Have you ever felt like God has abandoned you? Every Christian feels it at times. Sometimes those “times” are short…but great despair comes when those “times” are long. Days and weeks give way to months and years…and God appears to have vanished. Prayers hit the ceiling and bounce back mockingly. Trial after trial after trial torture the soul to the point of giving up. Why doesn’t God do something? Doesn’t He know how deeply I would worship and love Him if only He would deliver me? But that’s really the catch isn’t it? ANYONE (including scoundrels) will worship a God who gives constant comfort. God is looking for those who will be satisfied in Him alone when things are good….and when things are horrendous.
C.S. Lewis’ renown book, The Screwtape Letters, gives a fictional (yet packed with truth) account of letters written from a “Senior demon” to a “Younger demon” on how to discourage and destroy Christians. The book is short, easy to read, and yet deeply profound. It's well worth your time and the $10 it costs to buy it. At one point in the book, the young demon Wormwood thinks he has his “Christian subject” right where he wants him, because he’s brought despair into his life. The older demon “Screwtape” rebukes him, saying: “Do not be deceived Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desires, but still intends to do God’s will. He looks around at a universe from which every trace of God seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken…and still obeys.” (page 42)
That's what it's all about isn't it? Even in the darkness, trusting God to the point of childlike faith...and obedience. Trials are a major test of faith. Yet, they truly are a “test.” Are we willing to endure the pain, obey the Father, and continually cry out to Him? Or shall we give up, throw in the towel, and grant Satan a victory? The temptation to give up is overwhelming at times…but by God’s Grace, it must be resisted.
Old Testament Job knew plenty about suffering…and he knew what it was like to feel abandoned by God. "Behold, I go forward but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him; He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.” (Job 23:8-9 NASB) Sound familiar? I look to the right and left, front and back….and God is NOWHERE that I can see. But God was still there, and Job knew that. “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10 NASB)
When you think about it, the important part is not that we always know what God is up to…the important part is that God always knows what we’re up to. God is fully aware of our circumstances…regardless of whether we “feel” Him or not. Our trials are designed to test us and make us more like Christ. That’s easy to say…but HARD to live. VERY HARD. Job got discouraged. Job wanted to die. Job was confused. Job’s life was ruined. But Job knew, deep down, that God had NOT abandoned Him…and when the massive test was over, he would shine forth as gold.
I’ll close with one more example of a man feeling deserted by God. Do these words ring a bell: “My God, My God, Why Has Thou Forsaken Me!” (Mark 15:34) You think you’ve got it bad? Try getting betrayed by a friend, denied by another friend, having everyone dessert you, the police arrest you and beat you to a pulp, then sentence you to a public, naked, execution within hours of your mock trial. If that’s not enough, how about enduring the jeers and taunts of an uncontrollable mob. Then be spit up on. Then have a crown of thorns pushed onto your head. Then be nailed to a cross. Then be separated…for the only time in history….separated from the perfect fellowship you’ve always had with your Heavenly Father. Jesus wasn't "feeling" abandoned...He ACTUALLY WAS abandoned from the Father...on YOUR behalf. (Let THAT ONE sink in for a moment.) Then try having the wrath of God being poured out upon you for sins that you didn’t commit. See if you aren’t tempted to cry out: “My God, My God, Why Has Thou Forsaken Me!”
Jesus knew what was going on. He was “in” on the redemption plan from day one. But knowing God’s will doesn’t eliminate the pain and despair one feels when they’re living through God’s will. But aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t throw in the towel? He had legions of angels at His Divine disposal (Matt. 26:53)…yet he held his peace, endured the cross, so He would pay for our sins and SHINE FORTH AS GOLD! (Job 23:10) Now we, as His followers, must imitate Him. Paul said: “For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5 NASB) Comfort we crave. Sufferings we loathe. But God HASN’T abandoned us. He’s there. He’s in control. And He will make His presence abundantly clear in His perfect time.
So endure the trial, and wait for His decreed ending to it. Continue to trust in Him, and follow Him, and obey Him. Resist the overwhelming urge to quit and go home. Your eternal home will be here sooner than you realize, and the pains of today will be swallowed up in the splendor of HIS Presence. Today the trial might remain. Tomorrow it might too. But persevere and rest assured, the day is coming when YOU…just like Job, and just like Paul, and just like Jesus…YOU will pass the test, feel God’s presence, and SHINE FORTH LIKE GOLD!