A few things before we go any further. I want to say that the pain, fear or confusion you are experiencing is not unique to you. Your situation is no surprise to God, and nothing is too difficult for him. Let’s get straight into it now.
The hardest time to trust God is when everything seems to be going wrong. It gives us the ‘evidence’ that we have been left alone and not even God wants to help us. Our faith at this time is low or non-existent.
We may pray for deliverance but even then the situation remains the same. What do we do? And why does God seem so far away and silent? The good news is that there is always something we can do and the better news is that God can never abandon us. Please read on.
Let God guide you
There’s a true story of a woman who landed a small aircraft with absolutely no flying experience. Her husband was the pilot and he fell ill while they were high up in the sky. It was only the two of them. The woman ultimately landed the plane safely but only because she listened to another pilot who guided her via radio. So what has this got to do with trusting God? Well, you can imagine how terrifying it is to be thousands of feet in the air and not know how to fly a plane. She was confused, frightened and distressed, which can happen when things go wrong.
It is important to listen for God’s instruction in the midst of our crisis. He knows how to help you navigate safely out of the situation. I know you would prefer that he just takes it all away but more often than not, God chooses to go step by step. One thing I can assure you is that irrespective of what you are going through he is as calm as can be. It grieves him that you are in distress (and he remains by your side) but he is not panicking because, well, he is God.
So we must listen for his instruction. The emotions may be running high, time may not be on your side but you have to go somewhere quiet and just try to listen. Pray for help, pray for strength but listen. What God says to you will be vital. When he speaks you will know. He may tell you to take action or he may ask you to refrain and just be still. Whatever it is, obey and if there’s another step, follow. Remember what Mary told the servants at Cana? She said, “Whatever he tells you, do.” (John 2:5)
Remember where your faith is founded
When things go wrong, our faith gets shaken. We start to question what we believe. We did not expect to be where we are and God seems so far away. Surely he would have shielded us from the difficulties. His promises all of a sudden seem questionable. But wait. Let’s go back to the beginning, to when you first started trusting God. I will ask you this question, was there ever a time that God promised that nothing unexpected would ever happen to you? On the contrary, this is what he promised us all, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) and what follows makes all the difference, “BUT be of good cheer (don’t worry about that) I have overcome the world.” In other words, nothing you can face is too hard for me to solve.
So going back to the foundation of your faith, is it dependent on circumstances or on God? Remember that he wants our faith to have no limits. We should not say I will trust God as long as…. He wants us to trust him regardless. The foundation of your faith should be God himself. Jesus said, “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22), and he did not add any ‘clauses’. That is what it means to be founded on the Rock. We trust him even when (in the natural) there’s no reason to. Please do not think I am making light of your situation, I know it is difficult to remain in faith when things go wrong, but here’s the beauty of it: God will give you the grace you need to get through. However, it won’t come if you choose to be upset and doubt him. Remember that it will not always be as hard as it is now, it will get better.
God has a solution for every problem
When you had a small problem, you could trust God. When you had a bigger problem you still trusted him. But now, when it looks really serious and the circumstances are worse than they have ever been, you are struggling to believe. This reminds me of the disciples and Jesus. This excerpt from my book Brighter Days illustrates how God wants us to respond to the unexpected.
The disciples together with Jesus were by the lake, and he taught while seated in one of the boats. His disciples stood amongst the crowd. As it became evening, and was probably getting dark, the people who needed his attention (for healing and otherwise) threatened to overwhelm them. When Jesus noticed this, he called out to his disciples and they joined him in the boat. The trip to the other side commenced.
In his humanity, Jesus was tired, he had spent the entire day healing the sick and preaching the good news. The disciples were probably pleased when he told them to get away from the crowd; they must have been tired themselves. In his Divinity, Jesus knew exactly why they were going into the boat and the purpose behind the trip.
A note: We often subconsciously think that what catches us by surprise was perhaps not known to God, but even before the earth was established, he knew all that would happen to every one of us (Isaiah 46:9-10).
Jesus’ disciples were now away from the crowd and away from the noise. The peaceful waters of the lake surrounded them. They used their oars and rowed, making smooth patterns in the water, it was finally quiet. Jesus felt tired, lay on the cushions and was soon asleep. The disciples did not think much of this; it was certainly not the first time they saw him resting in the boat after a long day.
As Jesus fell asleep, he displayed his humanity again and the disciples forgot who he really was. In their eyes, he was sleeping because he was tired, people get tired and that was normal, they thought.
The disciples could physically see Jesus, so they had the benefit of knowing he was with them. As long as it was going well, they did not seem bothered by him sleeping in the boat. It is interesting how God’s silence usually bothers us when we need him most. When we have no challenges, he can be silent and we do not seem to mind. Could it be that sometimes he allows storms in our lives to get that communication flowing again?
The disciples continued to paddle their boat in the peace of the lake, but suddenly something happened. Out of nowhere, a windstorm began to blow violently. Let us pause for a moment. How did we shift from a peaceful setting to a storm in such a short time? Well maybe that’s why the storm is a fitting analogy of the troubles we face in life—you just don’t see them coming.
The disciples now had a problem. They had to contend with the rising waves and at the same time try to row faster in order to reach their destination. This was not the time to wake Jesus. Some of them were experienced fishermen, they had seen storms before and could handle this one just as well.
