Have you ever felt betrayed by God? When prayers you have desperately prayed, seem to go unheard and unanswered? When the promises you have clung to appear empty and without fulfilment? When the hope you have kept alive is finally dashed beyond repair…
“Has his steadfast love for ever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” – Psalm 77:8-9
Maybe your prayers have sounded like this at times… or your secret thoughts. What is it that causes that deep grief?
“This is my grief: that the right hand of the Most High has changed” – Psalm 77:10
To the psalmist’s eyes, God’s blessing had changed. The right hand signified blessing, and it seemed God had removed that or changed his character. This grieved him more than anything else. I think this is also what most deeply grieves us in any situation. It is not always the circumstances themselves that drive us to despair, but the fact that we cannot see God in them, and to us it seems that he has changed, failed, given up, or betrayed us.
God is unchangeable. He cannot lie. He cannot deny who He is. Yet there are things that we cannot and never will understand, things that we won’t be able to reconcile to a good God.
I think often our feeling of betrayal by God comes from our expectation. We read promises like “all things work together for good”, and “I will prosper the righteous”, and we imagine a life full of blessings, victories, and prayers answered how we want them. When this does not happen, we think God must be false to His promises, but maybe it is just that we never really grasped them in the first place.
I am not saying here that we should not live in expectation… of course we should! We have a great God who works to bless his people and we should have confidence in that… only that we should not define what that blessing is.
We so like to tell God what is best. Our idea of God’s best for us is health, a job or ministry we love, a happy family, good finances, and a bit of spiritual growth too. But look at the way He promises to care for us in John 15. He promises to prune us to make us grow and thrive. This means being cut back, experiencing frustration, disappointment, and loss. These may be big or little things, but He loves us enough to do whatever is necessary to make us grow, thrive, and produce an abundant harvest in Him, and that includes allowing pain and loss.
Another mistake we make is to tell God when and how. A good friend and role-model of mine said recently
When God gives you a promise, it’s because you’re going to need it.
That is so simple, but a truth very few of us grasp. If it is all going to happen now, what need is there for Him to have given a promise? When we receive God’s promises, we want to see it happen… now! But He gives us promises as hope to cling on to when it looks impossible. He gives us promises for things we are going to have to wait for. He gives us promises so we have a window into the goodness of God when we can find it nowhere else.
And this is the psalmist’s response. He cannot see it now, but he declares what he knows about God…
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What God is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people…” – Psalm 77:11-15
One thing I have discovered is that God fulfils every promise he has made… but the fulfilment of those is very rarely what I have expected. He answers every prayer… but his answer is not always how we want.
In the preface to her book “Joni”, Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic) wrote
“To rephrase this thought, I suggest that there are likewise only two joys. One is having God answer all your prayers; the other is not receiving the answer to all your prayers. I believe this because I have found that God knows my needs infinitely better than I know them. And He is utterly dependable, no matter which direction our circumstances take us.”
He is faithful. He is enough. He is all I need. But let’s be real about the pain and confusion that can make us question, and the times we feel God has let us down or betrayed us. May God enable us to embrace each joy He gives… through the answers we want, and the ones we don’t. And may He strengthen us to hold onto truth. To hold onto the promises He’s given us for the waiting. And to hold onto the memories of His goodness to us and the anchor of our Hope – Jesus crucified for us, and certain, glorious eternity with Him.
Press on, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Press on to receive that crown of glory He has waiting for you. It will be worth it!