Have you ever asked God for something – something good, something within God’s will – and yet the answer was…no? Have you struggled with what to believe and how to feel when God doesn’t fix something broken in your life? If so, I’ve been there too, and am still there. I’ve prayed for years begging God to fix “it”, but it’s not been fixed. At times, I’ve visualized myself crawling up onto the lap of God, feeling His tenderness and nearness, asking Him to fix it – and the answer has still been “no.” At other times, I distanced myself from God, in confusion, asking Him “why?” He won’t fix it when He has the power to do so and I heard nothing in return. I’ve struggled with questioning where God is in the midst of my pain and suffering when I don’t feel His nearness, wondering if He cares and is as good as I thought He was.
This struggle of God “not fixing it” has led me on a journey I never wanted to go on. But as promised in James 1:3-4, “The testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its course so that you may be mature.” If I’m honest with myself, I want the maturity, but I’d rather pass on the pain and whole idea of persevering through it. But I don’t get that choice. I experience the pain and brokenness regardless, and it’s my choice whether or not I mature from it. As one author wrote, “The wilderness is part of the landscape of faith, and every bit as essential as the mountaintop. On the mountaintop we are overwhelmed by God’s presence. In the wilderness we are overwhelmed by his absence. Both places should bring us to our knees; the one, in utter awe; the other, in utter dependence.”
Truths You Can’t Live Without:
The book When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story has been instrumental in helping me make sense of the brokenness in my life, and many words and ideas listed below are taken directly from her book.
- I don’t have to understand it, and that does not change the goodness of God.
In fact, He never once promises me that I will understand it. And what makes me think that in my finite mind – where I can barely grasp basic concepts of physics or geometry – I could make sense of even a fraction of the mind of God? I was reminded of this truth the other day when I was driving with my three year-old son and we passed by a church with a large steeple that towered high into the sky. From the back seat, I hear him pipe up, “Momma, will you please pull over and let me jump off of that steeple?” To him, that seemed like a perfectly legitimate request. I, on the other hand, was thinking more about the landing rather than the jumping. As I tried to explain to him that we would not be jumping off the steeple today (or any other day for that matter), he of course followed up with the question, “Why not?” while proceeding to cry and scream the rest of the way home. I tried to explain that gravity was this invisible sticky stuff that holds us to the ground, but it did not appear to help his perspective of the situation. All he knew was that he had a desire – and to him, it was a good desire. From his perspective, I was being mean and restrictive, withholding something “good” from him. However, as his mom, I had a totally different perspective. I want him to experience good things, but I also know it is my responsibility to protect him, even from the things that he doesn’t understand he needs protection from. This concept began to sink in for me as I applied it to my relationship with God. From my perspective, I am asking for something that appears to be good. But God has a totally different perspective, that I must trust is good and protective, without understanding it from my limited perspective.
2. Asking “WHY” is essential, but it’s important to not get stuck there. We ask why believing the answer will provide us with some kind of deep soul satisfaction, which may never come. God doesn’t promise answers, but He does promise that our broken stories will find their greater purpose in light of His greater story. If I get stuck only asking WHY this happened, I would never see HOW God was working in me. I’ve learned that it’s ok to stay in the WHY as long as necessary, but don’t stay stuck there because it only brings more pain and sorrow. Get to the point of being able to say “I don’t understand why my life looks this way, but I don’t have to understand why.” There is freedom found in not having all the answers, especially the WHY answer. It’s essential to move from asking “Why” to asking “How”:
How might God use my current trial to glorify Himself?
How might God use my weakness, infirmity or disability to display His power?
How might God use my hard circumstance to show me something about Himself?
How might God use my hard circumstance to show me something about myself?
How might God use my pain for a purpose?
How might God make this mess into a message?
How might God use my current chaos to help me grow in walking by faith, not by sight?
How might God use my situation to show me that true peace is found only in Him?
3. When experiencing disappointment with God, it’s essential to ask “Where does the disappointment come from?” The disappointment seems to imply that there was some sort of promise or commitment that God didn’t follow through on. See if you can identify the promise you are claiming in the Bible. The betrayal and disappointment you feel is real, but the promises you thought God broke are not real. Therefore, the disappointment didn’t come from God breaking a promise but from my own false expectations. “Should” is a word of expectation.
God didn’t promise that we wouldn’t have trials, He promised that He would be there when we did experience trials and that He’d never leave. What if there are blessings that God offers that are greater than just a pain-free life?
4. God uses stories that don’t have a happy ending. How many times have you heard testimonies that begin with a trial, include lots of prayer and then have a miraculous ending? I certainly have, and there have been times when I’ve thought to myself, “I wish my story could end like that, and it’s not worth telling until it does – if it does.” I don’t know about you, but for me there’s something refreshing about hearing someone take the huge risk of being vulnerable and sharing – not that they have struggled – but are struggling with something. It makes me think, “Yea, me too.” It creates a sense of togetherness, like-mindedness and even normalcy in what I’m experiencing. I struggle with believing that I have to have my story all together – and God figured out – before it will have purpose or meaning. I am learning that my brokenness that is not yet healed may never be healed on this side of heaven; however, this promise remains – God has used, is using, and will use all of it for His glory. Sometimes the stories that don’t have a happy ending are the ones that can minister deeply to the soul of the person sitting right next to you. Don’t let one tear be wasted by fearing that God can’t use your story right now, regardless of what the ending may be.
Erin Bland, MSW, LCSW