Devotional Day 5
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.James 1:5-8
From the Coast to the Central Route
Dean and I have a tendency to be last, especially in the morning. Most of the pilgrims were out the door by the time we got up and made ourselves a good breakfast, our typical omelet with cheese and veggies, lacking only in coffee. Instead of continuing along the coast, we set out toward the northeast to connect with the central route (with the help of Google Maps).
Our destination was the albergue in Sao Pedro de Rates, and we expected to intersect with the official Central Path along the way. Some of the quiet, rural paths were quite lovely, the late spring flowers constantly adding color to the surroundings. Just after stopping for coffee in Madalena, we found the appropriate signs and arrows showing we were back on the official track. As we walked, I was feeling the pain in the back of my right knee, but tried to focus on the Scripture.
“ask in faith, without any doubting.”
This passage seems to carry both big promises and big warnings. Ask and God will give it to you! Doubt, and don’t expect to get anything. I wrestled with these words while I walked. How many times I’ve prayed for something and it was not given to me! There were certain occasions when others suggested that the lack of being given what I asked for (specifically physical healing) showed I did not have enough faith. At the time, feeling the blame and judgment back on me was one of the most painful responses I heard, causing me to question and doubt myself. More internal healing was needed, but perhaps this experience also helped me see the impact such suggestions have on others. Indeed, too commonly we see spiritual abuse when leaders (mis)quote passages like this, particularly in “prosperity gospel” camps. Too many people are caught with the promise:
“Ask, we’ll pray for you, and if you show enough faith with financial donations, you’ll get what you want.”
But James is not speaking about all (especially not superficial) requests. He invites everyone to ask, in faith, for wisdom, with a promise that God is ready to give it generously, without reproach. Perhaps we are hesitant to ask because it means admitting our own weakness or uncertainty. This confession is not at all met with reproach; God is abounding in love and grace, and admitting our shortcomings places us in a position to receive that love. We are drawing near to Him, seeking to be in tune with the Holy Spirit and ready to receive His guidance.
“…tossed by the wind…double minded…unstable…”
These descriptions of the doubter seem rather harsh, especially when each one of us is aware of times we too have struggled with doubts. Why such strong language? I think of what it looks like to doubt God as the source of wisdom. That form of doubt suggests belief that either God might not have the best answer (questioning God’s knowledge and/or sovereignty), or can’t/doesn’t want to direct us in participation in His perfect plan.
If asked directly, most believers would verbally agree that God is sovereign, His eternal plan supersedes all others, we can trust His direction, etc. But when making decisions, He is often not the first place we seek direction. Too often we rely on our own “research” (how accurate our common online sources are might be questionable), and the input from others. God becomes the last resort when stuck in a difficult situation.
This is where we may see the double-mindedness: saying we trust God and will follow His direction, but not turning first to Him in faith. I think of those who make a decision largely based on their own will, but include a prayer for God’s support (just to cover the bases). When the outcome is successful, the individual credits his or her own knowledge and wisdom. When things don’t work out, the person might blame God for not answering his prayer or providing appropriate direction. That brings forth the picture of being a wave tossed by the wind, with an unstable relationship with God shaped by ever-changing circumstance. Asking in faith means building our dependence on His guidance, on the firm foundation of trusting Him.
Limping into Sao Pedro de Rates
While the wind was much softer, there were more changes in elevation and in the last couple of kilometers to Sao Pedro de Rates, my right leg was really complaining. I’ve had various forms of tendinitis, but never before pain behind the knee. Meanwhile, Dean’s back was bothering him, and by the time we got to the albergue, we were both ready to be done for the day.
Fortunately, there was still plenty of space, and we were in a smaller room (ten beds) with two bottom bunks right next to each other. In the same room was a German man who had whizzed past us earlier in the day (he went twice the distance in half the time!). We chatted briefly, got a snack, and as he did a series of breathing practices, we used the showers and laundry sink, hanging our clothes on the line.
After quiet time back in the room, we ventured forth to the single small grocery store to buy breakfast food, then to the recommended restaurant with a “peregrino menu” (a fixed price for a generous meal) and a daily special. The employee there was quite proficient in English, and gracious and accommodating in giving salad instead of carbs. Halfway through the meal I noticed something dark floating in a glass of red wine, which he kindly replaced. After limping back to the room, there was a bit of a kerfuffle with a cat that snuck in (and was ultimately removed), but we went to bed by 10pm.
**A small request for wisdom**
After our first day of walking, the back of my legs felt sore, an area where I’d never felt sore on previous hikes. I brushed it off; sore muscles are typical when pushing them beyond what they are used to. The mild soreness was present from the beginning of Day 2, gradually increasing over the course of the day. It seemed a bit better after a good night’s sleep, but 18km later my right leg was really hurting, and I was almost limping the last kilometer. So, I prayed for two things: healing and wisdom.
The next morning my right leg still hurt behind the knee, and as we walked, I asked God for guidance, not wanting to cause bigger problems from a minor strain. When we stopped for a coffee break, it occurred to me that we brought athletic tape. I went inside for Wi-Fi and looked up tips for using that tape. Despite our limited knowledge and lack of training, Dean helped apply the tape. While it did not immediately, miraculously go away, the pain didn’t get worse and gradually diminished. In faith, I see this as an answer to prayer for both wisdom and healing!
Thank You, Lord, for readily welcoming us with our weaknesses and uncertainties, as we recognize our need for wisdom and acknowledge You as being the best source. Help me to turn first to You with all my questions and concerns, to listen and receive, and to find security in Your Presence and Your sovereignty.
- Think about times you’ve prayed for something, and your prayer wasn’t answered the way you were hoping. How did that affect your view of God and prayer?
- What are your expectations when praying for wisdom? How much time/space do you allow for listening to God’s response?
- Spend some time listening to God. Rather than telling Him what you want, ask Him what He wants you to know.
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