When God Doesn’t

“At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:45-46).

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are great reminders of the love God has for His children. God values a relationship with YOU so much that he sent His one and only son to die an unimaginable death. It’s overwhelming, humbling, heartbreaking, and empowering to think about the significance of this sacrificial love. And yet, it’s not uncommon to feel at times disconnected or abandoned by God. It’s hard to understand/explain why faithful believers are not always healed of sickness or why tragedies occur. We believe and pray for God to answer our prayers, and can feel discouraged/confused when God doesn’t. While I’m young and don’t have all the answers, I can share what helps me through these seasons.

1. God already did. 

A few years ago during a church conference, I knelt to my knees and prayed that God would free me from the chains of my eating disorder. I had been stuck in this continual cycle of struggle, and desperately prayed to be set free. I knew God had the authority to defeat the enemy’s control in my life, and waited in prayer for God to heal me of my disorder. In many ways, I was waiting for this physical, tangible sensation of being made new. As I waited on my knees, crying out to God, I felt nothing. I began to question my own faith, and thought maybe I wasn’t praying hard enough. As I struggled in this moment, I felt God nudging me to be still. I felt God reminding me of the cross.

“By his wounds, we are healed” ( Isaiah 53:5).

I think sometimes we forget what God has already done for us.The enemy has already been defeated; death was conquered. When we decide to follow Jesus, we have the same victory over the enemy that Jesus won. In moments where I am overwhelmed by anxiety, depression, guilt, etc… I have to choose to take authority over God’s power inside of me. I can declare joy even when I feel depressed. I can declare peace even when I feel anxious. I can’t lose a battle that God has already won.

2. Sleep or Swim.  

As I entered 2016, I felt God challenging me to develop an uncircumstantial faith. It’s easy to believe that God is good when life is good…but bad things happen. The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to do everything in his power to prevent us from achieving our God-crafted calling. Storms are a part of the journey.

“But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’ When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the winds and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be Still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?'” (Mark 4: 37-40).

I think sometimes as believers we expect that walking in line with God’s plan gives us immunity from being affected by storms. When bad things happen, we begin to question the sturdiness of our faith. Maybe if I had been praying more consistently or reading my bible more, this wouldn’t have happened.  Sometimes a tragedy or trial makes us question God’s goodness (or at least as it relates to our personal life). If God really loves me, why would He allow this to happen to me? 

Here’s the hard thing about faith for me: it involves giving up control. I love to be in control. So, when I enter into a storm…the last thing I want to do is sleep like Jesus does in Mark 4. Typically, I begin to do everything I can to ensure that I won’t sink. I struggle and strive and over exhaust myself. I look at the chaos around me, and become distracted by everything that seems to be going wrong. Jesus is in my boat, and I’m worried about the storm. Why? Because logically, that’s what feels like the right reaction. But faith involves surrendering some of my logic.

My challenge for 2016 has been to find God’s presence in all seasons. Even when my boat is rocking, my faith and pursuit toward my calling will not be shaken. I want to struggle less, and trust more. If Jesus is sleeping, why would I get ready to swim?

There is peace and hope in pursuing your God-planned and God-protected calling. Your boat cannot sink…so why waste time in worry? God will make everything work out for good.

3. God will. 

Following Jesus will not only change your life, but it will change your eternity. Because of the cross, we have eternal life.

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life-and life abundantly” (John 10:10).

One of my many mantras is, never settle for less than a John 10:10 life. I believe that God wants his children to experience an abundant life that fulfills the god-given desires of their heart. He desires for us to feel complete, valuable, and whole. That is why it can be hard for me to understand why God hasn’t healed my sister of her eye disease, or why people being prayed over daily still die from cancer. It can be confusing; however, God’s character is not defined by an outcome. God is love. That will never change.

Again, I don’t have the perfect answer. But, I do know that God loves with an abundant, lavishing love. We have a future of hope and prosperity because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He endured the worst, so that we could have His best. Whether healing/relief comes today, tomorrow, or in heaven…it will happen. Don’t define God by your circumstance, but define your circumstance by God. Nothing can hinder you from achieving your God-given calling except for yourself. Seek God with an expectant heart always. Expect and know that God will provide for you and will equip you for anything you face.

The enemy wants you to believe that God didn’t overcome death and darkness. He wants you to doubt, question, and worry. He wants to distract you of God’s presence by provoking storms. Protect your calling. Declare peace, joy, hope, love, and victory no matter the circumstance.

Lavished by Love

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!…” (1 John 3:1).

When I read this verse a few weeks ago, the word “lavished” weighed heavily on my heart and mind. It left me wondering if I truly feel, believe, and live like God has LAVISHED his love on me. As I’ve marinated on this question, I’ve realized that I’ve been limiting God’s love for me partly because that is what I’ve been conditioned to do.

“Lavished” is defined by bestowing something in generous or extravagant quantities. It is love in abundance. This contrasts the world’s version of love. The world says to be cautious in giving and receiving. We have to protect what we have, and never ask for too much. The world’s love is restricted. In many ways, we live in a love deficit.

Personally, I have always struggled to understand God’s fatherly love for me. My dad left my family when I was three years old. I don’t remember much about my parent’s divorce, and growing up with a single mom has always been my normal. I’ve grown up accepting of the deprivation; however, when we feel deprived of something…we will always look for a replacement. Despite years of denial/uncertainty, I am learning that one role my eating disorder had was to fill the void my dad created when he left. I created a relationship with food to replace the relationship I lacked.

The enemy wants us to be deprived of love, because He can more easily sell us sin when we feel like we are lacking something.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

At times, I think Christianity can feel like depriving ourselves of the world to pursue Jesus. But I think a perspective like that is dangerous. God doesn’t want us to feel deprived. Living life feeling restricted will inevitably lead to “binging” on what ever you have been avoiding.

For me, I have a hard time building relationships because I never want to be a burden to someone else. Because of this fear of asking for too much,  I can have a hard time receiving God’s abundant love. The crazy and illogical thing about God’s love for us, is that it is abundant and UNCONDITIONAL. Society says we must earn love. It’s a process of proving our worth to others, so they are willing to “spend” the love they have on us. We have to prove our value. So, I find myself at times needing to prove my value to God before I am willing to receive and embrace the love He has for me. I don’t feel worthy of limitless, lavishing love.

Over the last few months, I’ve began to explore what my life would look like if I embraced my identity as God’s child and allowed him to love me HIS way. It’s been a process, but when I allowed God to call me by my name even when I was in the midst of recurrent sin cycles, I found more freedom and healing than ever before. Living in a state of God’s abundant love fulfills any desire to seek out love in sinful places. It allows me to be content with what I have each day, without comparing my life to others. I feel grateful and humbled that God values me. I don’t have to fear abandonment because God promises abundance. God’s love doesn’t deprive…it provides.