Have you ever prayed and felt like nothing happened? Me too. Have you ever stood on a promise from God and the exact opposite happened? Me too. Maybe you were praying for provision, wisdom, the right job, a spouse or a loved one in a life threatening illness. And maybe that spouse never came, you never got the job or the loved one died. When then?
When seeking understanding for such circumstances we have to first understand who God is and what he wants for us. To understand who God is we can look to all the names he gave us, for himself, throughout scripture. Check out this article for a list of God’s names.
To understand what he wants for us, in light of these seemingly unanswered prayers, we can look in three places.
The Garden in Eden before the mankind gave into the force of sin
The life of Jesus
From those three places we can conclude that God’s ultimate will for us is to live with him, in perfection, free from pain and suffering. That’s the quality of life in the the garden, that’s our eternal state of existence in Heaven and that’s how Jesus lived in his earthly life. By “God’s ultimate will” I mean that’s what he wants for us above all else.
3 John 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
If God wanted us to live in pain, suffering, illness and loss forever we’d see it in Heaven, but we know those hardships will not be part of our lives in eternity.
Where it gets confusing is why we are experiencing those things now. Either God has written them into his script for humankind’s history or they’re the result of our choices and actions. Either God created us to suffer a while before we live forever with him in bliss or he gave us this place and we messed it up, only to be made perfect again by God in spite of our sin and death.
When bad things happen, and you wonder why God would allow them to happen, be careful. Of course, God’s history with Israel and how he protected them for generations reveal the just and wrathful characteristics of God, we do not set that aside, but we put it in it’s proper place. Read my previous article for more on that. I’m addressing our personal circumstances and God’s involvement in them.
If you have ever visited the impoverished slums of Africa or India, or watched a loved one whither away, suffering from cancer, you have surely wondered where God was in such suffering. In moments like that, we must go back to the big three, Eden, Heaven and Jesus. Those are the places where God gets what he wants. Those are the 3 areas where we see God directly involved in creating the condition he desires for humans.
That leaves us with the poor quality of life so many experience after Eden and until Heaven. What’s going on? It’s an oversimplification but the answer is sin. Sin is what happened. Mankind introduced sin and death resulted. Death will continue to manifest until it’s finally put under the feet of Jesus.
BUT! We must not attribute death, in any form, to God. Even the “God ordained” death we see in the Bible must be understood as his response to mankind. Had mankind not rebelled, God would not have arbitrarily related to mankind through judgement and punishment. It’s well deserved on our part.
Earlier I warned you to be careful when you ask why bad things happen. It’s not a bad question, but how you answer could lead you where you don’t want to go. When inject God into tragedy, pain, loss and suffering, we at risk of accusing him of injustice. We are at risk of accusing him of being unkind, we are putting him on trial for our circumstances, as if he’s designed our personal pain. The result is loss of hope.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
I think too many Jesus followers are heart-sick. The heart is where we believe (it’s with the heart we believe unto righteousness.) The heart affects everything we do, every issue of life flows from our hearts. God gives us a new heart when he say yes to Jesus. This new heart exists where soul meets spirit and it knows God’s voice. However, if we judge God, place blame on him for our pain and loss, we will actually harden our hearts to him. If we hold him accountable for our suffering we will distance ourselves from him and close ourselves off to his influence.
The very thing we need, God’s influence in our lives, will become the very thing we resist, because we have falsely accused him of the pain and loss in our lives. I’ll say this because I know someone is thinking about suffering, the only God endorsed suffering is any persecution you may experience as a result of proclaiming the Gospel, but pain and loss through tragedy are not in his will for you.
So What Do We Do?
Remember his name, remember Heaven awaits and remember Jesus is with/in you. To remember his name is to remember his character, the attributes of his name. Set your mind on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father. Make the kind of life you have in Heaven alive in your heart in the midst of your temporary circumstance. Acknowledge God in the deepest parts of your heart where pain may reside and allow his spirit to kindle joy, joy like there is in Heaven. Joy like the issue is truly temporary and has no power over you. Rejoice that you have peace with God. Reach for the peace of Heaven within and allow that to override any temporal emotion. Acknowledge God and he WILL direct your paths.