How do I trust God when it seems He didn’t come through? Have you ever asked this question? Life is tough and unpredictable and rarely happens the way we plan so it’s likely you’ve prayed for something you didn’t receive or asked God to change something that painfully remained the same. Or you may not even know where to start.
Sometimes you walk through life like walking through a fog and you cannot see clearly or may not even know the direction to take.
After believing in faith and pleading, it seemed that silence was heaven’s response. Jesus said that we will have trouble in this imperfect world, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Too often I ignore this truth and focus only on the good God’s Word promises me. But sometimes the rumble of pain moves through us like an earthquake. And sometimes our experience seems to violently oppose the truth that we built our life upon.
Maybe it was when you were served divorce papers or when you suddenly lost your job or lost a loved one. For me, it was when my two little girls were deported to Papua New Guinea due to visa complications.
My wife and I watched helplessly as they boarded the flight to Papua New Guinea that fateful morning. Deep in our hearts, there is this aching fear, of whether we will ever have them back home with us. A hefty fine was imposed because of their visa problem.
We do not have the money to pay and that toppled our problems. Everything around me felt like it gave way to fear and hopelessness. Where is God? Why is He allowing this to happen? Can I trust Him? I have been faithfully serving God all these years, why me and my family, my children?
These were the questions scrolling through my mind like ticker tape. My wife and I fought this fear and the struggle to get our kids back home for two solid years.
We reached a point where we gave up hope. All our futile attempts were in vain. Then there is the experience I had in 2016 when my mother got sick with breast cancer.
I was at Hoda theological school in the Western Solomon Islands, as a teacher and chaplain. The same place I was serving when my kids left.
I visited mum some weeks earlier. It pains my heart, watching someone I loved smiling through the pain that I knew well is eating her up slowly and painfully. Sitting beside her sick bed one afternoon, I did my best to assure her that the God of heaven is with her.
I promised her that I will return to visit her as soon as I can. I had to leave to go back to school to begin classes. I had this faith that God will heal my mother.
However, that was not the case. The outcome was not what I anticipate. I received news some days later, that she lost her fight with cancer. I broke down in tears when I got the news that night. It seems unfair to me. I said to myself, “God, I asked you to keep her for me until I visited her again.” It turned out that he had other plans for me in mind. Plans that go against my human wishes so to speak! You see friends, God, in His wisdom, doesn’t always do what we expect Him to do.
The idea of following Him forward on an unknown path is frightening, especially when the ground beneath us gives way and the hands that hold us are the same hands that allowed it to quake. But beneath all the fear and questions in my soul was a still and quiet voice that whispered for me to trust Jesus.
The voice wasn’t demanding; it wasn’t shaming. It was tender, yet strong, and wooed my eyes to look up toward heaven amid my trembling earth. Is it possible, even with all the sermons we listen to and books we read, that we’re more equipped to believe in faith for something than we are to work through the confusion and disappointment we feel if it doesn’t happen the way we want?
What I’ve found from my own experience and in my seventeen years of ministry is that we tend to plant ourselves in our unmet expectations because we can’t understand the ways of God. You see, in my confusion, He gently spoke Isaiah 55:8-9 to my soul. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (NLT).
Too often, in hopes of finding some assurance in the uncertainty of life, we attempt to force-fit the God of the universe into tidy boxes small enough for our finite minds to comprehend. We attempt to domesticate God—to make Him tamer, more predictable, more obedient to our desires. We want Him in bite-size pieces we can chew.
But doing this strip away the very mystery and wonder that makes Him God and that bring us security and peace. He is an infinite and eternal God! What gives us confidence can also be what scares us. What keeps us in awe can also be what we want to tame. God doesn’t always play by our rules. And He has every right not to because He’s God. His words in Isaiah aren’t arrogant ones. They are words of assurance.
When we can’t understand God’s actions, we can find hope in knowing His thoughts reach far beyond an earthly focus. We can trust His heart. He sees the beginning to the end and knows our future. I’m thankful He doesn’t obey my every wish oftentimes because my vision is short-sighted.
Yet, God intricately knows the good plans He has in store for each of us and makes His decisions accordingly. He is trustworthy even when you don’t see your prayers answered or problems solved right away. Life is unpredictable and difficult at times, and that difficulty may persist for longer than you had hoped.
It may even bring you to the end of your strength. So, what do you do then? What do you do when life seems Like walking through a fog? The Bible counsels us that “Faith is the substance of things hope for and the evidence of things unseen” (Hebrews 11:1). However, living by faith in this fallen world can sometimes be like walking through a fog, where you can’t see where you’re going.
