What To Do When It Feels Like God Isn’t Listening
In the past, I dabbled with the thought that God was ignoring me. I knew this was false, yet I use to agonize during God’s silent seasons with me. For example, he seemed quiet on the matter of me finding a teaching job for many years, although he faithfully opened other career doors of opportunity for me. When fraudulent behavior and unethical corporate practices decimated my husband’s business like a tsunami, some days, I only heard the roar of the waves.
When you are a leader, these types of experiences are unsettling since people under you often expect you to be a God-hearing vision caster 24/7. Parents can feel the pressure from children, spouses from their mates and so on. Every true God-follower will experience deserts and dry seasons in their faith and just as Satan pounced on Jesus in the wilderness, he waits to attack us in the same places. Starting with Adam and Eve, our enemy tries to trick humans into doubting God’s character, particularly his love and power.
I remember praying faithfully and fervently for a couple’s broken marriage relationship that still ended in a bitter divorce. I know God does not override our free will to choose sin, which is what one partner did. Although I hurt deeply for this couple, I also struggled that through the whole, agonizing process, I couldn’t seem to see God’s hand moving in their situation. By faith, I know he is always active on behalf of his children but at that time, I felt like my prayers hit a wall and then slid back down.
Nowadays, I’ve learned to trust God’s heart when I can’t see his activity, and it seems like evil is winning. It’s a faith stretcher. I’ve met many Christians who experience that struggle of feeling like they are faithfully conversing with God, but he isn’t talking back. These are not new, 21st century feelings. The ancient prophet Habakkuk cried out to God with similar emotions.
“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore, the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:1-4).
God answers the prophet and reveals his plans for judgement on the wicked. Instead of finding comfort in that, Habakkuk is in despair. He rails on God some more concerning the activities of evil. I remember times when I landed in similar valleys where I struggled to believe the truth of God’s word because it seemed so far removed from present, painful circumstances.
God doesn’t scold Habakkuk in his brokenness and despair. Instead, he says, “Okay, I’m going to share more of my plan with you and I want you to write it down and then see that the message is spread around your country.” In the next post, we’ll dive more deeply into what God said and Habakkuk’s change of heart. For now, may I share a couple ideas on what to do when you find yourself feeling disconnected from God, in a valley of doubt and discouragement?
- Feed your spirit man rich food. The old saying is true; whatever you feed grows and whatever you starve dies. Even though devotions and Bible study might feel like a chore, don’t forsake them; they will strengthen the best part of you and help take your emotions out of the driver’s seat. Storing up God’s word in your heart and mind gives the Holy Spirit the materials he needs to help you climb up out of your valley.
- Read Stories of Other’s Successful Journeys through the valleys of despair.
There are hundreds of books and websites available where brothers and sisters in Christ share their narratives on overcoming debilitating circumstances. I’ll list a few below. Also, there’s a great website I worked with for awhile entitled, “Why Is This Happening?” (whyisthishappening.org) Great stories from overcomers are available on the site.
- Spend your prayer time on others needs more than your own.
My prayer times used to become myopic during valley times, until I learned the discipline of casting my cares on God and then moving on to intercede for someone else’s situation. God wants to know that we trust him with our stuff. Jesus set the perfect example of caring more for the tragedies of others rather than his own, many times. Dying on the cross, he spoke to John about caring for his mother, Mary, and also taught salvation to the lost soul crucified next to him.
- Continue in the last clear direction God gave you until he gives you a new one. My former pastor, M. Wayne Benson used to say, “If you’re not hearing from God right now, then keep doing the last thing he told you to do.” Don’t equate God’s temporary silence towards you, with indifference. Whatever Satan may be screaming at you, remember, as the Newsboys song says, “The cross has the final word.”
One of the beautiful things about seasons is that they change. You may think that impossible right now, during your winter, but spring will come to your life again.
“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3 ESV).
“You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Turbulent Times,” by Max Lucado.
“It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way,” Lisa Ter Keurst
I love this sentence, friend: “I’ve learned to trust God’s heart when I can’t see his activity.” This is so hard to do, but so important. And I really appreciated the advice of your former pastor to simply keep doing the last thing you knew God told you to do. So wise.
Thanks Deb. I wish I’d learned this lesson at a much younger age.