back of my mind for quite some time now-

"Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines." 

- Satchel Paige


Of course the obvious interpretation of this quote would be to not pray when things are bad if you fail to pray when things are good. Yet, I have always seen this quote in a different and less literal light. My personal interpretation extends beyond the scope of the phrase itself. I take Paige's words as saying don't pray for your needs if you are not willing to offer thanks as well. When I say my evening prayers I always try to include something that I am thankful for (unless I am in a truly desperate state and any feelings of gratitude have completely escaped me.) However it seems that my most recent questions directed at G-d, including have you forgotten about me, have neglected to include this component of thanks. With this quote and my personal interpretation of it in mind, I am almost ashamed of my selfish and self-pitying prayers and questions. 

G-d provides us with a tool kit in order to deal with life-
Who am I to inquire about G-d's mysterious ways of working? Who am I to question the presence of the omnipresent? How could I place blame on G-d for my own misfortunes when He has been generous enough to provide me with a series of blessings- intellect, family, wealth, friends, love- that can act as tools to help me solve my issues? If G-d had truly forgotten about me then He wouldn't have bestowed the useful gifts upon me. G-d isn't there to solve all of our problems or make them disappear. He is there as a comfort when we are feeling low. He is there to guide is in the right direction. He is present so that we are able to figure out for ourselves how to overcome the challenges that we face in our lives. Metaphorically G-d is like a teacher. Our teachers feed us new information and provide us with tools in order to solve the problems that we are given. While a good teacher helps us learn how to decipher a problem on our own they will not just give us the answer when we get stuck. It appears to me that G-d works in a similar way. He teaches us through experience and gives us the required equipment- knowledge, support systems, inner-strength, in order to overcome obstacles; however, He is not there to simply do the work for us and make and the issues disappear.
"...maintain my faith..."
I may be faced with a daunting task- fighting my anorexia- but G-d has already done his part by blessing me with the tools I need in order to beat this challenge. Now it is my turn to ask the right questions, pray appropriately, utilize the gifts in my life, maintain my faith, and put forth the required effort in order to solve this issue for myself.
Potential provided by G'd's many blessings-
Now that I have written this post it all seems so obvious and I feel a bit silly for whining about unanswered prayers and fearing that G-d has forgotten me. But perhaps I needed to feel that way and discover for myself (via this entry) that the presence of the omnipresent is unwavering. I may not always understand His decisions or mysterious workings but that is not an excuse for me doubt His existence, His capabilities, or His love. 
Moving forward I will pray with a different level of awareness and a new appreciation. I will do my best to answer the "right questions" and if they escape me I will simply pray to G-d to lead me in the direction of the correction questions to pose. Maybe some of these questions will remain unanswered. Perhaps the answers have been offered and I just do not recognize them because they are not being given in the manner in which I expected. Or it may be that I need to patient because the answers I am seeking will be received in time. 

Regardless, I must have faith that G-d is omnipresent, always keeping my best interest in mind. I may not feel it and I may not always believe it but I cannot ever allow myself to forget it. If I don't have confidence in a higher power than what do I have? Could it be that the comfort in believing in a higher power is a tool in itself? I can turn to the heavens and pray, feeling that I am never truly alone, I always have a confidante, and that the presence of a sympathetic ear is always with me. I may be confronting a hurdle but I know that I am not alone. The omnipresent G-d is there to help me even if I don't always understand his workings.


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10

Do not lose faith,
xo

I hope I haven't made you over think it ! Let us have faith in the presence of the omnipresent-

Livin' On a Prayer, Bon Jovi

L'Chi Lach (And You Shall be a Blessing) and Mi Sheberach (Jewish Prayer for Healing), both by Debbie Friedman

I remember these songs bringing me comfort and filling me with peace as child while sitting in synagogue. Listening to them brings me back to simpler times and continue to send chills up my spine. Regardless of your faith I hope that you can appreciate them and that they provide you with the same comfort and solace that they have always given me.

Eating Disorder Awareness

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder please don't go through it alone. Be aware of the signs, symptoms, and often unspoken cries for help. I've included a series of links to informative sites about the illnesses, risks, warning signs, approaching a loved one, treatment, etc. Please know that you are never alone! Contact me directly if you have any questions or are in need of support and are not sure where to turn- rbesvi@sas.upenn.edu



  


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