Do you ever feel like God isn’t listening to you?
You pray and pray and pray . . . and NOTHING changes.
N O T H I N G.
In fact, sometimes things keep getting worse, leading us to doubt that God even cares or is listening. Why pray if He really doesn’t care or if He’s not listening?
I’ve been right there. In fact, not long ago.
When my soul is in an upheaval I head out to work in the yard, and this day was no different. For almost a year, my son’s health has declined to the point of being nonfunctional. We’ve been in and out of emergency rooms, hospitals, doctors’ offices; NO ONE can find the source, and he hasn’t gotten better (that I can see) as of today. Seizures, fevers, fatigue, insomnia, nightmares, poor oxygen flow to his brain, rashes, pain, and new psychological issues are just a few of many struggles he is enduring.
Months have passed. No change.
I’ve prayed. Our family has prayed. We’ve called on others to pray. We’ve fasted and prayed harder and longer.
In the throes of frustration and doubt, I gathered my yard tools and tuned in to a podcast to turn off the noise in my head. What do you know—the topic was prayer. I have a huge respect for the man who was talking; I’ve read a few of his books and know he’s an extremely brilliant, devout follower of Jesus. But something about his tone was different; he was softer, gentler, and vulnerable. I listened closely.
He talked about his prolonged experience with severe depression. Early on, he had prayed for relief and help and grew more depressed. Months passed; depression tightened its terribly tough tentacles around his heart and mind, and he lost all hope. His doubt was deep and dark. He wrestled with doubt and prayer . . . a lot like I have and maybe you have or are right now.
I would love to say there was some miraculous event where God blew open the heavens, parted the clouds, and zapped away his depression; but that wasn’t the case. God allowed him to wrestle, not because God is mean but because there was a purpose in his wrestling. In the dark recesses of his soul, he questioned his thoughts, examined his beliefs, met with a strong therapist, started on some helpful medication, and took life one moment at a time.
With each step and as time passed, the depression lifted. Today he’s a changed man. It didn’t happen overnight as you and I often desire. He faithfully endured, grew deeper roots in his faith, and now speaks into the lives most of us are living, while wrestling with believing God is lovingly present when we are falling apart.
I am profoundly certain that prayer and doubt is one of the enemy’s most effective, tactical weapons in the war for our souls. When we are suffering on any level, when our circumstances are too hard to endure, Scripture tells us to pray. So most of us do, expecting God to relieve us of suffering and renew our hope, which provides a perfect church testimony.
This core belief can cause such conflict as we relate to our Lord, Savior, and Heavenly Father. All strugglers (including me) need to reframe our thoughts and beliefs about God’s presence and power as we prayerfully endure painful seasons.
In addition, the enemy is doing one fine job of causing us to doubt God’s presence in our world today. If you aren’t suffering personally, there’s plenty of public doubt, uncertainty, and disbelief to consume your mind. Has doubt shut down your prayer life? Have you taken your sorrows to the Lord as often as you have talked about them to others or shared them on a social media page? That slippery slope gets steep very quickly; like a giant waterslide, it can swiftly suck you under. I know because it’s been a tough year for us . . . maybe for you as well.
I gathered my garden tools as the podcast ended. I went inside where my son was sleeping, still sick, pale, and silent. While nothing had changed with my son, God had shown up, talking to my heart through a man who understood suffering, doubt, illness, and despair.
We often believe God is listening and connected to us when our circumstances change for the better or we are relieved of suffering. Read that sentence again.
So often, our beliefs about God’s attention and care are based on our human experiences: you experience relief; you finally get some rest; there’s healing, restoration, suffering removed for good. Look at that again; “your relief,” “your rest,” “healing, suffering, and restoration removed.” Who is that about? God or . . . ?
I came in from the yard and wrote down the follow thoughts regarding doubt and how to trust that God is hearing you and me in the midst of suffering.
When we pray . . .
We’re still in the thick of things with my son. Whatever the outcome, we are continuing to pray, believe, trust, and call on Jesus as He changes us and provides strength for each moment. What are you enduring? Let’s connect on this vital soul care need.
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In When Life Isn't Fair: What They Didn't Tell Us in Sunday School, Colleen Swindoll Thompson weaves together biblical truth, practicality, and her own growth experiences as a mother of a son with special needs. She writes with raw honesty about her personal crisis of faith as well as the hardship and humor that come with learning to trust God through difficult times.