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Feeling desperate and alone

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Question:   I have been doing what I thought was going to heal a horrible plague I have and it is getting worse. The Lord will not answer my prayers of desperation. I feel alone with no one to help me. What do I do? Life is terrible and my future bleak.

Response:  I cannot really know the intensity of your suffering or the depths of your frustration and despair. It is an easy thing for many people to tell other people who are "under the gun" to "have faith" and to "count it all joy" and the like, but each one of has to bear our own burden, and none of us can really know just how difficult or heavy the burden of another person is (Prov.14:10). We can only operate off of two things: 1) personal experience, and 2) scripture. The former is, while often useful, necessarily a spotty guide to such matters, because there is no way, no matter how long and varied a life and Christian experience we have had, that we can truly say we have "seen it all". Scripture is the only sure guide to these matters, but it has to be understood correctly, and it has to be applied with complete faith.

Judging from my own experience (to start with the less sure of the canons), we human beings invariably start to "crack" before we reach the true breaking point. This is true for many reasons, chief among which is that as possessors of a sin nature, only long training in a secular discipline or habit of enduring a certain type of pressure can, apart from spiritual strength, lead to perseverance beyond what scripture calls "the point of blood" (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). And even when a person has such natural or developed "sand", what may be good at withstanding one sort of pressure, may not hold up under other sorts of pounding (e.g., one may have a seemingly super-human ability to withstand pain, and yet fold rather easily under emotional stress and strain, or vice-versa).

This brings us back to the reality that only spiritual solutions are sure, and that is especially so when one takes into account that Christians are tried and tested and come in for opposition from the unseen enemy like no other group of people on earth. In searching for spiritual solutions to our troubles, especially when our problems seem to be overwhelming us, it is therefore important that we start with what we know, and hang on for dear life in faith.

        We know that God will not allow us to fall into any trial we cannot in fact handle (1Cor.10:13).

        We know that He has promised us comfort in our trials sufficient to bring us through (2Cor.1:3-7).

        We know that He has promised us deliverance and the provision of everything we need (Ps.91; Matt.6:25-34; Heb.13:5-6).

Under the most severe tests, we may despair of life as Paul did (2Cor.1:8), but even such excruciating trials as this have a point - to teach us that our sufficiency is in God, not ourselves (2Cor.1:9), to show us that God's grace is sufficient for every trial (2Cor.12:8-10), and to remind us that while we may be bloodied, as long as we keep faith with the One who bought us, we will never be broken (2Cor.4:7-12). There comes a point in the life of every Christian who is truly advancing up the high road to Zion in the way our Lord has commanded us to do that we will be shown and led to understand our complete powerlessness in this life and in this world so that we may likewise come to hate this world and our life in it (Lk.14:26-27; Phil.1:21; Jas.4:4-6; 1Jn.2:15-17).

Given the pressures and the pains and the difficulties of life, it is the rare Christian who has never been tempted to pray to the Lord to take him or her "home". Though I am certainly not comparing my problems and health issues with yours, there have been times when, were it not for my desire to fulfill this ministry, that I would probably have prayed such a prayer. But we do not know, none of us do, the precise details of the how and why and when of our service or our release from service on this earth. All we can do is what we should do, namely, to persevere in spite of all difficulty and opposition until the our Lord blows the final trumpet for us. In Paul's case (and in the cases of many great believers in scripture and outside of scripture), the Lord has often brought to the point of complete despair for the very reason of showing His own sufficiency, bringing the believer in question to the point of fully appreciating and internalizing that fact in faith, and glorifying Himself through the faithfulness of the believer in question in spite of, nay, because of the severity of the pressure.

