Last week was Spring Break for Ohio State students. I was really looking forward to spending time in the Word and connecting with God over some good Tennessee coffee.
I think it’s funny how we make plans because I know God is looking down at us chuckling a little. His perfect plans for us are to prosper us, but often times we have no idea what’s in store.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11-14a NIV)
When God graciously gives us good things and wonderful plans, we will be drawn back to Him. We will seek Him and find Him, and He will listen to us.
But the issue is, what if we keep praying and nothing happens? What if we seek God and we don’t hear from Him? Then what?
This is something I struggled with immensely during my trip to Gatlinburg. I was looking forward to connecting with The Lord, but in all honesty, I did not.
It was disappointing and a little heartbreaking. I knew I needed to spend more time in the Word, but I didn’t get to do that. Even though we were given plenty of time to read, I didn’t take advantage of it as much as I should have, which I think prevented me from hearing from Him. It was cold, wet, and sometimes even snowy, which added a whole other element to our comfort during the week.
I think this sadness and letting-down of my expectations took ahold of me and sank deep into my soul. I was expecting to hear from God, but I never prayed about it before the trip. I was expecting to read more, but I didn’t prepare my heart for learning. I was expecting to stay focused, but I never considered the possibility of being distracted.
In all things, I felt defeated and alone. I didn’t get to develop relationships the way I wanted, and by the end of the trip I couldn’t tell you half of the attendees’ names. Normally by the end I feel so close to everyone that I could tell you at least one interesting fact about each and every one of them. But not on this trip.
Maybe it was the lack of structure, the amount of free time we had, or the absence of activities and discussions, but for some odd reason God just didn’t show up for me.
However, I was thrilled to see God move in the lives of those around me and to manifest Himself in ways they hadn’t expected. He spoke through His Word and the story of King David resonated with many individuals. I honestly couldn’t be happier.
But back to my original question: what do we do if we continually ask, pray, and seek God, but nothing happens? What do we do when God feels distant?
If there was one thing that stuck out to me, it was how open David was with the Lord. He cried out constantly when he was in distress, was authentic in his prayers, and didn’t hide any of his emotions. He laid it all out on the table. He questioned why things were happening in his life and sought God’s reasoning and wisdom.
Although he didn’t always stay humble, committed some pretty nasty sins, and was far from perfect, one of his letters to the Lord was shockingly blunt and something I would love to model in my own life.
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13 NIV)
Read those last words again: I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.
How beautiful is that truth? Even in the midst of David being hunted to be killed, he still sang to the Lord because he knew that God was always good to him. He knew that God was always with him, no matter what he was going through.
I think it can be really hard for me to remember that when life takes a turn for the worst.
When I was a junior at OSU, someone hacked into my Facebook account and posted about a final exam solution set. Students who saw the post immediately took screenshots and turned it in to the academic misconduct office without consulting me or questioning why I did such a thing. The post received multiple derogatory and demeaning comments, and this was just the start.
The next eight months were filled with accusations, little help from student advocacy organizations on campus, the denial of legal counseling, and contradictory statements from the COAM office. I was completely lost and was discouraged to the point of a mental breakdown.
There were nights I cried myself to sleep in the fear that I would be kicked out of the university or would be unable to continue education after graduation. There was the fear I would be suspended and would be forced to graduate late. And through all of that, I constantly questioned God and wondered what in the world was going on.
However, through all of this I kept one thing in the forefront of my mind: there must have been a reason for my season of trials. I prayed and cried out to the Lord to take away everything and to deliver me, but nothing seemed to happen. For a long time, I didn’t hear much at all.
Slowly but surely, God began to reveal verses in my life that hit me to the core. He reminded me that I shouldn’t rely on my own understanding but on His strength alone (Proverbs 3:5), that my emotions should not dictate how I live my life (Jeremiah 17:9), and I should be serving Him not man (Galatians 1:10).
I knew that God would protect me because He promises to do so throughout scripture. While we cannot be strong all of the time because we are imperfect, God calls us to hold tight to what is real, true, and constant: Him and Him alone.
So if you’re struggling today with any of this, I encourage you. Never give up, because He never gives up on you. Hold tight to the promise, and you WILL see it come into fruition. Do not be discouraged. Do not fear or be dismayed (Deuteronomy 31:8).
“…and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15 NIV)
“I will save you from the hands of the wicked and deliver you from the grasp of the cruel.” (Jeremiah 15:21 NIV)
“I have heard your prayer and seen your tears…and I will deliver you.” (Isaiah 38:5-6 NIV)
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)