Question: What do you do when a crisis manifests? First pray, trust God, then do what you can or is it the other way round. The disciples chose the latter.
They continued battling the waves as water splashed into the boat. They probably hoped the turbulent sways of the boat would wake Jesus but he remained asleep.
The disciples were concerned about their lives and when they saw Jesus sleeping, they were astonished. They considered it impossible for anyone to sleep in such conditions. They most likely thought he was aware of the storm but for some reason was not responding. As the water unremittingly flowed into the boat, it started getting heavy and threatened to sink.
This was now a life-and-death situation, they had to wake Jesus or they would perish. It is highly probable that they initially called out without touching him. To the disciples, it was as though he had turned his back on them and they found this shocking. They knew Jesus loved them and had always protected them. What happened to his love on this occasion?
After the disciples called out to Jesus and got no response, they moved close to him and shook him with desperate cries. One said, “Save us Lord; we are perishing”, and another, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mathew 8:25, Mark 4:38)
Finally, the disciples did the right thing and completely depended on Jesus—not themselves. Once he was awake, he immediately rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Peace be still” (Mark 4:39), and there was a great calm.
Jesus turned his focus to his disciples and said, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So, how did Jesus expect them to react to the storm? Considering the men were about to drown, what were they supposed to do?
They were supposed to focus.
Remember that Jesus was with them in the boat. We can rephrase that and say, Jesus is “in the boat” with us. When we forget this, we panic and become fearful. Jesus the Son of God was with the disciples in that boat and he is with you and me always. He expected them to trust him since he was in the boat. They needed to forget what their eyes saw and remember who was with them. It was not wrong for them to ask for help but they should have done it in faith and not inspired by fear. With faith, they could have spoken to him once and trusted that he would deal with the situation—irrespective of whether he responded (verbally) or not.
As you have read in the excerpt, God does not expect us to be moved by what we see. This was a life threatening experience, but since when was that too difficult for God? Whatever we may be going through, we should know that even though it may be overwhelming for us, it cannot overwhelm God. So why don’t we hand it over to him and stay in faith.
God is present even when it doesn’t make sense
For those whose minds are trying to make sense of the whole situation and you just cannot stop thinking, I will say this to you; God’s purpose can be right in the middle of what seems like utter chaos to you. Don’t try to make sense of it, you will only keep thinking endlessly. What’s more, God knew that you would face days like these and that is why he gave us the book of Job.
It may not be your favorite book but it does have great insights. I am not Job, you say, and you are right, you are better off than he was. You have not buried seven of your children on the same day, lost everything you owned and got so ill that you were skeletal and unrecognizable to your friends. And to add to that living with chronic pain from the disease you carry. Remember this is someone God said was “blameless” and “upright” more than all men on the face of the earth.
Job was a human being like us and tried to understand why he experienced so much pain yet he was a faithful servant of God. He did not realize that God’s ways are higher and better than anything we can imagine. Through his own reasoning, Job attempted to justify himself and in so doing affirm that God was wrong. He maintained that it was unfair that he lost everything good in his life.
These are some of Job’s words. You might feel the same way.
“[God] crushes me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause; he will not let me get my breath, but fills me with bitterness.”
“My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside.”
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
Job thought it right that he complained because everything seemed undeserved and God didn’t appear interested in helping him. He allowed the circumstances to define God’s character.
Some may say God ‘stood by’ as Job suffered. And we know this is not true; in fact, God continued to preserve Job’s life because as the Scriptures say, the Adversary was restrained from ending it.
So what was God thinking as he saw Job in pain? The answer is simple, God was focused on the purpose behind the suffering; he was thinking about how much good it was going to bring Job and how many generations after him would benefit from his experience.
Let us consider what Job got from the experience. First we must know where his relationship with God stood before the affliction began.
As mentioned earlier, Job was ‘blameless and upright’ and there was ‘none like him in the whole earth.’ We can safely say that in his time, he was the most righteous man in the world. We see that Job had such a deep trust and love for God that when he found out he had lost all his wealth and children, he stood strong and said, ‘the Lord gave and has taken away, blessed be his name’. Not many of us can say this after the death of all our children but Job did, and it showed how much he trusted God.
However, there was something else God wanted to give Job, something new for him to learn. After Job was afflicted by the Devil with sickness, he showed by his words what he was lacking. Job was willing to trust God when he could make some sense of it, but he had problems when he couldn’t understand. This is the lesson that he had to learn: no matter what it may look like, as long as we remain in the will of God, there is a purpose at the center of our affliction. Furthermore, it is not only for our benefit but for the benefit of many.
In the end Job got back his good health, he had more children; seven sons and three daughters (just as it was before), and became twice as wealthy as he had been prior to his affliction. More importantly though, he learned to trust God regardless.
God’s ways are sometimes beyond our understanding but the motive is always the same, he wants to bless us with good. This is true even if we may have to endure pain in the process.
Jobs words summarize what the whole experience gave him, he said this to God:
“…I have uttered what I did not understand, things too profound for me, which I did not know. ”
Do not try to figure out what God is doing, just trust him and everything will eventually make sense. It may not be easy especially when so many things go wrong, but we must persevere. The only fight we have is to stay in faith, and at some point it will get better and you shall rejoice when you come out on the other side of your troubles.