I got an email this week from a woman who introduced herself as "a mom with a husband, three kids, plus three cats and a dog."
She asked me to pray that she'd find the strength to deal with her problems because "We've got some issues, and I'm out of tissues."
Then, nearly as an afterthought, she added, "I know there are times in my life that I have gotten answers to prayers in one form or another, but a lot of times God is silent."
Her letter, and especially her last statement, raises the question, "How does God give us strength for life's daily tasks?"
I believe that Isaiah 40:31 contains a three-part answer to that question:
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
The first phrase tells us that God can mount us with the metaphorical wings of an eagle that allow us to fly over our problems. This means that God can work much like my 129th California Air National Guard Rescue Wing when it plucks dozens of praying souls from sinking ships each year off our coast.
That's a solution all of us can't help but love. Answers like this give us the grace of a do-over and a personal reset.
This kind of rescue, though, tempts us to dodge responsibility for the problems we helped create, so it isn't God's typical M.O.
God has yet another way, too. He helps by granting us just enough strength to "run and not be weary."
Running marathons has given me a better understanding of this principle because I never pray to win. I never even pray to run fast. I only pray for the strength to keep running.
That strength makes me feel like I can run forever. But more importantly, it encourages me to praise others while I run. (My running group nicknamed me "Chatty Chappy." Surprised?)
So, when God answers our prayers with the strength to "run and not be weary," he's giving us more than just grin-and-bear-it strength. He's giving us the divinely renewed energy we need to inspire our fellow man.
And when I'm unable to fly like an eagle or even to run like a turkey, I seek the third answer: to "walk and not faint."
This is the hardest answer to hear, because it can sound like a consolation prize to some.
It's not the dramatic rescue most of us desire. Relying on this option sounds like we are saying, "God, since I can't fly like an eagle or run like a turkey, help me to crawl with the fortitude of a tortoise."
Yet in the long run, I think this is the most potent answer of all. This is the power we need to complete our lives with dignity. This is the extra mile granted to the runner who can run no more. This is the prize of an honorable finish.
While I'm unable to reply to all my reader emails, I did pray for the "guidance, grace and forgiveness" this woman requested. Because I think that at the end of the day, that's the best thing any of us can be granted.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author of "No Small Miracles." He is an Air National Guard chaplain. You may leave recorded comments at (843) 608-9715, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send comments to P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, CA 95759. Visit thechaplain.net.