Follow Us

Our despair and God’s timing

I love, as Paul Harvey says, to be able to share “the rest of the story.”  A little over a year ago, I posted a blog about when God is silent. A woman named Jessie responded, sharing the despair she was feeling. We corresponded and she wrote this: I have to tell you the truth, I have lost m…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I love, as Paul Harvey says, to be able to share “the rest of the story.”  A little over a year ago, I posted a blog about when God is silent. A woman named Jessie responded, sharing the despair she was feeling. We corresponded and she wrote this:

I have to tell you the truth, I have lost most of what I believe.

I was so sure God would do something about my injustice but it didn’t happen.
Scripture is not absolute, not even close

Time moved on for Jessie.  She endured this hard fact: that God can be inscrutable sometimes. He leaves us in the middle of horrible situations where we can only conclude, “God doesn’t care about me – he has abandoned me to sort out this problem on my own.”

Yet, what we see over and over again and what Jessie saw here is that it’s just a question of timing. He is working on multiple chess boards at once and has an answer that just takes more time than we’ve allotted. In Jessie’s case, it took another year. Over that time she and I stayed in touch and I tried to encourage her.  Then, recently she sent me this email:

I can answer my own Q. now

GOD answers prayer in his own time frame and on his terms.
I will never understand losing my baby but I’m slowly getting my faith back.
I’m relying on his word to be authentic. 

For all the people who sent a word of encouragement –thank you
Sometimes we need the faith of others to assure us it’s all before God and he sees and hears our cry.

My friend, keep praying for me and all the people who need your scripted words of scripture.

Sometimes it’s all we have to get us through the following hours of despair
Pray without ceasing even when it seems to be not working. Hard to see it when you are in it but I can look back now and recognize all the “links” to GOD.

Keep writing people Seth, don’t get weary.  It’s your missionary work. 

God Bless,


Comments (28)

  • “I will never understand…..” she writes.

    It is a heart wrestling place. I want to understand. Always. What I understand I can give myself to, however painful, because it makes sense. What I don’t understand, I hate and I rail against.

    A friend prophesied something when we were praying over a year ago, and I had no idea then what I would face in the next year and how much I would have to go back to these words again and again just to hold on. She said this: “you are my beloved daughter. Follow My ways. You may not always understand them, but I want you to follow My ways.”

    So much of life seems senseless, especially the painful things. I have often heard myself say “if I was God, I would…….” But I’m not. And I often don’t understand why things happen the way they do, why He permits certain things to occur when He is supposed to be all love and all power. It’s hard then to still believe He is good.

    I am glad He said the bit about loving me before He told me to follow His ways when I haven’t a clue what, why, how or where. It helps.

    “I’m relying on His word to be authentic.” Jessie, that says it all.

  • I thought the fact she was thanking you and others was intriguing and am curious about the role we play in the midst of each other’s suffering.

    I wonder if God’s timing and the way He works stuff out necessitates community to get us through until it makes more sense on our limited human end?

  • Amen. Praise the Lord. I have no doubt that he is redeeming all kinds of broken situations like these without our knowing, but it is truly a blessing when we get a glimpse into what he’s doing.

  • It seems we all have these times of wondering where God is or even if He exist, although for some the valley seems so much deeper another concept I dont really understands the whys of it all.. But thank you Lord that you show your caring and your love by putting encouragers in our lives , maybe at the moment that is His only answer to our prayers at that time.. By being a that encourager we extend the mercy and grace of Christ to those in need. I think to the time when I was at the lowest of all points and and my thoughts are of not one more thing could I endure and I can reflect to those in the body of Christ who didnt have the answers but could stand beside me and encourage me with words of scripture with acts of mercy and grace ,and in looking back I now know
    “My grace is sufficient for you” and I realize now because of those times God has enabled me to be that encourager to others even though I might not have the answers they are looking for. We serve a awesome God!

