I’ve been working on a post on contentment for…well, months. Maybe longer. That was my plan for today. Finish it up and share it with you all.
But I just can’t. I can’t. My heart is heavy. A good acquaintance of mine is going through an unthinkable tragedy. After a long & excruciatingly difficult trial, the unimaginable has happened.
They did not receive the answer they were looking for. Their family is being torn apart, and the end is not in sight.
God isn’t showing up as they had hoped.
This family has been on my heart since I received the news last night. Not only is my youngest sick (and he woke numerous times last night), even when I tried to sleep, I could not get this family out of my head.
I could do nothing but pray. Pray for peace. Pray for encouragement. Pray for protection.
As I ran this morning, I asked God to help me with my writing today. I was trying to wrap up the contentment post in my mind.
I just could. not. focus.
I couldn’t stop thinking of my friends.
I came home, showered, and realized my youngest was awake. Again. As I laid down next to him in hopes of getting him back to sleep, I read my psalm for today on my phone.
New Living Translation (NLT)
For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of Asaph.
1 I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me!
2 When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord.
All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven,
but my soul was not comforted.
3 I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help.
We’ve all been there. When we’ve asked for God’s help so many times that the thought of one more prayer literally has us moaning and overwhelmed. The times when comfort is nowhere to be found, and it seems even God is nowhere to be found.
The Psalmist continues:
4 You don’t let me sleep. I am too distressed even to pray!
5 I think of the good old days, long since ended,
6 when my nights were filled with joyful songs.
I search my soul and ponder the difference now.
7 Has the Lord rejected me forever? Will he never again be kind to me?
8 Is his unfailing love gone forever? Have his promises permanently failed?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he slammed the door on his compassion?
I imagine this friend of mine, thinking back to the days when her family was together and full of life and peace. What happened to those days? Where are those songs of joy? Will they ever come again? Where’s God’s kindness, His grace, His faithfulness? Where is His compassion and love?
Where is God? Why isn’t He showing up?
10 And I said, “This is my fate;
the Most High has turned his hand against me.”
There have been times I myself have wrongly come to this conclusion.
I remember an excruciatingly challenging time about 8 years ago. My world, and my faith, had been turned upside down. I no longer knew what I believed or why. Add to that I was dealing with chronic illness, clinical depression (that could not be medicated, as the medication exacerbated my chronic illness), and my husband and I were both unemployed.
My experiences were not lining up with my theology, and it was seriously messing with me.
One example of this happened when I realized I was being overcharged for car insurance, going on 5 years. Rectifying this was not an easy process, as the reason I was overcharged in the first place was the state I received my license in and the state I lived after did not communicate with each other, and would not easily communicate with the state I currently lived in.
From my perspective, God could be helping me with this. He could be making it all happen more smoothly. Didn’t He know I needed that money, and I needed it now, not whenever He decided to notice my needs and finally help me out?
I was faced with a challenge that faces all of us: if our experience does not match our theology, if our feelings do not line up with the truth of Scripture, whom or what will we trust?
The Psalmist continues:
11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
13 O God, your ways are holy.
Is there any god as mighty as you?
14 You are the God of great wonders!
You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
15 By your strong arm, you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
Please do read the rest of the psalm here.
So what can we do when God is not showing up?
1. Ask people to pray for you. This needs to be the first step. Tell your friends what’s going on, and ask them to hold out hope for you, even when you, like the Psalmist, feel as if God’s promises have failed you. We need the support, both in tangible help & prayer. We need friends like the paralytic man had; he was healed because of their faith.
2. Be honest with God. Tell Him exactly how you feel, even if it isn’t pretty. None of it will surprise Him. He knows your thoughts even if you don’t tell Him.
3. Think about what God has done in the past. Reflect on what He has done rather than what He hasn’t.
4. Ponder who God is, what you know of His character. Memorize Scriptures about His nature. Contemplate the many facets of His being, and declare them to be true. I even challenge you to try doing this out loud. Words have power.
5. Cultivate hope. I talked about hope last week, that it is a choice. It can also be learned, even in the most tragic situations.
My reimbursement check from the insurance company did show up, and it was far more than I thought it would be. It also took far longer than I wanted, but in that time, God allowed me to see that I needed to work on my relationship with Him, who I thought He was, based on my reaction (my core beliefs were that He was unkind, uncaring and unconcerned with my needs).
Jesus did not ever promise an easy life, unfortunately. He did not promise that it would even go the way we hoped. What Jesus DID promise is that His grace is sufficient, that His promises really are true, and that His purposes will prevail.
Please pray for this family, that justice would roll like a river (Amos 5:24). And if you need prayer, comment on this post, and I and others will pray for you.