Issue: 4th quarter 2015

When it might not look like God is at work

Written by Jerry Wierwille

by Jerry Wierwille

It is undeniable that God has acted in His creation throughout history in many ways. The Bible contains countless stories of God intervening in the lives of humans and working to bring about His will and purposes. God spoke to Moses in a burning bush (Exod. 3:2), He guided the children of Israel through the wilderness in a cloud of smoke and pillar of fire (Exod. 13:21), and He answered Elijah’s prayer and sent fire down from heaven upon Elijah’s offering (1 Kings. 18:36-38), just to mention a few. The Old and New Testaments are filled with accounts like these where God interacted with his people and acted decisively to cause miraculous events. These accounts and many others in Scripture paint a very colorful picture of God which can easily be distorted and wrongly understood. When our understanding of God is skewed, it can leave us discouraged and in doubt when He does not act in our lives in ways we think He should, or if He does not even seem to be present at all.

Where is God When I Need Him?

Today, it seems like we don’t see God acting in these ways anymore, or at least not to the same degree. Miraculous events seem more seldom, and divine revelation has been claimed by many false prophets only to deceive and manipulate the innocent and gullible. Sometimes, we might even wonder if God is still really at work in this world, or if He is even interested in intervening in our affairs any longer. On a more personal level, there are times when our prayers go unanswered and we are left questioning why that is. It is as though they have fallen on deaf ears in heaven. Has God withdrawn Himself and limited the ways in which He interacts with us?

Part of the issue contributing to a skewed view of God is that we read the Bible in hindsight down the long tunnel of a few thousand years. We see God acting on behalf of His people in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt, leading them through the wilderness, bringing them into the Promised Land, fighting battles for them and ensuring unlikely victories and overcoming seemingly impossible odds, and through it all we are think, “See, God came through there, and there, and definitely there,” and so on.

But something we might not be keenly aware of is that we read a condensed version of history that flattens the true nature of how it actually unfolded. Even during times when it seemed like God was active and moving and involved in the lives of His people, David cried out:

Psalm 13:1-6 (HCSB)
1) “LORD, how long will You forget me? Forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
2) How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me?
3) Consider me and answer, LORD my God. Restore brightness to my eyes; otherwise, I will sleep in death.
4) My enemy will say, ‘I have triumphed over him,’ and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5) But I have trusted in Your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in Your deliverance.
6) I will sing to the LORD because He has treated me generously”

It appears that David was in anguish over not hearing from God and receiving the deliverance that he so earnestly longed for. That may reflect what we sometimes feel when we pray and pray and pray, wondering if God is going to do anything. But our mistake might be in seeking the miracle, or His movement in our lives, before seeking His majesty. We might unintentionally put what we want from Him ahead of the place that only He should rightfully occupy in our hearts. But even if we give God the foremost place in our hearts, it does not then follow that He will always comply with our desires, nor should we expect that He would. We can’t bribe or constrain God to act.

So then, what is to be done? Is it a helpless cause to ask God for help, not knowing if He will do anything about our plea? No, far from it! What we must realize is that it is not our place to determine how and when God will act. The way David concludes his psalm is by saying that regardless of his perplexity about how God seems to be failing to act, he will proclaim the reality of how he trusts God, rejoices in God, and praises God (Ps. 13:5-6). David did not allow his muddled perception about what was going on with God and why He seemed to be dragging His feet to deter him from continuing to rely on God and confess what he knew to be true about God’s nature. What we can learn from David is that whether God does what we ask of Him or not, it does not change the truth of who He is and how He is deserving of our love, praise, and devotion.

God often works in unseen and creative ways beyond our comprehension that are unbeknownst to us until we see them blossom and bring forth their fullness in our lives. The famous American writer T. S. Eliot wrote, “Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” In other words, don’t even try to figure out how everything is supposed to happen. The way God works in the world to bring about His will and purposes is not often revealed to us. All we know from Scripture is that the things that God has planned and promised will absolutely come to pass:

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (ESV)
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it”

But we must not presumptuously think that we can decipher how and when and under what circumstances and for what reason God chooses to act and intervene in our lives. All we need to know is that regardless of the ways that God is present and moving, or seemingly absent and distant, He is always with us, and for us, and we simply must wait patiently to see the power and glory of the Lord God revealed in this world and in our lives, even if it takes until the trumpet sounds.

Psalm 33:20-22 (ESV)
20) “Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
21) For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.
22) Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

About the author

Jerry Wierwille

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