You want to believe that God is with you on your journey, but you can’t seem to find him while challenges such as sadness, shame, doubts, and confusion obscure your vision. Jesus Christ shared breakfast on a beach with his disciples after his resurrection, and the story of that morning reveals that God sometimes shows up in unexpected ways (John 21) – breaking through the fog of ordinary life with surprising insights. Studying that story can help you believe in what you can’t see.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE FOG AROUND YOU. Just as Jesus’ disciples were caught up in a fog of grief (after his death on the cross), you, too, will always be struggling with some kind of fog surrounding you because the sin in this world obscures the way God originally intended it to be. Face the reality of the fog around you and be honest with God about it. Admit the reality of your situation if you’re: struggling with sorrow about unanswered prayers, confused about something you’d like to believe but have doubts about, discouraged by shame you feel because of your mistakes, exhausted from trying to reach a goal that keeps eluding you or wanting to skip church because of the difficult people there. Once you face the fog, you can start the process of breaking through it. Face the fog by fixing your eyes on God as he has the power to aid you through the fog (Phil. 4:13).
LOOK FOR GOD IN THE FOG. Jesus was right there on the shore when the disciples looked over there from their fishing boat – but at first, they didn’t recognize him.
God has promised to be with you always (Mathew 28:20), so choose to trust his promise, even when you can’t sense the reality of his presence with you. Keep in mind that the Bible says while we’re living in this fallen world, our perception of God is like a reflection in a mirror, but when we get to heaven we’ll be able to see him face to face.
You may experience some dramatic encounters with God’s Spirit on Earth from time to time, but most often you’ll find God’s faithful presence in the ordinary moments of your life – from enjoying a walk-in nature to playing with your children or loved ones – and the more you look for God, the more you’ll start to notice him.
ACCEPT GOD’S UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR YOU. Despite their hard work fishing, the disciples hadn’t caught any fish to offer Jesus as food for the breakfast meal they shared that morning. But once Jesus helped them, they caught so many fish that their nets were straining from being full. Jesus is willing to meet you wherever you are and help you move forward from there. Don’t worry about coming to Jesus empty-handed, since he loves you unconditionally. He knows all about your weaknesses and failures yet loves you completely anyway. Accept that love by inviting him to fill the empty places in your soul with his great love.
DEVOUT YOURSELF WHOLEHEARTEDLY TO JESUS. The famous question that Jesus asked Peter during this resurrection appearance was: “Do you love me?” Jesus wanted to know how much Peter truly loved him – how committed Peter really was to making a relationship with Jesus his top priority. Jesus is asking the same of you. Show Jesus how much you love him by centering your life around your relationship with him. Once Peter devoted himself wholeheartedly to following Jesus again, Jesus reinstated him to leadership. Jesus will work through your life in powerful ways when you devote yourself to him.
LET SUFFERING STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH AND COURAGE. Jesus warned Peter that he would die as a martyr for his faith, but when that happened years later, God brought good purposes out of Peter’s suffering. Be confident that when God allows you to go through suffering (from illness to unemployment), he will redeem your ordeal by using it to accomplish good purposes when you trust him. Decide to follow Jesus as Peter did, not turning back but moving forward with confidence that God will do what’s best through your life.
FOCUS ON FOLLOWING JESUS WHEREVER HE LEADS YOU. Peter asked Jesus what would happen to another disciple, John, and Jesus essentially tells Peter that he should focus only on God’s plans for his own life rather than getting distracted by what God may do in other people’s lives. Keep your own focus on what matters most: following where Jesus leads you. When you do, fog will clear out of your life so you can see how God is doing something great through you.
Wait, trust, and remember that God loves you. You can trust Him to sustain you, provide for you and be with you even amid your hardship. Jesus guaranteed His followers that they would face hard times (John 16:33), but He promised that He would always be with them (Matthew 28:20). He will never fail you. Search for him when you think you have lost your way. Search for him when all hope is gone. Seek to know him and his will when all odds is against you. God is completely trustworthy, but He does not ask you to trust Him blindly. He wants you to learn to trust Him as you get to know Him. You can get to know God through personal time with Him and through His Word.
Spend time exploring aspects of His trustworthiness in verses of Scripture. In the book of Romans, one of the early followers of Jesus, Paul, writes to believers about the present life. He reminds them that this life will have hardship and that our bodies will fail, but God is still working for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). In times of doubt, remember His promises. Remember who He has always been. Even in doubt and uncertainty, if you keep going to Him, He will continually show Himself to be trustworthy.
Commentary By David Filo
Solomon Islands SDA Mission