  • After figuring out this last year that one of my passions is to minister to others that are suffering I decided to go through Stephens Ministry training at our church. It has been so amazing to help me learn a little more about the role we as Christians play in each other suffering. God, through his word is showing me how to better walk beside others who are suffering and going through time of despair and difficult circumctances. I am learning that it is important that I don’t have the answers, don’t “fix” things for others, don’t just give them Christian cliches, don’t rush them in the process, etc., There are so many hurting people that just need somone to sit and listen and I pray that God continues to lead me to those that are feeling despair. God is teaching me one of the simplest things and that is to just listen attentively to others. Honestly, I don’t think I am very good at this, but trust that God can change this in me It can even be biblical to allow others to be angry with God and God can even use their anger to work in their lives. I, as a Christian can focus on loving them, walking alongside them in the process of their pain, and entrust them to God. One of the most significant lessons I have learned is that Jesus is the Curegiver and we are the caregivers as we walk alongside those that are hurting. Thanks Seth, for sharing and following the example of Jesus and showing us how to love others in the midst of their pain.

  • Teamwork…it’s all about teamwork. The strongest of us will still stumble and struggle and need someone to carry us for a little while.

    Maybe it’s a little corny, but I found this last night, and I think it’s a really great simple visual story about what it means to be “Jesus with skin on” to people.

  • Jesse,

    I lost my baby too. His name was Andrew and he was six months old. My first born. Not only did I feel that God had abandoned me, I questioned whether I could keep on living. It was a painful, lonely desperation. On the inside my heart was crying out, yet on the outside I was numb and lifeless. I couldn’t imagine a world without my baby. And worse yet, I blamed myself, thinking what a horrible person I must be if God had to take my baby to “teach me a lesson”. I was ashamed, angry, and beyond depressed. I still have vivid memories of crying and screaming out to God. Why? Why this precious and innocent little baby?

    It didn’t happen overnight but the more I allowed God to come in to my life, the more He held me. He lifted me up out of such anguish and showed me that not only could I continue to live, but I could fully live, with Him. It wasn’t until years later through reading Scripture that I came across John 9:1-3 or Luke 13:1-5. Boy what I wouldn’t have given to have someone point that out to me in those early days of his diagnosis. Nevertheless, all those years later after his death, I felt God was speaking directly to me. He wanted me to know that it wasn’t my fault. Yes, it may have been God’s permissive will that my baby and your baby had to die. But I believe with all my heart that this was not his desire. And through all things, all tragedies around the world, WE can make something good of it. We can use all things to give Him glory. And that’s what I have tried to do. For His sake and for my son’s. And I can even look back now on the time that Andrew was sick and see His presence was there – even though it didn’t feel like it. Without Him, I literally do not think I would have been able to pull myself out of bed to take a shower and start the day. He lifted me up. He fed my soul, through my son (while he was still living) and through the beautiful friends and family who nurtured me. I pray that you will feel His presence. Even if you do not recognize it now, I promise you He is there. And He loves you and your baby very much.

    Does this mean its “all better”? Of course not. I have been blessed with two more sons since his death, and as much as I love the little guys, there isn’t a day that goes by that my heart doesn’t think of my Booper (our little nickname). He will never be replaced. The pain will never get “better”. But God has somehow granted me the “peace [I need] that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I am hoping that is what you have found. That is what I am praying for.

    With love,

  • It’s so true that at times we just don’t know if what we believe is believable. I think it so interesting that even Jesus on the cross suffering says “Father why have you forsaken me” I’m convinced we are all tested. An endurance test of faith. To be reassured is critical. Ministering to the ones on the brink is definitely a calling. No matter who you are, at one point we all become JOB. Thank GOD for the ones who step in with scriptures to strengthen the frail. After all God’s words will always be. The most powerful thing you can do is share it. I think this site reaches so many who are looking for something to get through the day or in Jesse’s case the year. Seth, you’re a wonderful ambassador. Keep spreading “the word” A raindrop in that desert of despair. You are reaching a lot more than you’ll ever know.
    Well done faithful servant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thank you, Jenn. My day is ending out here in Colorado and what a good note to end on. Just a few people like you speaking encouragement is all I need to keep going. We’ve all been where Jess was.

  • Thanks for everyones words. Today was the first time I had ever thought God was not there for me. I needed to read your testimonies.

  • Thanks to all of you. I felt like giving up today and even questioned whether I was sane for believing in God. Your testimonies gave me hope. I even sent the website to some friends.

