Once upon a time, I prayed, “I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t know what to do or if I can continue. Please help.”
- What would God’s answer look like?
- What exactly am I asking for him to do?
- Does God ever give me “more than I can handle”?
Reader, number 3 is a trick question, and the reason I am writing today.
God’s Heart is Kind and Not Indifferent
Saying “Of course God gives us more than we can handle” is often a reaction to someone who says “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.” We might have good intentions to fix imprecision, but end up replacing words with something more calloused and no more precise. In fact, both statements are incomplete. Both can be given glibly in the midst of great suffering. Instead, for clarity and love, let’s go back to more fundamental truths of God’s nature before we say something we might regret!
Whenever I have prayed for help, I’ve found that God always provides it. I’ve grown pretty confident in his safety net. “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). I still need this reassurance, though. Sometimes God does intervene speedily, and my situation improves. Sometimes he doesn’t. I may not know how God will respond to my cry, but I still find great comfort knowing that God’s very nature cares about my physical needs: “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17) I don’t have to minimize my trouble, or my friends’ troubles when I come to him with my burden. His love encompasses my needs.
Knowing God’s nature has been crucial, whether I’m asking God to intervene when my dad needed a lung transplant, or didn’t know what to do when my marriage needed help, or when my children had needs that were beyond my ability to fix. Asaph wrote a poem about God’s nature that has a line I love: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). I love this one. No matter whether we seek to encourage ourselves or people we love who are suffering, we should remember God’s heart delights to hear from us when we are troubled. He doesn’t accuse us of only coming to him with problems; those problems remind us of how much we need him at all times.
So then, if it is in God’s nature to care for us when we are in trouble, what should we do when we call upon God in the day of trouble, and nothing seems to happen? Does God limit his help to extreme needs, and is his silence subtly telling me to stop coming to him with problems that are mere wants? Is this verse untrue? or merely true in the spiritual sense? Behind all my nervous questions, is the reality that sometimes, very bad things happen in spite of a person’s prayer. Is God trustworthy at all? I have come to believe that we need to hold tight to the anchor of God’s goodness, think carefully before drawing conclusions, and broaden our understanding of God’s deliverance and wisdom.
When I don’t see an answer to my plea, I realize that I’m missing something. Because God’s nature is constant, the only other conclusion I have is that my perceptions need an adjustment. I remind myself God promises that he will never leave me; he is not indifferent or busy with other responsibilities. Just like a parent allows his infant child to struggle and fall while learning to walk, our heavenly Father is near while we learn to walk by faith. He will never leave us or forsake us, and this truth shapes our expectation as we pray and move forward.
In Part 2, we talk about what wisdom looks like when I’ve prayed for help, don’t know what to do next, but have to move forward anyway!
Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and of good courage;
do not be afraid, nor be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
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