Bill is a retired, Christian man who spends most days caring for his wife. She’s got Alzheimer’s. Everyday Bill asks God to save his wife. To fix what’s wrong. To make her normal again. But God is silent. Nothing improves. It only worsens. Periodically he’ll catch flashes of the vibrant woman he married. But only flashes. Sadly, vibrant doesn’t describe her. Not to Bill. Not anymore.
Bill’s prayers weren’t enough. So he reached out to other Christians – Christians who believed in a powerful, amazing God who “never leaves or forsakes us,” a God who is greater, and stronger, and “higher than any other.” He’d ask them, “What am I missing?” And he’d wonder aloud, “Where is God now, right now, when I need him most?” While everyone else celebrated an amazing God, Bill just sat. He didn’t feel like celebrating. He felt forsaken by God. Forgotten. Ignored.
The barrage of Sunday School answers came rolling in.
“It’s a trial,” said one.
“He’s testing your faith,” said another.
They urged that God was probably teaching him something, or that God wanted him as an example for others.
But Bill, in a rare moment of candor shown in public by a pronounced Christian, had one reply.
“I don’t want to be an example. I don’t want to help others. I just want my wife, my best friend, back.”
The Harsh Reality
These moments – moments when our justifiable, selfless desires seem to fall on deaf ears – are the hardest, most gut wrenching moments in the life of a Christian. How do we comfort Bill? How do we comfort ourselves? We’ve all been, or will be, there: losing a parent, a child, or special friend to disease, fighting through a marriage, raising a wayward child, empty job searches, poverty, loneliness, injustice and pain. The list is so long. And frankly, resolution often feels like the only real comfort.
The harsh reality is that often times, in the darkest moments, we feel like Bill. We feel abandoned by God. Left to our own devices. Left to face our predicaments without his power, his help, and sometimes, without even a whisper from Him. Can’t you imagine Bill kneeling beside his wife’s bed, praying through gritted teeth, his fists clenched. “Where are you, God?” Answer. Say something!” I can.
God doesn’t always save us from our problems. I realize how discomforting a statement like that is, but it’s true. For what’s it’s worth. If you are feeling like Bill right now, you should know you’re alone. For centuries, men and women sought God for change, and rose from their knees feeling dissatisfied. And while there is little a solace in the Old Testament records that reveal these exact frustrations from people, which suggests God wants us to read about them in his Word, which also suggests He is not hiding the way others have felt about Him, it is just that. Little solace.
I’ve learned to permit feeling abandoned, unheard and ignored by God. My obligation as a Christ-follower is not to pretend negative feelings don’t exist. We all know they do. The prophets and disciples get angry with God often, and they let Him know it. God prefers our emotionally fidelity to the Sunday School Sunshine façade we’ve learned to display. He wants us to tell Him how we really feel. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep. Doesn’t that imply many will have real, legit reasons to weep? Doesn’t that almost ensure some problems will go unsolved? Christians, then, shouldn’t ignore the real emotions we feel in moments of tragedy and loss. We should face them, together.
Despite His silence, God is not happy with our problems. He does not sit on a bejeweled throne with an air of indifference to our problems. I picture him with looking down on us through sad, pain-filled, eyes. I picture a God who, at minimum, weeps with us. God is not smiling at dying children, rape, murder, poverty, disease, and depression. He is not looking down on Bill’s wife with indifference. He is weeping. For Bill. For his wife. For their children. God hurts with us, sometimes for us.
So why doesn’t He do something?
Truthfully, I don’t know. But then, I shouldn’t know. The liberty of the Gospel is in not knowing. The hardest thing for us to do is trust God in our most desperate times. “Not knowing” teaches how to trust Him more. I didn’t really get a hold of this until I became a parent.
There are times when my children ask me to fix this or that for them, and I deliberately choose not to help them. Not because I’m a cruel dad, though I’m sure they may think so in that moment, but because I did not think helping them was best. And while my children may have walked away pouting and angry, in the end, the decision will work out for their good – a goodness they may never acknowledge or understand.
God and I share a similar dynamic. The key to trusting God was understanding that He defines what is good. Not me. I know what I want. I don’t always know what’s best. And the truth is, if I want the peace the Bible talks about, the kind that “surpasses understanding,” I needed to trust His judgment enough to march right into the heart of a storm, blindfolded.
Everybody loves somebody. None us likes watching death and disease. If we had it our way, no one would die. There’d be no disease, poverty or injustice. And that sounds great. But the fact that these evils exist means that God, if he truly is good, must work from a bigger-picture point of view. The scriptures say “God is not willing that any man perish,” and yet, many of us will. It seems on some level, God wants what we want. And yet, even He must deny His desire for the sake of a greater good as He defines it.
But in all of this, there is little solace.
So we are back where we began. Where is God when you need Him most? I think He is right there in the thick of it with you. Weeping alongside you. Hoping you will still trust His judgment through your predicaments. And I think, even He knows, that sometimes there is no solace in that.
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