If you ever need encouragement about God's involvement 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. 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 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.
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 fitting 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 … but 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, but Satan is also working behind the scenes. In fact, Satan 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 will answer your prayers. But it might not be how you want them answered or when. God sees the big picture. You don't. He knows what is in your best interests. In other words, other things are going on in the spiritual realm that you don't know anything about, so trust Him to do what is best. You can 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 God's love.
When I had my legs operated on six years ago, I battled a dangerous infection (cellulitis and a super-bug (MRSA). These two infections were so bad that I was put on the burn ward, slathered with cream and then bandaged from toe to thigh like a mummy. My legs were swollen and hot, and they literally looked like someone had poured scalding water on them. Much like they did last year when I was in the hospital. When the blisters started coming up and my skin became tight because of the swelling, no amount of morphine came close to alleviating the pain. I had one particular night that was horrible. 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 to Him. 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 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 at 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 ignored 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 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 entirely, and it was at that moment that I knew I wasn't alone. 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 allowed me to suffer to teach me to trust Him and help me grow in my faith.
Jesus' pain and His death had a purpose - a glorious purpose that freed us 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 meant to give me better mobility ultimately did not work. Due to the doctor's lack of knowledge about the underlying disease I had, he inadvertently damaged my lymphatic system beyond repair and accelerated the disease. 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. 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 imagine and 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 will happen to you. You may be suffering because God is using you to reach another. How you behave during this challenging time might speak volumes to someone else. Someone who needs to know God is real and knows 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 cannot 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, cares about you, and has not forsaken you. Your life is not without purpose, and God will use it for His glory no matter your circumstances.
Trust Him today with what you are going through. He's got you in the palm of His hand.