    God Bless You,

  • Many say God is chastening His Bride, His Church, for Heavenly marriage. It appears totally upside down, I too know, while still in a now 10+ year valley, slowly going down into the valley of the shadow of death, at one point attempting to take my life.

    Even today, though I know God better than ever before, because my torment continues, now being unemployment once AGAIN (this after losing my mental health, my marriage, my home recently, most of my life savings, and recently even my DOG).

    Now God has specifically told a couple years ago now, but finally told me this was about brokeness, not that is His will bad happens to us, but whether He brings it (as with Job) or not, He slowly but surely helps us grow in our faith (the firm conviction that what is NOT seen does indeed exist).

    I have passed many boundaries (a term I have now used to mean a permanent point). I now know God loves me, I also no longer doubt His character in ANY way. I just don’t. He has taken 10 years to get me to this point, and I have hated every moment of loss, confusion, major depression, weakness, and destruction of my very identity.

    Yet as a pastor said in a sermon I listened to at sermonaudio.com, “If I asked you if you wanted to repeat those trials, most of you would say ‘no’. But if I asked you if you would give up what you learned about God, most of you would also say ‘no’.”

    I had to agree. What he said was exactly the truth. Like a World War II veteran, we have developed a bond with our fellow soldier, God. It is a bond that transcends ANY worldly thing. There is no experience that can surpass it because it has cut so far into our very soul, nothing can ever erase it, we will never forget the RELATIONSHIP.

    If you ask any WWII vet if they wanted to go to war again, they’d tell you “No way”. But if you asked them if they would have rather never gone, they’d also tell you “No way.”

    Regardless of what happens in life, as utterly horrifying as this very brief taste of Hell is, those of us who have or ARE going through it are learning, deep deep in our hearts, that NOTHING, nothing in this life that hurts us can compare to the ETERNAL pleasure and absolute perfection of life we will experience when God takes us home.

    God is faithful. He will accomplish what concerns us. His plans for us are STILL for good, not for evil.

  • Why do you people have to suffer to learn this? Is that really necessary? And your children with you. Is that really necessary? What is the point? It is not as though you wouldn’t have learned just as well if God were a little gentler.

    10 years of torture at God’s hand? Really? God, is this necessary? Please, get your children out of this pit.

  • Unfortunately it IS necessary. Im slowly but surely rising (circumstace wise) out of an extended trial as well…that has been fraught wuth set backs, but Ive learned in Christ that every setback is a set up. While I don’t appreciate the harsh situations and betrayal of my fellow men…including an absentee father who pops up every ten years for a handout & a obviously mentally ill mother who has never been diagnosed….I still view God as being faithful, bcuz he promised to love, give to, care for, and be with us. Its a matter of perspective.

    Ive never lost a child, but Ive always had a broken family, limited support, and much much opposition. I wont pretend to know what its like to have to keep living after that sort of loss, but the one thing that all suffering has in common is pain and while our sufferring is personal and localized, Christ suffered not for or in spite of self, but for us. For this cause we have to be broken to be made whole in HIM. We can’t fit into the scheme of God’s kingdom in the way that we first come to him. Broken-ness is so very tragic in most cases, but if we hold onto God thru our pain and through our very human responses to loss, lack, and loneliness, HE is faithful to manifest as supernatural within us.

    My heart goes out to all who are hurting and while I don’t have an easy answer…I give to u what I do have…the love of Christ. God bless and keep us all according to his promises that may be yet to come, but never slack in the everlasting impact of why we sought and continue to seek God in the first place.

    Because He FIRST loved us. Amen

  • honestly this is not answered prayer. We’re just justifying suffering and saying that through more suffering, we are weaker and more dependant on God. I could say the same thing if Batman, Superman, etc was my God.

    And this is especially not how God answered prayer in the bible. Maybe God got lazy?

  • MM – Thanks for the comment.

    You seem definitive as though you’d checked with God and are saying, “here’s what he told me.”

    It’s a posture that seems to contain the same degree of certitude that you critique. And I want to ask, “why?”

    My own view is that we need to approach these matters with humility, recognizing that we’re flawed humans. We’re like ants looking at an elephant.

    I try to have respect for how people interpret their experience with the divine.

  • Seth, what was the answered prayer?

    Your post is vague. So in that case, how has God answered her prayer?

