Life can be challenging at times. God may appear silent or even absent. Praying becomes difficult. So what do you do when life doesn’t make sense?
During the past 12 months I’ve resigned from my pastorate, my aunt and my beloved Dad passed away within 5 months of each other, my little black dog came to the end of his life too and we’ve spent 10 months with no regular income. At the same time we have all been enduring the monotony of endless lockdowns and the limitations of it upon our normal daily lives.
Like so many I’ve had moments of doubt, fear and anxiety about the future. I’ve wondered what God is up to? What is His plan for our lives?
I’ve had odd days where despair, disillusionment and discouragement have stalked me.
I have experienced moments of restlessness but also long periods of indescribable peace.
Ministry opportunities have come and gone. None have seemed right.
Where are you God?
Prayer has been challenging at times. Hearing God’s voice personally – harder still.
The wilderness appears to have been our abode. None of this appears to make any sense.
Where are you in all this Father? What are you saying?
Encouragement from Paul
Yet here we are and although our lives have been nothing like as bad as the Apostle Paul experienced, his words do resonate;
“We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 MSG)
What to do when life doesn’t make sense?
Life is a journey and I’m constantly learning from God. More than anyone probably I’m aware of my own faults and imperfections.
I continue to be a work in progress. However, this is is what I’ve learned. I really hope it helps and encourages someone;
God has a plan
Jeremiah 29:11 has become an anchor during this past difficult year;
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This verse, in my opinion, has become overused and misinterpreted at times. I suspect we overemphasise the great promises of prosperity and future hopes, however the bit that I found myself focus in on was the fact that God has a plan and He knows precisely what it is.
The fact is this – the God who brought me this far isn’t about to drop me now and neither will He drop you.
He wants us to trust Him deeply and let Him lead.
God hasn’t forgotten us
In speaking of the restoration of Israel, God declares;
““Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15)
The same truth applies to you and I.
Though at times it may appear that God has withdrawn or forgotten us, this is not true. He will never leave us nor abandon us.
As Paul reminds us;
“But even if we are faithless, he will still be full of faith, for he never wavers in his faithfulness to us!” (2 Timothy 2:13)
For more on God’s faithfulness – check out this post here.
He has proven His faithfulness massively over the year. The fact that He has continued to amazingly provide for us week by week reminds me that actually – we are in His perfect will right now – hence His provision. It will be His call and His alone that leads us into whatever is next. As Paul reminds us;
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
God wants us to be generous in the midst of our lack
God is a generous Father and He expects us to be like Him. We’ve committed to supporting God’s work and being generous to others, even during a time of personal lack. Our experience during this season has repeatedly been that God has poured so much blessing into our lives in so many ways and through so many people.
“This generous God who supplies abundant seed for the farmer, which becomes bread for our meals, is even more extravagant toward you. First he supplies every need, plus more. Then he multiplies the seed as you sow it, so that the harvest of your generosity will grow. You will be abundantly enriched in every way as you give generously on every occasion, for when we take your gifts to those in need, it causes many to give thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11)
God wants us to be thankful.
Our challenges are nothing compared to what others are suffering around the world in the pandemic and particularly amongst the persecuted and suffering church. There is actually so much to be thankful for if we pause for a moment and consider our lives. It is a good practice to come before God with thanksgiving when we pray, rather than rush into bringing Him all our needs. He is a good good Father.
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
I’ve written more about thankfulness here.
God wants us to keep praying
Sometimes during the challenging seasons, when nothing appears to be happening and nothing ever seems to change, we can be tempting to stop praying.
We may well ask ourselves; “What is the point?” These are however the times to press in and keep praying.
The Bible encourages us repeatedly to be like the persistent widow and keep asking for what we need.
Now is not the time to quit praying. It is the time to trust God and believe that He will, in due course, answer.
“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” (Psalms 5:3)
I have found the Lord’s Prayer to be such a blessing during this season of waiting and particularly when I’ve struggled to know what to pray.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
Read it slowly, out loud and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into other prayers, places and thoughts as you take your time to speak out the words of the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray.
Those words will not only guide us in our prayers but they contain such power, wisdom and insight.
Struggling to pray – here are some tips on kickstarting your prayer life.
God wants us to be expectant
He is the God of whom David said “turns darkness into light” (Psalm 18:28).
We can enter a room that is completely dark and yet at the flick of the switch the darkness become light.
This reminds me that in a moment, in a flick of the switch, God can change our situation around.
It might be a phone call, a letter or email….who knows – but your life can change in a moment.
It may feel like you’ve been in the wilderness forever wondering what enough God is doing.
Well be encouraged – it can change in a moment so hang in and there and be expectant that at any moment God will step in and bring the breakthrough you need.
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”
The importance of joy and laughter
Julia and I have laughed together lots during the last year – yes lots! More than any year I can remember in fact. It’s such great therapy!
Whatever you are facing right now and however long it has been going on, can I encourage you not to allow the seriousness of your situation to remove every trace of joy from your life. The great apostle, who himself faced so much persecution and challenges said;
“Be cheerful with joyous celebration in every season of life. Let your joy overflow! And let gentleness be seen in every relationship, for our Lord is ever near. Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ. Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.” (Philippians 4:4-8)
What to do when life doesn’t make sense?
So trust God, keep going and remind yourself daily of this great promise;
“So I say to my soul, “Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be disturbed. For I know my God will break through for me.” Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again. Yes, he is my saving grace!” (Psalms 42:11)
Here’s a prayer that you could use today;
Father, my life simply doesn’t appear to make sense right now. I feel like I’m in a wilderness. My life is on hold. I’m struggling to hear your voice or discern your will. Thank you that you haven’t forgotten me. Thank you for keeping me this far. I know You have a plan. Help me to trust you deeply and allow You, in Your perfect timing to reveal it and when you do, help me to recognise that this is the door that You are opening.
Help me to not keep going over old ground (leaving the past in the past) but rather to look forward expectantly, through thankful and joy filled eyes. And Father, as I delight myself in You and the things that are important to you during this season, I pray that you will grant me the desires and secret petitions of my heart.
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