Another thing I have been learning in my ministry to people who are going through extreme difficulty is that the struggle with “why” and “where was God” is normal.
There are some things that happen to us that literally rock our world right to the core. Some of life’s storms can cut so deep and rage and ravage for so long, we wonder if the pain will ever stop. When those times come, they can challenge everything we know to be true. Faith, in these times, can be a real struggle to say the least.
I have heard people say things like:
- “Where was God when I needed Him most?”
- “I feel like God just up and left me.”
- “How could God have let that happen?”
- “I’m really angry at God right now!”
- “I can’t pray anymore; I don’t even want to!”
When we hear questions and statements like these, oftentimes we are (understandably) taken aback, and tend to push back against those thoughts. They often grate against our own faith in God (which is motivated by our own fear), or they may even make us doubt the faith of the person asking these questions (which is motivated by our pride).
What I have been learning is that we need to be humble enough to relate to how hard living by faith can be sometimes, and confident enough in the grace and love that God has given us, that we can stand with and hold on to people who have been brought to the end of themselves.
The fact is, Scripture is replete with instances of saints who have said things like this. Here are just a few:
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalms 13:1-2, NIV).
Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? (Lamentations 5:20, NIV)
Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil (Job 3:20-26, NIV).
Even Jesus, when He was on the cross cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46, NIV)!
Now, I know what some of you may be thinking. “Dan, you are taking these verses out of context! Verses 5-6 of Psalm 13 say David placed his trust in God’s unfailing love and salvation. Jeremiah acknowledges God’s lordship and control over the nations in the previous verse. Job said in Job 13:15 that he would trust in God even if He killed him. Jesus was referencing all of Psalm 22 when he quoted the first verse.”
That objection does not negate the fact that these thoughts and questions are recognized in Scripture as part of the human experience in our relationship with God. David was not kidding when he penned those words; neither was Jeremiah or Job. They were being honest about how they felt. And, I submit, so was Jesus. He was so distraught at the thought of drinking the cup God was going to make Him drink that His body pushed blood through the pores of his skin (Luke 22:44)! I submit that on the cross, Jesus in His human nature, felt the reality of being truly forsaken by God, and that drove Him to cry out My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (I will put another post up tomorrow explaining that more).
If David who is described to us as a man after God’s own heart, Jeremiah who was a faithful prophet God had chosen and set aside from birth to be His mouthpiece to Judah, Job of whom God Himself says there was no one else like him, and Jesus Himself could verbalize those thoughts, should we automatically move to shut down such thoughts in others? They are in great company. We need to hold back the criticism and put out a double portion of grace in the face of such questions. Let them ask. Let them work out their feelings. Let God worry about everything else.