Christianity 201

January 2, 2023

When it Feels Like God Has Left the Building

This is our fifth time at Before the Cross, but this time around we’re highlighting a different writer, Daniel Barber. You’re encouraged to visit the page where you’ll find teaching videos and articles. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

Feeling Forsaken

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a)

It’s a question we as Christians find ourselves asking throughout our lives as we encounter various trials. God feels light-years away from us as yet another year passes of our weighty prayers going unanswered. We pray diligently, believing that at any moment of any day God will finally answer our requests beyond our wildest dreams. We’ll get that cool job with all the benefits, flexible schedules, and laid back bosses we’ve always wanted. The spouse, whose physical characteristics, personality and theology match everything we wrote out on our lists to a tee, will find us and fall madly in love with us overnight. The doctor will tell us every trace of our cancer has completely vanished. But, these things don’t happen. So we wait. We pray, read our bibles, regularly attend church and bible studies, and we wait.

During this period of waiting, we see others receive the very things we’ve been diligently praying for. People we deem as “less deserving” of God’s miraculous grace. Three months after accepting Jesus Christ as their savior, the newest member of our church is engaged, promoted at their job, and singing on the worship team. We know we should be happy for them, but something is holding us back. We think to ourselves “I’ve been in church seeking the Lord for years, doing my best to honor God in all that I do, and the biggest prayers of my life have gone unanswered. Meanwhile, this person comes in off the street and receives everything I’ve ever wanted. How is that fair?”

Bitterness begins to take root in our hearts. The growth is slow at first, but over time we begin to lose faith. God can’t truly love us. He must have something against us. Why else would he cruelly parade others amazing lives in front of our faces, while we face nothing but hardships and deafening silence?

“Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:2)

But then, we begin to see God’s provision. A friend offers to pay for our lunch, not realizing our bank account is down to double digits. We find a new place to live and get the help we need moving, all on a week’s notice. A tornado lands less than a mile away from our workplace and we don’t even realize it until the next day. God is providing for our needs and protecting us from harm. He must love us.

“Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” (Psalm 22: 3-5)

“God, I know you answer prayers”, we say while down on our knees, “So why have you not answered THIS prayer? The most important prayer of my life?” While some may blame our unanswered prayers on a lack of faith, we know that’s not it. According to Matthew 17:20, all we need is “faith as small as a mustard seed” to move mountains, not because of any inherent power tied to the size of our faith, but because of the omnipotent power and infinite size of our God. Even the most infinitesimal amount of faith is all that God requires to work wonders in our lives. Psalm 135:6 says “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps”, so we know that no matter how much we may want something, if God doesn’t want it, or the timeline in which we want it doesn’t match His, He won’t do it.

This is a particularly hard concept to grasp when what we desire is a good thing. Doesn’t God want us to have spouses with whom we can better serve Him, good jobs in which to provide more for our families and pay better tithes, or an end to our various forms of physical suffering? While we may think we know what God should do and when he should do it, which is usually whenever we want it done, Proverbs 19:21 tells us that “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand”, and no purpose of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).

Sometimes we may receive the good thing we want when we want it because it lines up with God’s timing, but sometimes we may not. We must come to terms with the fact that God’s ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Who are we to question the one who has commanded the morning since our day began (Job 38:12) or make demands of one who can “send forth lightnings” (Job 38:35)? As highly as we may think of ourselves when the sin of arrogance gets the better of us, we cannot honestly claim to have these abilities or any other of the imaginable and unimaginable abilities of God. Because we are so completely powerless by comparison, why don’t we leave our desires in the mighty hands of the one who is the source of all power?

So yes, we should pray without ceasing about every need and want in our life, but we should not be anxious about any of them. Through this prayer and supplication, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” will guard our hearts and minds in Jesus (Phillippians 4:7).

When we find ourselves yet again asking God why he has forsaken us, let’s remember He has not and will not ever do so. Jesus is the “friend that sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) who has numbered the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7). We may be stuck in the pain of the here and now, but God can see our future, and knows that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Instead of fretting over whatever it is we think we lack, let’s “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Even when our prayers go unanswered and we begin to doubt God’s love for us, we can rest in the fact our feelings aren’t truth. God’s Word is truth.

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