by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
What happens when God doesn’t intervene? When circumstances grow worse, doors close, and illness lingers?
Is He still good? Does He still love us?
Intellectually, we know sometimes bad things happen to good people, but sitting in the middle of chaos and catastrophe, doubts take hold.
A couple years ago, while on her first college coop, our daughter’s depression spiked. She did all the appropriate churchy things. She went to church, read her Bible, meditated on Scripture, and prayed. She prayed and prayed and prayed. And yet, her depression remained. And although she knew they were lies, comments she heard tore at her hope.
Just have faith, then your depression will go away.
Mental illness is a spiritual issue. If you’re close to Jesus, you’ll be happy.
Have Jesus, have joy.
It got to where going to church, the one place she was supposed to feel safe and find healing, only increased her pain. Made her feel less than. Insufficient. Unseen and unloved by her Creator.
But still she went, and one lonely Sunday morning, God met her there and gave her hope. Not that she’d get better, although with self-care she has. In fact, the sermon talked about times when God, for whatever reason, doesn’t intervene or heal. But whether we see His hand or not, He remains.
His love is unshakable.
That Sunday morning, in the middle of her depression, God let her know that she was okay. That their relationship was okay. That He held her and wouldn’t let go.
We all need to know that, especially when life feels hard. We need to know that the One who formed galaxies by a mere command sees us and is alert to our suffering.
God doesn’t always act as we expect or even desire. Imagine having given your entire life to serve Him, only to find yourself imprisoned and awaiting execution. Imagine the questions, the doubt, the intense inner wrestling.
The bursts of hope followed by crushing defeat and despair.
Just over two thousand years ago, a faithful prophet sat in a dark, dank dungeon. The stench of unwashed bodies and the cold that ate at his bones wore down his courage and faith.
He had first encountered Jesus while still a fetus in his mothers’ womb, leaping at the sound of Mary’s voice. As a grown man he decades later had proclaimed that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The one who’d witnessed the Spirit landing upon Him as he baptized Him and heard the voice of the Father calling Jesus His Son.
But his horrible present situation had stripped away his certainty and trust. Could it be Jesus wasn’t the long-promised Savior?
For surely, after all John had done, all he’d given for the sake of Christ, God wouldn’t leave him in a dungeon to die, would He? But as each day dragged into the next, without so much as a glimmer of light to distinguish them, John the Baptist’s certainty turned to doubt. In the confusion that can only come from deep pain, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
John knew all about what Christ had been doing. But he also knew what He hadn’t done, and in that moment, the one unanswered prayer drowned out every miracle proclaimed.
But Jesus reassured him, not by promising his rescue, but instead, by reminding him of who He was. “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen,” Jesus told John’s disciples. “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good news is preached to the poor.”
In other words, “I’m the promised Messiah. I’m doing exactly what the prophets said I would do. I’m still good, powerful, present, and in control.”
Then, as John’s disciples turned to carry the message back to John, Jesus spoke to the crowds. “I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.” This was how Jesus addressed John’s doubt. Not with anger or disgust or rebuke. But with reminders of His power and affirmation of His love.
He responds to us in our doubt in the same way. God may not answer our prayers as we’d like. He may not rescue us from that difficult situation or bring long-desired healing. But when we come to Him honestly with our doubt and despair, He’ll center us in who He is and His love for us.
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 NIV
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a multi-published writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. a Crosswalk featured blogger and maintains a devotional blog found at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events that help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. (They just released their first Bible study, Becoming His Princess, which you can grab for free HERE.) When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Join the conversation: How might remembering those truths strengthen you for difficult situations? How can focusing on who God is and His heart for you bring hope in the middle of despair?