Trusting God when He seems absent

Last Sunday evening, as part of our Living Life Dangerously focus (living in the fullness of trust in God) we looked at Suffering. I defined suffering as living in a condition where it seems that God is absent. It might be pain, illness, grief or any other unhappy life circumstance; and in that situation we find ourselves without comfort.

Of course God is right there with us, but we don’t seem to be receiving any help or comfort from Him. So we suffer. This is not an uncommon experience in the world today and the Bible has many stories of such situations. So how do we understand it? Why does God seem to leave us in this uncomfortable situation? Why does He not seem to answer our prayers?

We must, of course, immediately turn to the situation of Job. Job lost his wife, children, possessions and even his health; there seemed no reason for it and his cry for help went apparently unheard. His friends blame sin, disobedience, lack of faith etc but Job denies all that, and he is right! However when we read Job’s story, we know something that Job and his friends do not know. God has a high regard and deep love for Job. Satan says that Job’s reciprocating love is only because God has supplied the man with many blessings. So God allows Satan to take away the blessings to prove to the evil one that Job’s faith is indeed genuine. In our consumer society, it is also easy to claim our blessedness by measuring the extent and wealth of our possessions – but the truth is that our blessedness come from God’s love for us. Job’s story is not about punishment, or even about testing faith; no, it is about proving faith. Job’s faith was genuine; his suffering was because it seemed that the God in whom he had put his trust was ignoring him. But God was not doing that at all, indeed, God’s heart must have ached with Job’s suffering but He could not intervene. Job’s faith had to be proved genuine to the evil one without any assistance from God. And it was!

Similarly, when Jesus was on the Cross, He cried out to the Father, “Why have You forsaken me?” The Father could not intervene, or it would have lessened our salvation – His love for us is great, and our redemption had to be paid in full through the death of Christ.

Sometimes our cry also is “God, why have You forsaken me?” but God has not forsaken us, and He never will. We don’t always have the whole picture though. Job suffered because of Satan’s accusation against God, Jesus suffered because God loves us so much. Our own suffering (the apparent absence of God) might have very wide implications – we don’t know. But we do know that God always works for the good of those who love Him. We do know that it is not God’s desire that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. We do know that God is love and that He loves us. Our response must be to continue in our faith, to trust and love God despite our circumstances and to always hope in Him. We need a childlike faith where we know the Father’s love and are sure always that His intentions are for the good.

Afterwards I offered to pray confidentially with anyone who felt themselves in a “suffering” situation. A few people came forward, and in one case, I felt convicted to tell the person that God would intervene before the week was over. I never do that; I trust God with all my heart but am quite often uncertain about my thoughts and feelings. But I had said that we must pray with childlike faith, and I did, and I had this thought prompt – so I said it.

Praise God that I received a call on Thursday that the prayer had been answered! God is good; all the time! He is worthy of praise and you can trust Him fully, without a doubt.


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