To speak simply, God has seemed distant lately.
Life has seemed stagnant and silent. I’ve felt alone in my struggles, that if God was hearing me He didn’t care. Here I am, still dealing with the same issues I’ve had for months, and nothing is changing.
Every day I’ve brought my desires, hurts, and hopes before God and asked Him to work His will in my life. Yet it seems that no matter how many times I ask God for clarity or help, nothing seems to change. I’m still confused, exhausted, and waiting for movement in my life.
I haven’t found myself in the midst of a storm, with life crashing around me; I’ve found myself in the center of a desert, with nothing particularly negative happening, but certainly nothing positive happening, and definitely no clear movement from God, at least as far as I can tell.
It’s so easy for me, at a point when I feel like God is silent and maybe even doesn’t care for me, to let my spirit give up. Naturally, I want to shrink back from life and into negativity, or depression, or bad habits.
Yet I know that God’s silence is not absence. I know when I feel that God is not moving or He doesn’t care about me, this is not reality. I know when I think God is holding out something I need, the Bible says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1, NIV).
A shepherd knows exactly where his sheep are and what they need to survive and grow. When the Psalm says the Lord is my shepherd, it means that God is taking care of me and providing me with all I might need. While I know in my mind this is true, why does it feel in my heart this is wrong? Why does it seem that God isn’t providing what I need?
I was recently struck by the story of the lame beggar in Acts 3. A story I’ve read many times, it took on a new life as God showed me a new perspective.
This man, “lame from birth,” has had to rely on people his entire life just to survive. Especially in the time this man lived, those who were lame found it almost impossible to get work. This lame beggar has never been able to work, has always been a social outsider, and has always been less than poor.
Here he is at the gate, begging for physical provision so he might survive, to gain the things he can’t get for himself because of his handicap, when Peter and John, broke ministry boys, walk by. When the beggar asks for money, Peter replies, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6, NIV).
And the man walks! A man, lame from birth, now walks. What a miracle!
Yet I can’t help but think about his stomach at this point. Yes, he can walk, but he was begging money for food, and he hasn’t yet received that.
I can imagine this man, overjoyed, walking around normally for the first time, also combatting an immense hunger that has not yet been spoken to. He praises the Lord for his healing but I can’t help but wonder, what about the provision he asked for?
He asked for physical provision. Healing wasn’t even on his mind, or if it was, he wasn’t asking for it. Yet God left his plea for provision unanswered and spoke to the deeper issue. Remember that the man is most likely poor because of his lameness, which causes his inability to work. God knows this. The story doesn’t follow this man after the healing, but we can assume that if he is no longer lame, his chances for work have sky rocketed. This means the beggar, having relied on people his whole life, should be able to support himself now.
Instead of supplying the immediate need, God saw farther into the root of the issue and brought healing which could change not just the moment, but the rest of this man’s life. He spoke to the crutch this man has grown to live with, and He moved in that. He left his request unanswered to perform a greater work.
That’s how God works. Over and over we see Jesus provide in ways that were far different than what people asked for. Far different but far better.
Maybe what feels like God’s silence is really just walking through the work of God’s provision. This man wasn’t given an immediate solution, he was given a solution which would allow him to work for what he needed.
As I sit waiting for God to move in my circumstances, I begin to understand that He is choosing instead to work in me so that I might work in my own circumstances.
How many times have I asked for provision, seemed to meet silence, and gotten frustrated? The reality is, God doesn’t always speak directly to what we ask for because He sees far more than we do. Often, He lets our pleas go “unanswered” because He is working in deeper matters we can’t even think of to bring the greater change and blessing.
So we can choose. We can choose to remain in frustration that God is not answering our cries, or we can choose to rest in peace because we know He always gives us exactly what we need most, even when we can’t see it, or when it hurts at first.
We can choose to remember that though the man left his healing still broke and hungry, instead of changing a moment, God changed his entire life. Today I thank God for caring for me in that way.