Do you ever feel like God doesn’t care? Someone says, “God is good.” And you respond, “All the time!” And yet part of your heart isn’t tracking. If God really cared, wouldn’t things be better? What do you do when you feel like God doesn’t care?
Jesus and His disciples are in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. The wind and waves are about to take them out. The disciples are in a panic. Jesus stands up and with a word calms the storm. And then He has the audacity to say to them, “Why were you afraid? Why were you afraid when I was with you?” (See Mark 4:40)
Why were you afraid? We were about to be dead! Didn’t you see?!
No wonder the disciples were astonished.
You may be in the same place now. Circumstances and your own mind make it seem as though fear and worry is the only option. You pray, but your head is still afraid and anxious after you pray.
I’ve been asked by several people recently, “Why doesn’t God heal me from my anxiety?” “Is anxiety and fear something a person can ever really get past?” “Why don’t my prayers take care of my fear and anxiety?”
I understand the question. I’ve been there. Only God knows every detail of your genetics, mind, and circumstances, etc., and He deals with each person individually. But from my own personal experience and from what I read in God’s word, “giving up” is what’s NOT an option. You don’t have to succumb to a life of fear and anxiety. There are too many promises of a sound mind, too many directives to “fear not,” too many stories of people (including me – and Peter) who have truly put fear and anxiety in their rear-view mirror forever to say that you have to be stuck there.
Of course you worry when there’s no money in the bank, no food in the house, no immediate prospect of adequate income, and the only phone calls or mail you receive are creditors asking for money. God knew we would worry about material things. And His word has a lot to say about it.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs begins with the basics: food, water, shelter, clothing, and safety. Human beings cannot survive without those needs being met.
And God knows that.
I know what it’s like to worry about material thing. Some years ago I moved from one state to another. My new medical license was delayed, and for a period of six months I had no income. None. I remember what a struggle it was to go to sleep at night while worrying about bills and basic necessities – until I learned these principles.
Matthew 6 became very meaningful to me during that time. Since God knows you and I have need of these material things, we don’t have to worry about them. (Matthew 6:32) Jesus says repeatedly, “Don’t worry about it!”
Jesus is not advocating denying our need for food and shelter. But giving in to worry about it is neither useful nor godly.
Here are three things to know and three things to do when you wrestle with worry about material things.
Is it magic? Is it “mind over matter?” Does faith mean white-knuckling it with positive thoughts and affirmations? What do you do with negative realities such as ISIS, your spouse’s infidelity, or your doctor speaking the dreaded word “cancer”? Is positive thinking compatible with both reality and Christian faith?
That may seem a difficult question for some. There are preachers who teach that speaking (or even thinking) something negative will bring it to pass, and that the only Christian response is to exclusively think and speak positive things. And then there’s the positive thinking “movement,” where the message seems to be that if you visualize something good long enough and often enough it will come to pass.
Research is abundant that our thoughts and words do have enormous power.
Athletes, entrepreneurs, and others rely on positive thinking to achieve extraordinary results
The risk with these ideas is that they imply your mind can control anything. And that’s a distortion of the truth. There is truth here, but it’s not the whole truth.
The Stockdale Paradox may help put this into perspective. When faced with extraordinary challenges, it’s important to “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
Our minds are powerful, but they are not all-powerful. But here’s the truth:
There’s no way to make death and grief OK. Death is an aberration in God’s universe, and every time we meet it there is suffering. We try all kinds of things to delay it, ignore it, and pretend we can evade it, but not one of us can escape death. Death hurts – a lot.
Grief is many things; loss, loneliness, anxiety, stress, anger, depression, exhaustion, and so much more. Grief comes in waves, and each one is different than the one before. If you’ve lost someone close to you, even caring friends are unlikely to fully appreciate its deep and long-lasting impact on your mind, heart, and life.
I think the best word to describe the impact of death on those of us left behind is pain. What do you do with the pain as a widow? The death of my husband Al last year wounded me deeply. And yet I’m still standing. Some days are harder than others, but I keep going. Some have asked how I can do so. It’s more than simply knowing God, although that’s important.
Several things have been helpful in my grief journey, but there’s one thing I’ve come to know that has made the most difference. And it is this:
It’s not supposed to not hurt.
You could take out the double negative and it would still be true; this is supposed to hurt. This is not OK. And when we as Christians try to make it OK we cripple our own hearts and miss out on the empowerment God would like to gift us with.Tweet that.
For those of us going through grief it often seems that if we could just make the pain go away everything would be alright. But that’s not what God promises, at least not yet.
And it’s not even true. If the pain would magically go away, so would the memories, the love, the gift of that person in your life. That is true even if the relationship also included suffering.
Pain means we care. Pain means we loved. Pain means this is not the way God intended our lives and the world to be. Pain means our love was deep, our lives are different because of that loved one’s place in it, and their time on this earth changed us forever. Those are good things. Would we really not want to hurt at the death of someone we cared about so deeply?
It’s not supposed to not hurt.
So what do you do with the pain? How do you go on? Can you even go on?