Dealing With Troubles When God Seems Far Away
Sometimes we go through severe trouble, and God seems far away. Our prayers seem to be ignored while our problems get worse. We want to trust God, but we are faced with the reality of remaining in the situation. Where is God, we wonder. “Why is it taking Him so long to come to my rescue,” we ask. What should we do when God seems to be indifferent to our troubles?
This lesson deals with those questions and provides answers from the lessons learned from Psalms 10 through 14 and chapter 37. Read Psalms 10-14 and chapter 37 to prepare for this lesson.
God Seems Far Away When I’m In Trouble
Psalm 10:1–2 (NKJV) — Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.
The psalmist depicts God as being indifferent to the plight of the poor. The wicked persecute the poor, and God appears to be absent from the situation. The psalmist wants the wicked to be caught in the same traps that they have set for the poor.
Have you ever been in a situation where God seemed to be absent as if on vacation or sleeping? What do you think that means? How do you pray to God when he appears to be somewhere else?
The Case Against The Wicked
The psalmist presents a case against the wicked in verses 3 – 11.
- The wicked boast of their heart’s desires
- The wicked curse and renounce the Lord
- The prideful wicked say that God will not judge them
- The wicked think that there is no God (because they do not suffer any consequences for persecuting the poor)
- The wicked seem always to prosper
- The wicked believe they will not experience adversity for their actions
- They are full of cursing, deceit, and oppression (of the poor). They are about mischief and sin.
- The wicked prey on the poor
- The wicked believe that God is not concerned with the poor and therefore does nothing about their oppression. It’s as if God has forgotten them, so they run wild oppressing the poor.
The summary of these verses could be that the wicked find many ways to oppress the poor and suffer no consequences. It is as if God is not concerned about the poor. This summary reminds me of Psalm 37.
Psalm 37:1–2 (NRSV) — Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb.
Have you ever felt as though the wicked or ungodly seem to get away with their evil deeds? You may think that you try your best to do what’s right, but the wicked are rewarded. Life doesn’t seem to be fair when you attempt to live a godly life. Where is God? Why does he allow the wicked to prosper and the poor to suffer?
Do Something, God!
Psalm 10:12–13 (NRSV) — Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed. Why do the wicked renounce God, and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?
Here we have a call to God to take action against the wicked. The psalmist calls on God to remember the afflicted as if God had forgotten them, which the wicked said about Him. The wicked believe that God would not judge them for oppressing the poor.
Question: Have you been troubled by someone or a group of people for a long time and wondered why God hadn’t moved on your behalf?
Sometimes it may feel like God is indeed indifferent to our troubles because the lousy situation persists. We keep waiting for God to do something, but nothing changes. How should we handle that?
Psalm 10:14 (NRSV) — But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan.
Psalm 12:5 (NRSV) — “Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the Lord; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.”
God will rise up. He may seem far away, but He hears and sees our plight, and He will rise and act on our behalf.
Question: What do you do when it appears as if God isn’t doing anything about your troubles?
The answer is to trust him anyway. The psalmist points out that God does see the plight of the poor, and he will act on their behalf.
I think it is important to note the statement, “the helpless commit themselves to you.” It is evident from this and similar passages in the Bible that God’s protection is not necessarily automatic. It requires trust, and you place yourself under his protection (we’ll discuss this in detail when we get to Psalm 91 in a future lesson).
It is vital to your ability to rely on God that you realize He will not abandon you regardless of how the situation looks.
In verses 15 and 16, the psalmist calls on the Lord to eliminate the wicked.
Psalm 10:17–18 (NRSV) — O Lord, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.
God will hear those who are in trouble. He will not forget about them even though deliverance may seem to take a long time.
Take Refuge in the Lord
Psalm 11:1–2 (NRSV) — In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me, “Flee like a bird to the mountains; for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string, to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
Psalm 12:7 (NRSV) — You, O Lord, will protect us; you will guard us from this generation forever.
Make the Lord your place of safety regardless of what you are going through or what the outcome looks like. Trust God to deliver you and care for you. The wicked will be judged. It may appear as if they are getting away with their ungodly ways, but eventually, they will be judged.
Let’s take a closer look at Psalm 11:1. “How can you say to me, ‘flee like a bird to the mountains…'”
You may face unexpected obstacles from unexpected people when you decide to trust God. There will be others who do not share your confidence in the Lord and may attempt to talk you out of it by suggesting an alternative course of action. They may then cause doubt to germinate in your heart and talk you out of faith if you allow it.
Question: How do you know that your faith is sure? How do you know you genuinely trust God and not be presumptuous, neglectful, or in denial?
You must develop a personal and intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ so that you can have confidence that you are indeed trusting God at His word. If your trust in God is founded on mere scripture memorizations, accepted religious teachings, etc., you are vulnerable to doubt, which leads to unbelief. That is critical because it is through faith that we receive from God.
It seems that a vital component of receiving from God is trust and belief. Therefore, we must learn to trust God for protection, deliverance, provision, healing, etc. That means that we have to practice the word of God that we know.
Did You Forget Me, God?