    Do you see my frustration in your posts or your non-posts?

    You need to shift your focus on writing a post with substance, and maybe not so much eloquence.

  • MM – it is a little vague and for someone needing certitude, I can see where it would frustrating. It’s mostly just me quoting Jesse. The reality is her perception. Coming on the heels of her despair in the earlier post, it was worth noting. The point of the post was to show the contrast.

  • For every letter/story like this, how many are there of people who have been destroyed by pain? Come on. If what you are trying to say is that God answers every need and protects every person, you are just wrong and perhaps missing a bigger lesson. I don’t know. It seems like this kind of thinking is a pacifier to sooth us away from looking the ugliness of the world in the face and screaming back. It’s such a weak position for Christians to take.

  • I wish what you said is true, but it’s not. After waiting an agonizing of 10 years, the truth that I woke up into is not grand. The truth is that there is no God. If there is a God, He wouldn’t be so cruel. Father would have listened to my prayer and come to aid. But nobody out there is listening.

    I had been patient. I had been loyal. I had been faithful. But it doesn’t matter. The reality is the physical world, and God is an illusion. I’m not the only one with unanswered prayer, nor the one with worst situation. For millions out there, I cry for them, for a God is not coming to their aid.

  • Hey Sean, I just wanted to assure you that our prayers to God never go unanswered, they are just often not answered the way we would like. No is an answer, and sometime the answer to our prayer is “no.” We can’t pretend to always understand why we would get that answer, but it does happen. Prayer is process of transformation for us, not just a way to get what we want out of God. His wisdom is greater, His timing is greater, and His plan is greater. So prayer is often a process of coming before the Lord for Him to change us, not for us to change Him or His mind. In short, prayer is a process of submitting to God.

  • I’m going to use food as an example. My prayer is along this line: “Please give me food to stop the hunger, or take my life away.” I have received neither. In my most desperate moments, I prayed then, “please just show your love to me through whatever means.” And I received nothing.

    When my kids cry for me, I rush to their aid immediately. That is not how God loves me, if He loves at all, or if He exists at all.

    Ten years is a long time. Enough time to crush one’s “unwavering” faith.

    I look at others who are suffering, and my heart cries for them as well, for I know that God did not answer their prayers either.

    • If I were you, I’d probably feel the same way. I wish God explained himself better than he does. I’ve observed that sometime he’s speaking, just not in the way I was expecting or looking for. If you were here, instead of in virtual space, I’d pray thru this with you. As it is, I will pray for you, Sean. May God show up in a way that feels real. Ten years is a long time indeed.

  • Thanks for your prayer. I used to believe and have faith. I gave it all up. I gave up prayer, faith, any threads of hope, and has transformed into an unhappy man. All of my life I tried my best to serve God and the world at large constantly at my best capacity. That’s all gone now. I realized that if Jesus says Peter would deny him three times when Roman soldiers came, then Peter was really faultless because he couldn’t have any free wills. I didn’t choose to become whom I was or whom I am. I want to be happy and optimistic, but I’m made into the opposite. I gave all of my best, and it wasn’t good enough. And I asked the least possible from my dear Father, and He wouldn’t even give that to me. I’m a crushed soul, if soul even exists.

    Despair cannot describe my state. I don’t even hope at all. Using the same example of food, if somebody brings me food, and even if I put the food in my mouth, I would still think that food is imaginary.

  • yes I can understand how people feel god don’t care when ya ask for example for what you would consider godly desires not wants but needs whether emotional , spiritual or monetary ,, and ya truly try to be obedient after asking the lord to help you be obedient , because you know humanly speaking ya cant , ya can feel like your being punished for whatever reason, it makes no sense so I do have compassion for all of you and hope the very best for ya all but don’t give up ,,don’t turn your back on god , with me I have no 1 else to turn too and I like to think that’s a good thing for you and for me god bless all those in need of his favor

Comments are closed.

Subscribe to Radical Living:

Receive updates on the latest posts as Seth Barnes covers many topics like spiritual formation, what if means to be a christian, how to pray, and more. Radical Living blog is all about a call to excellence in ministry, church, and leadership -as the hands and feet of Jesus.

Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

© Adventures In Missions. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | RSS Feed | Sitemap