By Jay Lowder, Crosswalk.com
I am a full-time evangelist and an unashamed follower of Jesus Christ who never dreamed I would become so broken that I would wrestle with thoughts of abandoning ministry, faith and even God Himself. However, that’s exactly what happened.
Seventeen months ago, life as my family knew it, was burned to the ground. My nineteen-year-old daughter, Kayley Faith, a girl who played competitive volleyball and who had never been to the hospital since birth, spent several weeks of suffering in the Intensive Care Unit before being diagnosed with the extremely rare disease known as ‘Stills.” Stills is a type of inflammatory disorder that affects the entire body. In Kayley’s case, her liver, heart and lungs suffered extreme damage and she narrowly escaped death.
Her sickness ambushed us overnight and required us to move two hours away to live, rather exist, inside a Dallas hospital for over five months straight. Watching my daughter agonizingly twist in bed for hours every day through inescapable pain almost drove me and my wife to insanity. Equally shredding was the spiritual carnage.
We had untold masses who were praying for her healing due to the thousands who followed our story on social media. In spite of those prayers, her situation continually got worse and so did my frustration and bitterness at God. I often begged God to speak to me, allow me to feel His presence or at least bring me peace. None came… Brokenhearted, I went through stages where I lost faith and even quit praying and reading the Bible. For the first time since I received Christ at age 21, God seemed completely silent and unreachable.
I still have more questions than answers. Looking back on the last year, I discovered new truths about wrestling with God when He seems absent.
Here are four truths when God’s presence seems hidden from us:
1. God may appear silent, but He is always speaking.
The Lord seldom shouts but He often whispers such as he did in 1 Kings 19:12, “And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.” God is even silently speaking through the creation of nature (Romans 1:20).
The challenge with a whisper or still, small voice is that the only time you can hear it is when you are extremely close. The enemy uses pain, as he did with me, to ignite anger, resentment and lack of patience. These feelings can drive a wedge between us and God to create a distance where we don’t clearly hear or recognize His voice. During seasons of brokenness, we must not allow our emotions to excuse us from seeking the Lord even when we lack the desire to do so or when His ways do not make sense.
2. God never abandons us but often sends others in His place (Hebrews 13:5).
We are told in 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 that God the Father offers His children mercy and comfort so that we, in turn, can pass this along to others.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was ministering to my family in that exact way by delivering comfort, encouragement, aide and strength not through His own hands and feet but through the lips, wallets, hands and feet of His followers. During our agony, I was blinded to the fact of how Christ was meeting so many of our needs through the generosity of those He was sending. Jesus’ best messengers were not the ones who preached to us or repeated those shallow “christianeeze” slogans but the warriors who simply visited us, cried with us and allowed us to vent – even when our words placed blame or frustration directed toward Christ. They didn’t watch us in the ditch but got in it with us.
3. God often doesn’t want us to retreat or push forward because He only wants us to stand.
When sorrow and pain attempt to suffocate us, God often desires for us to put on the brakes and patiently allow Him to remedy what we cannot fix. There are times when money, doctors, connections, medicine or experience cannot help us and there is nowhere left to turn. These unfixable situations are often where God does His greatest work because we begin to realize He is all we want because He is all we have. Standing and being still is often our most difficult response because we incorrectly believe we can take some action that will help, correct or heal our situation. Coming to the end of ourselves is often the catalyst to God bringing new beginnings.
4. In seasons of brokenness, God desires what is often the hardest to give . . . our faith.
Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
I look back with such regret and embarrassment at my wavering and often non-working faith this last year. I wanted to trust God but seemed so unable. Gratefully, when we fail Him, there is nothing you or I can do to make Jesus love us less. So how do we have faith when we feel it is gone? First of all, true believers never “lose” faith. Our faith is sometimes weakened but it is never destroyed. I had successful weeks of trust and failing weeks of doubt but even when I doubted Christ, He never doubted me. God understands our weakness and when we cannot locate our faith or fail to exercise it, we can believe He will restore it as we continue to fight against doubt (Matthew 9:29). I am still battling with inconsistency, but God patiently stokes the fires of faith as we come to Him asking for Him to strengthen our trust.
Are you doubting God? Are you questioning His care, concern, compassion or commitment to you? Has your life been unraveled by some sickness, disease, divorce, addiction or personal failure? Does Jesus seem distant or disconnected from you and your pain?
There are no easy answers, no spiritual platitudes, no quick fixes and no formulas that come with guarantees. Answers may come slowly, in the next life or maybe never at all. Your situation may get worse before it gets better but one promise from the King still remains. He promises to never leave you even though the enemy, your emotions and feelings shout otherwise. For now, this promise is enough for me, and I pray will be enough for you, too.
Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries. Follow him at @jaylowder on Twitter and Facebook.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/franz12
Jay Lowder is an evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries. He is also the producer of The Darkest Hour television program and author of Midnight in Aisle 7.