Have you ever believed God for healing and it just never came? Or maybe you believed God would work miracles in your marriage but it fell apart anyway? Have you ever prayed for finances to come through then you lost your job?
What about all those times when you think to yourself, “my faith doesn’t work.” What do you do with the doubt? With the heartache?
There are many questions and most would say there are few answers but, I am not sure that is the truth.
Let me start by saying doubt is normal and it does not mean you have lost your faith or turned your back on God. Actually, if you want to dive deep, this is the time your true faith takes root.
Theologically, we call this the “problem of evil,” which is basically our religious explanation as to why bad things happen to Christians (not just good people but those with faith in Christ).
Here’s the thing, I can give you an overcomplicated theological answer or I can give you the short version… you want the short version, right? Good.
We live in a fallen world.
Yep, that’s the short version, now here is the explanation…
Let’s take that statement which we all know to be true and build upon it. (Notice, I said a “statement we all know to be true;” if you do not think this is a fallen world, then your Biblical foundation is shaky and it will be hard to build a Christian worldview without that foundation. It’s important we all start from the same place and realize, I am starting from a Biblical foundation).
Can God keep you from getting in a car wreck? Yes.
Can God secure your job? Yes.
Can God heal your body? Yes.
God can and will do all of those things, BUT what do we do when he doesn’t?
I am glad you asked.
We have a couple of things at work here. First, the issue of free will. God will always let us make choices. If God were to intervene, he would be removing our free will, which he will not do. In other words, God will not take away your ability to make a choice and your choices do bring consequences.
So there’s that.
Second, ask yourself how far God must go if he filled your bank account with money, for example. What about your neighbor? What about everyone else who is also asking for money (which is all of us FYI)? And, if he does that, what about securing a promotion for the person across the street, does he then secure promotions for all of us? How would God decide who gets the promotion and who does not? Does everyone get promoted to the same position? Once it starts, where does it stop?
Let’s take this a step further, what if God heals you of whatever you are dealing with right now? What if the miraculous happens (and God does do that) and one day you wake up and the cancer is gone? First of all, hallelujah! But, what if, in your mind, you say, “God should just heal everyone!”? Ok, well, now we are back to the free will issue; if God takes away all that is bad in the world such as sickness, disease, death, etc. will we have free will?
Think about this one, if God removes sickness and death then we will be restored where we were during the time of Adam and Eve before the fruit was eaten. But where does that leave us? If we have no free will don’t we simply become worship robots? If everything is fixed and there are no consequences to our choices, are we not simply puppets on a string? And, isn’t that what God was trying to avoid in the first place? So, how does free will exist without consequences?
I’m asking questions simply to make you think this all the way through.
(Side Note: To answer the question of how does God pick and choose who he will heal and who he will not-I don’t have a direct answer to that and I’m pretty sure no one else does either but let me know your thoughts…)
Ok, I know it’s a lot to think about, but you have to go down the path logically when you approach an issue like the problem of evil.
Death, for example, is the result of the fall-the fall that introduced free will. The removal of death is the removal of free will and ultimately the restoration of us all, which will happen, but just not yet (read Revelation). There’s a timeline for these things, so keep in mind the Bible spans thousands of years-it wasn’t all done in a day and the story isn’t over yet.
That does not mean that God is not walking us through these processes of life, that God has left our side, or that God is not using the bad for good-He is! It just doesn’t always feel good at the time.
“Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.” Psalm 46:1-3
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7-8
In some ways you could say we are victims of free will but, that might simplify it a little too much or give us an unnecessary scapegoat.
Sometimes, it feels as though your faith is not working because of a lack of understanding, all those unanswered questions and the worst of all, “why?”.
Through the Valley
There are a ton of verses telling us God is with us and protecting us but there are also verses telling us there are things in life we will have to walk through and not go around. Remember, the Israelites walked through the Red Sea and the desert, they didn’t fly over it-they went through it…and it took 40 years by the way, it was no short trip.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
There is no shortcut to the Promised Land, the only way is through the desert, the only way is getting chased by enemies, the only way is to learn how to deal with lack and wanting, the only way is to curb all that grumbling and complaining, the only way is trust, the only way is belief, the only way is through.
And, that’s where the growth is-doesn’t that stink? We are human and we learn the hard way. It’s in those times we learn how to lean in, how to trust and believe God will meet us in the dark places and hold our hands as we walk towards the light. You could say our entire life is the valley as we are on this constant journey towards the Promised Land (Heaven) and God is with us.
Sometimes, it feels as though your faith is not working because you’re on the journey. You are in the valley and it’s cold and dark there, it feels lonely even though you are not alone.
A Real Enemy
Just so we’re all clear, there was a snake in the garden and that snake was Satan. Satan is alive and well today. In other words, we have a very real enemy. This means, sometimes, the things taking place in your life are direct attacks from the enemy who may recognize the call on your life more than you do.
While I think our denominations serve a good purpose, they can also be a breeding ground for a lopsided gospel. Certain denominations talk about this and certain denominations talk about that. Some leave out the part about the enemy altogether-they have a fairytale gospel of sorts full of unicorns and rainbows. Ok, no unicorns but you get the point.
Here’s the thing, the Bible tells us we have an enemy and therefore, that means we have one. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (ESV).”
Yeah, that guy. He’s real and he doesn’t wear a red suit and he doesn’t carry a pitchfork. He breathes hatred, contempt and resentment. He stirs the waters under the surface, he puts the thought in your head about someone other than your spouse, he leads you down a bumpy road with sweet words like honey that ultimately leads to death and you know what’s the worst part? Most of the time, you don’t even realize it.
Sometimes, your faith feels as though it’s not working because you’re in a war with the enemy and you don’t even know it ( see Eph. 6).
When Faith Doesn’t Work
Now that we’ve walked through a host of explanations I want to congratulate you for getting to the bottom of the article and now I want to ask you a question, brace yourselves…
What if the problem is not that your faith isn’t working but that it isn’t working the way you want it to work?
Yeah, what if God is leading you through the struggle because he knows the testimony on the other side. You want to go around it, you want to go over it but God wants you to go through it.
What if there is a purpose to the sickness? Not that God caused it, because he didn’t (John 10:10) but that God is going to use it? Or maybe God is working on you as you are walking someone else through sickness, through pain. What if there is more going on than you see? What if God is going to change your life journey when you come out on the other side?
Or what if ultimate healing is found in Heaven? Can we trust God when the answer to our prayers is Heaven?
What if, just what if your faith is working just fine only you aren’t the author of this thing and you can’t read the book, you don’t know how it ends nor do you know the middle. What if the problem is it just doesn’t work the way you want it to?
Can you be ok with that?
Your Faith Does Work
Don’t tell me your faith doesn’t work. It works just fine. Remember, the mustard seed (Matt. 17:20)? If you’ve got even that little bit of faith-it’s working. So, rid yourself of the fear of not having enough faith-you’ve got it.
Just have enough faith to trust the process too. Have enough faith to realize God is bigger than you and it might not all work out the way you would have planned it but it will work out and it will all be ok…one day, maybe not today but, one day it will be ok.
Just take a deep breath and realize your faith is working because God is working.
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Sarah Ann is an author, speaker and media personality committed to honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. She has a passion for empowering people who are willing to be honest and walk out life in Christ together. Sarah holds a Bachelors in Biblical Studies and a Masters in Theology and Apologetics, she also owns a clothing company, Ascent516.com and is the creator of SarahAnnSpeaks.com and the Sarah Ann Speaks Podcast. Sarah is featured daily on GEB TV.