I can only say, based on our correspondence, that you certainly seem to be a person who has been actively and properly seeking the Lord, His will and His truth. That is something of which you should not only be proud, but clear in your own mind and heart that it has been by far the right thing to do, and a thing which pays eternal rewards and dividends that transcend any good or positive result you could ever have on this earth. I want to assure you as well that since you have obviously taken significant and varied earthly measures to deal with your medical problems, you can rest in the fact that you have carried out your responsibility to take advantage of the temporal means that God provides. What I mean by this is with our vast medical establishment today it is very easy, from what I have seen and experienced, for a believer to get the impression that somehow he or she has "dropped the ball" because things do not improve or even get worse. But God is capable of healing us without medicine or doctors - I do indeed believe that He intends for us to take advantage of the resources available - but in all this our hope and faith has to be in Him. If we have reasonably done what we can do, we have the right to rest in faith and leave the matter in the Lord's hands from that point forward.

I am very concerned for you and, believe me, had I the power to alleviate your suffering I would do so. But there is a good reason why we don't have such power - we don't know why God has done what He has done, or when He has determined to change the situation. There a couple of things you say here, however, that I disagree with, and I hope and pray that when I find myself in a similar situation someone will remind me of these words.

You are not alone. God is with you. He is, in fact, in you. His Spirit is the pledge of your resurrection and resides in you, and Jesus promised that He and His Father would also take up residence in all those who love Jesus and obey His teaching (Jn.14:23). God knows everything. Everything that happens in this world was decreed by Him before the world was founded. Not even a hair can drop from your head without His consent, and without His will, and without His continuing effort, neither that hair, nor you and I, nor this universe itself would continue to exist (Heb.1:3). Nothing is impossible for God, and God loved you personally so much that sent His only Son to die for you on the cross, to suffer the blows for ever sin you ever committed or ever will (and for those of the whole world as well). How could He, how would He not also then provide you with everything you need, working everything out for your ultimate and absolute good (Rom.8:28), especially now that you are His very own child through faith in Jesus Christ? He is right here, right now, and He loves you, for you are His son too in Jesus Christ.

I understand that you are in pain, that you are looking at a progression that invites you to project a terrible result, and that you are frustrated by the fact that God has not answered your prayers yet - in the manner in which you would have them answered. But He has heard your prayers. Everything you know about Him tells you that this is so. And He does have your best interests at heart - you know the God with whom we have to do, and you know very well His grace, His mercy, and the love of His Son our Lord. Faith is the reality of things not seen (Heb.11:1), or, put another way, we understand by believing God and His word what the true reality is, and we who have faith opt to focus on that true unseen reality instead of what our eyes tell us, instead of what our friends and family tell us, instead of what our pain, our fear, and our frustration tell us - instead of what the whole world is apt to tell us. For we know this world and what it really is, and we have no love for it. We have been crucified to it and it to us through our faith in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Gal.6:14), and we expect no ultimate quarter from it.

I understand that your life seems terrible - from one point of view, the point of view of your insoluble problem. However, there are many who are in no pain and are living "wonderful" lives of abundance in every way who do not know Jesus Christ - but you do. And there are many believers who have never taken the opportunity in this life to get to know Him well, much less minister to Him in their own unique way - but you have, like the way you have ministered to me and spurred my ministry in many ways. This life can be terrible for the world is a terrible place, except that in Christ it has become wonderful for all Christians when we truly do recognize it for the opportunity it presents and exploit that opportunity to the full. For all the trials, and struggles, and pain, and deprivation, and loss, and tears, and frustration are only "momentary light affliction" and are working out for us "an eternal weight of glory" no matter how we find ourselves wasting away (2Cor.4:16-17). The troubles we endure are truly not worthy to be compared to the glories to come, to the eternal rewards which we know for a fact will outshine the temporary pleasures and well-being of this life to a degree unimaginable - if only we don't lose heart.

