If you ever need encouragement about how involved God is with your life, read Psalm 139, the whole thing. King David, who wrote it, paints a positive picture of how much God knows us intimately, protects us, and is never far from us at all. This is a psalm you need to read especially if you think God isn't answering or hearing your prayers because it will encourage you to keep praying. Some might ask why we have to pray at all if God knows what we are going to say before we even say it (Psalm 139:4), but if we took that attitude we would miss out on intimacy with God, hearing Him when He answers, and the power of prayer in general.
When God answers our prayers we stand in awe and shout to the world - "Look what God did!" giving Him all the glory. It's only right that we should do that. After all, He is God. But sometimes, God doesn't answer prayer and we wait ... and we wait some more ... and during the whole time we are waiting for an answer, two things are going on. God is working behind the scenes to fulfill His will for your prayers and Satan is working behind the scenes as well. In fact, he is working overtime putting doubt and anger into our hearts and minds, especially when our prayers aren't answered right away, or they are answered but not in the way we want.
This is when maturity in your faith comes into play. First, you have to realize that God is going to answer your prayers, however, it might not be how you want them answered or when. God sees the big picture, you don't. He knows that in order for you to get the answer He feels is in your best interest, points A, B, and C have to be lined up first, in order for you to reach point D. In other words, there are other things going on in the spiritual realm that you know nothing about, so trust Him to do what is best. You can either accept that God heard you and leave it at that, or you can listen to the voices in your head that are making you doubt in God's love.
When I had my legs operated on six years ago I battled a dangerous infection (cellulitis and a super-bug (MRSA). The combination of these two infections was so bad I was put on the burn ward, lathered with some sort of cream and then bandaged from toe to thigh, like a mummy. My legs were swollen, hot and they literally looked like someone had poured scalding water on them. It was when the blisters started coming up and my skin became so tight because of the swelling that the increased dosage of morphine was not even coming close to alleviating the pain. I had one particular night that was horrible. I would say the pain was the worst I have ever experienced (that includes childbirth). My prayers were frantic pleas to God to make it stop, to send a nurse to sedate me so I didn't have to experience it. I also prayed that God would take me home. Clearly, I was beside myself with pain and my thoughts were all over the place.
Did God alleviate my pain? No. Did He send me a nurse to put me out of my misery? No. Instead, at my moment of deepest despair, of feeling alone in my pain, of being unable to bear it a moment longer, I heard this in my mind, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Jesus' cry from the cross. And in that moment, through my pain-filled haze I finally got why Jesus screamed that. It wasn't that he felt God had left Him, or was ignoring Him. It was a cry of despair. A cry of frustration. A cry that hid beneath it all the thoughts that were coming to the surface, bubbling over, with no way to control them. A cry of agony over the pain that was crushing him and threatening to swallow him up. The same kind of pain I was enduring.
"I'm so afraid, Lord. I feel alone in this, like no one understands."
"I cannot bear this anymore. When will it stop?"
"Are you there? Do you hear me? Please, let me feel your presence so that I know everything will be alright."
"How much longer Lord? I cannot bear it."
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Of course, my pain was nowhere near what Jesus experienced. But the thing is - He experienced it. He understood my heartfelt cries completely and it was at that moment that I knew I wasn't alone and if my pain continued, I wouldn't like it, but I would be okay with it, because I knew there was a purpose behind it. God was allowing me to suffer to teach me to trust Him and to help me grow in my faith. Jesus' pain and His death had a purpose. A glorious purpose that freed us all from sin and the pain of death. Not physical death, but spiritual death, because to be separated from the Father forever would be agony.
A surgery that was meant to give me better mobility, ultimately did not work and due to the doctor's lack of knowledge about the underlying disease I had, he inadvertently damaged my lymphatic system beyond repair. Now I spend most of my days with my legs elevated to relieve the swelling and the pain that lives with me daily. I may never know this side of heaven if what I am going through today has any purpose. Right now, I can only see that I write more and blog more. I have four books out. I seem to always be writing. If I were able I would use my time differently. I would be volunteering somewhere or visiting with my friends. Maybe even cleaning my house (my least favourite thing to do, but now I would give anything to be able to do it). But, for now, I am to endure daily pain from an incurable disease and God has His reasons for this. And I'm okay with that.
If you are suffering right now and in pain, either physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, you are not alone. God has never left you and He never will. He understands more than you could possibly imagine and He has a plan. Trust Him, something good will come out of this. And I hate to tell you this, by something good, I don't necessarily mean some wondrous thing is going to happen to you. You may be suffering because God is using you to reach another. How you behave during this difficult time might be speaking volumes to someone else. Someone who needs to know God is real - who needs to know God can be trusted. Suffering, as difficult as this is for me to say because I live with it daily, may be your purpose in life. If it was, could you live with that? Could you still give God the glory and thank Him, even if you don't see anything good come from it? That's a hard thing to do. I know, because it is not an easy thing to be sick all the time. People often forget about you, especially when you are unable to attend church regularly. Phone calls stop, as do visits from people you've known for years. Being sick is lonely. The days are rare when you even feel well enough to get out of bed. But you push yourself because you know with every fibre of your being that God is present, aware of what you are going through and is working His will out in your life. Rest in that assurance until He comes again, or takes you home. Be a witness. Be strong. He loves you, He cares about you and He has not forsaken you. Your life is not without purpose and God will use it for His glory no matter what your circumstances.
Trust Him today with what you are going through. He's got you in the palm of His hand.