When God's Not There

Some have found themselves feeling lost, with no hope of a better world. It seems every day’s news just reinforces that God’s not doing anything.

Some have found themselves struggling with the same feelings every day. And so they indulge in just one drink. Or one hit. Or one pornographic site. And then just one more. And they don’t feel rescued the way God promises.

Some have found themselves grieving at what might have been. The lost baby. The lost childhood. The lost spouse. And in place of what they lost, they found immense grief. And God was supposed to protect the innocent, their family, but it seems no one is spared.

Some have found themselves fighting with themselves, hating the mirror, hating their thoughts, hating compliments when they rarely come in. They thought God would give them more assurance, but now God’s standard just adds more self-loathing.

Some have found themselves alone in a crowded world, no one close, no one wanted, no one wanting them, and no matter where they go, they feel deserted. They thought God could be there to listen, but God seems distant too.

Some have found themselves scared to get up, but scared to stay hidden. Unsure whether they meet the loving spouse or the demon, the only thing they know is that no one will believe them. So they stay quiet. They stay scared. They stay confused wondering why God doesn’t interfere.

Some have found themselves drowning in debt. The creditors have become aggressive. But paying one bill means all the rest are unpaid. It’s not just a hole, it’s a whirlpool dragging them down into the abyss, a horrifyingly slow death on paper. They’ve always been told God will take care of their needs, but their needs have become desperate.

Some have found themselves wishing death would come sooner. They aren’t going to take their own lives, but they have prayed for God to euthanize them, put them out of their misery, make the pain go away. They struggle with whether they believe in heaven or not, but nothingness is better than this mess.

We know the problem. Or maybe we know many problems. We know that God is the solution or has promised a solution. But believing in a solution that is merely a promise for the future but has not shown up in any real way is difficult. We still struggle with the solution.

Let me give you one piece of advice, that might make things worse, but I think it’s the right advice. Stop looking for a solution. Stop looking for resolution. Maybe God’s answer is not to take away the problem. We’ve misunderstood 1 Corinthians 10.13:

No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide the way out...”

This is what we know. This is what we’ve quoted. This is the idea in which we’ve placed our hope. But this idea is wrong. It’s incomplete. It’s out of context. It’s provides hope where God does not put hope.

“…So that you may be able to bear it.”

That’s what I left off. God doesn’t intend to rescue you, at least not every time. Sometimes, God intends to stand with you during your problem. Instead of looking for a way of escape, an open window you can crawl out of, look for the hand being offered to hold, the arms to hug, the lap you can crawl up and sit on. When you’re tempted to quit, tempted to fail, tempted to hate, tempted to blame, realize that the problem might be you’re looking for the wrong thing. God’s intention is not to rescue you. God’s intention is not to make things better.

God’s plan is to stand with you. And it is when we stand with God in the fire that we are able to truly see God, trust in God, and know that God is doing something. He’s standing with us. 

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were faced with literal fire as punishment for something that was not a crime. They were told to bow before a statue and worship a false God and they boldly stood instead of bowing down. They did not give into their earthly king’s mandates, nor did they betray their true King’s mandates to worship Him only. They did what was right and they are singled out and threatened with punishment. When the king gave them a second chance to bow down and worship or else, they said, “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king.  But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Dan 3.17-18).

See that? “Even if He does not rescue us.” Sometimes, God doesn’t rescue us. He did not change the king’s mind. He didn’t not put out the fire. He stood with them in the fire (cf. Daniel 3.17-25). They still were forced to walk into the fire not knowing their fate. They still endured the wrath of the earthly king. They still felt the ridicule of the people around them, including their Jewish brethren who were bowing to the statue. They still felt singled out. And when it was all said and done, they didn’t even smell like the fire or the smoke (cf. Dan 3.27).

Here’s the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear or believe. God might intend for you to suffer for now. He wants you to be dissatisfied with this earth and what it offers. He wants you to hurt because then you will reach out for Him. He wants you to know that this life with its imperfections is just, well, imperfect.

But when you cast off this mortal shell for the immortal body of incorruption, when you are changed in the twinkling of the eye, when you are raised to walk in eternal life, you won’t even smell like the fire or smoke of the current battle. Right now, while you’re in the fire, God is walking with you. But then, when you’ve finally endured the fire and come through, God won’t even let a trace of it hang on to you.

It is possible God will rescue you from your battle. I hope He does, but only if it leads to His glory. It is possible God will leave you amid the hardest battle of your life. I hope He does, because it is a chance for you to see God’s presence in your life.

And as you suffer with sorrow, grief, pain, hatred, betrayal, desperation, know that Jesus knows those feelings too. He felt sorrow for His people who hated Him even though He sought their good. He felt grief over our sins. He felt hatred from the leaders. He felt betrayal from His closest friends. He felt desperate to save a lost people from their mess. He wasn’t rescued from those feelings or circumstances. He came for the express purpose of enduring those things for us. And with us. So He could be like us. So He could listen and understand our hurts. So He could stand with us in our pain. So He could redeem us eventually from ever feeling those things again.