I want you to get well. I want you to be healed. I want this trial to come to an end for you in a glorious and wonderful way. To this end I will continue to pray. But don't lose the opportunity to grow, to witness, and to minister. What we think in our hearts inevitably comes out in our words and our deeds, and we are under constant observation, by believers, by unbelievers, and by the angels, elect and fallen. In my experience, observation, and reading of scripture, the times when we have the opportunity to minister in the most effective and impressive manner are inevitably the very times when we fell unable to do so at all because of the seeming impossibility of the test or trouble at hand. But our God is a God of the impossible, and deliberately so. It was impossible for fallen man to be saved, and yet He has accomplished our salvation at the most incredible cost, the death of His own dear Son. So there is no question that He can help you too; the question is why He is delaying that help, and I think by this point in my message you can discern my thinking here.

You have been an inspiration to many people in many ways. I know that your path has not been easy and that your present circumstances seem impossible - as if this Red Sea will never part. I cannot say that I would hold up under your circumstances as well as you already have, espeicaly while continuing to make seeking the Lord and His truth a priority as you do. I would hope so, but I would not dare to say so before the fact. So the request I have for you is perhaps not a fair one, because the burden is yours not mine, and because I cannot say that I would do so (though such is my hope). Don't be like the Israelites who were sure that they would be destroyed when they saw the Egyptians bearing down from behind and the Sea shutting them off in front. Even though your situation is likewise definitely impossible by earthly lights, be instead like Moses who told them to "stand fast - and watch the Lord's deliverance". Moses knew through the knowledge of faith that God would deliver - and was willing to wait for that deliverance and to accept it whatever form it would take. He believed in the Lord's ability to deliver, and was willing to wait past the point when everyone else had abandoned hope because the situation seemed so impossible - and he turned out to be right. To me, this is what faith means. We don't see it, but yet we believe it. We may have some definite solution in mind, but we know that our God is wise beyond imagining, and are willing to accept His will and His solutions in spite of all our preconceived notions. We feel the heat and the pressure, but comport ourselves like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - confident of the Lord's ability to deliver, but ready, willing and able to endure a fiery death in the cause of our Lord if only we might be blessed to glorify Him in that way (and of course they were vindicated and delivered too, in spite of the impossibility of it).

So that whatever we do, in life or death, in sickness or in health, in pleasure or in pain, in security or in instability, we do with a joyous, peaceful, confident faith in Him, in who He is, in His good intentions for us, and in His grace towards us, seeking to let His will be done for us and to us, knowing that in this way whatever should happen will be for our ultimate good (Rom.8:28). This is a faith that when brought to completion and fulfillment does indeed glorify Him, refute the evil one, and lead many who witness it to salvation and spiritual growth to the glory and good pleasure of our dear Savior who paid the ultimate price for us (1Pet.1:6-9).

The world tells us we're alone, but we know that we have Him at our right hand, and we must be careful to keep Him always before us. The world says there is no help, but we know that He is our Helper, our shield and our strength, and that He will be our deliverance. The world tells us that we have no prospects, no future, but we have trusted in Jesus Christ for resurrection, and we have followed Him faithfully so that we are sure of and assured of great reward in His Kingdom to come. The world says our lot is terrible - and indeed if in this life only we have trusted, then we are to be pitied above all men - but we have a hope that grounds us like an anchor reaching into the very throne room of God Almighty where our Savior has gone before us to prepare the way. So that whether we go to Him, or whether He comes to us, we are only here for Him in truth. Let us therefore make every effort to also be here only for Him in all that we do as well.

Once a good Christian is sure in his heart that he is on the right road and the right course, once he has done all he can reasonably do to move forward along that road, then he need have no fear, no regret, no second thoughts, no doubts. From that point on, he/she can relax in the peace of the Lord, contemptuous of the world's opinion and of its solutions, confident in the Lord and in the timeliness, rightness, goodness and graciousness of His solutions.

From where I sit, you have and are acquitting yourself well. Hold on tight to that faith, and stand by and watch the deliverance of the Lord.

You may also get some help from the following links:

Christian Encouragement

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Waiting on God's Timing.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

The Peter Series: Coping with Personal Tribulation

In Him in whom we have trusted - and we shall not be ashamed,

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

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