Why, when I need Him most, does it seem as if God is most silent?
I asked God about this last week. I wasn’t in a particularly hard place at the time, but I wanted to prepare for a storm that seemed to be brewing on the horizon.
His answer came surprisingly fast: Child, you think that I only want to be around you when you are cheerful and upbeat. You think that I parent like people do—that when My kids have bad attitudes, I send them to their rooms. But that’s not true. I don’t withdraw from My children until they can pull themselves back together—I join them in their messes and help them sort through and clean up. When they are prickliest is when they need Me most!
Well, those words sounded almost too good to be true. I wanted to be sure I wasn’t just telling myself what I wanted to hear. So I asked God for confirmation.
Remember Cain? He asked.
Yes, I remembered. Cain was full of jealousy and murderous hate toward his brother, Abel. But God did not pull away from him. In fact, God pursued his heart. He gently pleaded with him and offered him a way through his sinful anger: “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Then God reminded me of Hagar. Twice, after experiencing her mistress’s cruelty, she went to the desert. The first time, alone and pregnant, she got there by running away. The other time she and her son were banished there. We are not told exactly what Hagar felt—but we can imagine that it might have included fear, anger, self-pity, hopelessness, and despair. But rather than be put off by her emotions, God reached out to her. Both times, God met her. Amazed, Hagar responded, “You are the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
Finally, He reminded me of Jonah. After the big fish spit him out on the beach, Jonah finally decided to obey God. He preached to wicked Nineveh, and the city repented. This was exactly what God wanted—and exactly what Jonah had been afraid of. In fact, Scripture says it “displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry” (4:1). Jonah didn’t want mercy for Nineveh—he wanted them to get what they had coming to them. So Jonah had a temper tantrum. His anger escalated to the point that he told God he wanted to die. But God answered him kindly. “Do you do well to be angry?” (4:4). And He provided Jonah shade from the blazing sun. A while later, God shared His heart with Jonah: “Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?” (4:11).
As I continued my own dialogue with God, He showed me that when I have trouble hearing Him, it’s not because He has shut me out—it’s the other way around. I have mistakenly believed that God doesn’t want to be around me when I’m stubborn, fearful, resentful, frustrated, or otherwise out of sorts. But He showed me that it’s just the opposite.
So, next time I’m in a hard place emotionally, I will no longer give room for the lie that God doesn’t want to be around me. Instead, I’ll go looking for Him. If He wanted to be with Cain, Hagar, and Jonah on their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days, then I know He wants to be with me on mine, too.