Never, Always, and Other Faith-Bashing Ideas

Some time ago, I heard someone describe a deeply painful personal situation. He shared his story in matter-of-fact tones, describing what was, what is, and, what in his mind, always will be. Day after painful day, nothing changed. Experts had weighed in: improvement is out of the question; to hope for it is a set-up for disappointment. It will never get better, it will always be like this. So in his discouraged thinking, coping and surviving are the best he can hope for.

My heart has ached since hearing him tell his story.  I hurt for him because I know that “always” and “never” are not part of God’s vocabulary. God has good plans for this person—that’s a fact. He is not excluded from the abundant life Jesus came to bring. But in his discouragement, he can’t see it or even hope for it. Which certainly puts a damper on prayer.

I don’t fault him, though. I’ve been there. I remember a season when I also was in an impossible-seeming situation that caused me persistent, unrelenting, unbroken pain. “It won’t always be like this,” a well-meaning friend said, trying to encourage me. “Yeah, I know, “I replied gloomily. “ It’s going to get worse.” I utterly believed that.

Truthfully, in many ways, it did get worse before it got better. But when I was in that pit, I wasn’t able to see that by God’s grace, it really would get better eventually. My painful season was not a permanent condition. God saw me and heard my cries and He delivered me.

God is a Rescuer, a Savior, a Redeemer, and a Helper. That’s His character—that’s who He is. He “is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26). In painful seasons, our “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5, NLT). It will not always be this way: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lam. 3:22-24; see also 2 Cor. 4:17; Ps. 103:9, 126:5); Is. 12:1, 54:7-8; Hos. 6:2).

I’m not sure the person I told you about would be able to respond to a spiritual pep talk. Sometimes trying to pump up another person’s faith does more harm than good, so I’m not going to try it. But when I was in a similar dark place, I appreciated the prayers of others who could lend me some of their faith (see my blog from last week, “Brother, Can You Spare Some Faith?”). They prayed with hope that I didn’t have and that comforted me. So that’s what I’m doing for this person. I know that because of God, his situation is not impossible. It does not have to always be this way. So I’m praying for him, asking first for God to give him hope, and then, also, to bring the rescue he so desperately needs.

It’s always encouraging to hear others’ stories of God’s rescues. Do you have an impossible-always-never story you can share?

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2 thoughts on “Never, Always, and Other Faith-Bashing Ideas

  1. cbezek says:

    You’re so right–a HUGE difference between doing hard stuff with God or feeling abandoned by Him. You’re right that God doesn’t promise He’ll resolve everything this side of heaven–but He does promise us that abundant life, joy, peace, hope, and faithful care are ours. When I get so locked in “it’s always going to be this way” (or worse) I lose sight of the other ways He may be wanting to care for my soul. Does that make sense?

  2. LAH says:

    Thanks, Cynthia! We’ve been slogging through the same frustrating lack of ministry resources for over 14 years now, and I sometimes think it’s going to be like this for the rest of our lives. Yes, God is taking care of us. No, it isn’t easy. There’s a distinction between having life WITH God be really hard, and God abandoning us in the midst of it all. He’d never leave us to deal with pain on our own. On the other hand, He never promises He’ll resolve everything this side of heaven.

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