Psalm 13:1–2 (NRSV) — How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Sometimes we wonder what is taking God so long to do something about the trouble we go through. We wonder how long before we are delivered, vindicated, or healed.
Psalm 13:5–6 (NRSV) — But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Notice how the psalmist says, “But I trusted in your steadfast love.” This implies that God acted for past troubles. This, in my opinion, highlights the importance of gaining experience trusting God, which means we need to put our faith in Him one situation after another.
Also, note that the trust was in God’s steadfast love, not merit. Therefore, trust that God will save you because He loves you, not because you followed a set of rules or did a series of good deeds to earn his salvation. Trusting God to take care of you because he loves you makes it easier to believe because your faith is not in your actions.
Psalm 14:1–2 (NRSV) — Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on humankind to see if there are any who are wise, who seek after God.
Psalm 53:1 (NRSV) — Fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they commit abominable acts; there is no one who does good.
Fool: One who lacks wisdom, lacking in judgment or prudence. In the context of the Bible, a fool lives as if the will of God were of no consequence, as we saw earlier.
God knows the way of the righteous and the unrighteous. The unrighteous may think they are getting away with their ungodliness, but God sees them and will judge them. Therefore, do not give up on God when your troubles are prolonged.
Human life is full of challenges. Sometimes we face seemingly insurmountable problems, and God seems to ignore our cries to Him. You might ask yourself, “Why is God indifferent to my situation? Why won’t he help me? Where is He?”
However, we learn from the Psalms that we can still trust God to deliver us even though we sometimes question things. We don’t understand why things happen, but we know that God is trustworthy and will help us.
We must place our trust in God because, ultimately, that is where our help will come from. Things may not happen the way we want or expect, but God is our help. When we are sick, turn to God. When we are in financial hardships, turn to God. Trust God no matter how things look.
Our society is full of people who oppress others for their personal gain. Typically the oppressed are the poor, whether poor in spirit, education, intellect, etc. Humans always find ways to oppress each other. The problem for Christians is that it sometimes appears that God isn’t doing anything about the oppressors.
We may then be tempted to become angry with God for allowing the ungodly to flourish while the righteous suffer so much. However, we must continue to trust God. The ungodly will not prosper forever. They will fade away like scorched grass.
What Does Trusting God Look Like?
People say to trust God. The psalmist said that he made God his refuge (Ps 11:1), and he trusted God. What does that mean? What does trusting God look like in real life? I’ve asked myself that question for many years.
Trusting God takes place first in the heart, not in your actions. Therefore, trusting God is a mindset that you have that fuels the things you do. For example. You can trust God to heal you when you are sick. However, that doesn’t mean that you do not go to the doctor (unless perhaps you have a personal conviction against doing so). Trusting God takes the form of whatever is in your heart. It is motivated by the confidence that you have in God.
However, time is an eroder of trust or faith. The longer the situation lasts, the more we tend to doubt and think that God isn’t helping us. Time can produce doubt, and doubt destroys our confidence or faith.
Proverbs 13:12 (NRSV) — Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
The longer we are in trouble, the more our heart sickens. There are ways to counter the effect of time through regular encouragement from yourself or others. People around you can help you endure the trouble until victory comes from the Lord. Unfortunately, the people around you often do not contribute to the continuation of your faith but instead provide more ways for you to doubt.
God is Always With You
Therefore, I believe it is necessary always to remind yourself that God is with you, He loves you, and that you can trust Him regardless of the intensity or duration of the situation. God has not abandoned you. God has not gone on vacation, leaving you to fend for yourself. You may suffer pain, but God is still with you.
Throughout the Psalms, and even the whole Bible, you will notice that even the men and women of God suffered significant troubles. The Bible doesn’t reveal that we won’t have problems but that God would be with us, deliver, and love us. Even in the worst of circumstances, hold on to believing that God loves you and will deliver you. If the financial advisor says you will be broke, turn to God, knowing He will provide for you. If the doctor says there is no hope, turn to God, knowing that your hope is in God’s power, not medical science. Never give up on believing in God’s steadfast love and provision for your life.
The critical component to trusting God is relationship. Genuine trust in God cannot come from religious dogma, what the pastor said, or the hype you get at religious conventions and the like. Real confidence comes from a relationship. We learn to trust others because we have experienced their trustworthiness. Therefore, if you want to trust God no matter what, you must build an intimate and personal relationship with Him.
God will never leave you or forsake you. He is always with you wherever you are and whatever situation you find yourself in. Things may look grim and even hopeless, but God is with you. Count on that. You may be taking your last breath or suddenly become energized. God is with you.
Never give up on God because He will never give up on you.
Trust God even when problems persist, and things may look dire. He hears your cries, and He will do something. He loves you and will deliver you, so wait on Him. Don’t give up on trusting God.
Take comfort in the fact that evil people will not get away with their evil deeds, so don’t get angry about their prosperity. Know that God is always with you regardless of the situation.
It may seem like God is indifferent to your situation or that He is very far away. However, the opposite is true. He cares, and He is near to help you. Continue to trust Him and rely on Him to deliver you.