Do you feel as though God is distant? Sometimes, when we can’t sense His presence, we wonder if He has forgotten us. Some people even believe God is merely a third-party observer and is no longer involved in the world. To them, He set the earth in motion long ago but is now uninterested in our daily lives.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep (John 10). He promised to protect and provide for us, and we misunderstand Him if we think He doesn’t care.
Our spiritual lives are full of highs and lows, valleys and mountaintops. But some people panic, or grow bitter and angry, when they face a disappointing situation. They ask, Where is God? Why hasn’t He answered my prayer? Why is He silent while I’m hurting? Many believers become disillusioned and hopeless. And instead of seeing a valley, they see an endless tunnel with no light at the end.
This is a dangerous mindset, because it causes a person to lose confidence in the Lord. With such an attitude, trusting that the pain will end becomes increasingly difficult.
But there is a reason to trust in God.
If you are at a low point and feeling hopeless, be encouraged. The Good Shepherd, who is the Sovereign of this universe, is with you. You may not always sense His presence or see how He’s working, but He’s there. The Lord loves you unconditionally and is ready and willing to help. All you need to do is turn to Him.
God does not send anyone into a valley, but He may allow us to enter one to teach dependence upon Him. One day, perhaps you’ll look back and think, Thank you, God, for never leaving me, and for carrying me through the low place. You’ll never be able to thank Him enough.
So why do we get discouraged in dark times? I believe there are four reasons.
- We don’t have a solid belief system.
What do you believe about God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole spiritual world? Many people accept a little of this or that, but not the whole witness of God’s Word. You could say that their theology is “all over the place.” If we don’t have a clear understanding of the truth, we won’t be able to live an authentic Christian life and will have a difficult time making wise choices.
Some people may say, “This is over my head.” But we don’t need to be intimidated by theology. It simply helps us know Who God is and how to understand the Scriptures.
Knowing God’s character is a must. Failing to do so can cause us to panic in difficult times, and could lead us to make destructive choices.
- We don’t understand the ways of God.
Evidence of confusion about God is everywhere. For instance, some people think God shouldn’t allow His followers to suffer. They believe that if a person experiences pain or illness, it is because of sin or a lack of faith. They think that if you trust and obey God, you won’t get sick and will never be in want of anything.
But the Word of God doesn’t teach this. Not all suffering is punishment for sinful actions. Take a look at the life of the apostle Paul. God saved him on the road to Damascus and called him to preach the gospel. And yet he experienced much suffering in his life as a believer. Paul wasn’t living in sin when he was stoned in the streets or imprisoned. Because he persevered through each hardship, we are blessed with the epistles he wrote during those times.
- Our faith is based on emotion.
Sometimes we think, I can trust Him as long as everything’s going my way. But this leaves us feeling hopeless when things go wrong. We cannot base our faith on emotion, personal judgment, or perception—it must be grounded in the Word of God. When we feel discouraged, we need to ask, What is the clear teaching of Scripture? You won’t come across any kind of valley experience for which God doesn’t provide an answer in His Word.
- We don’t know God’s promises.
How can we feel hopeless when the Father promises to love, protect, and guide us throughout our lives? If we commit the Scriptures to memory, He will bring them to mind whenever we need encouragement.
There are many things that happen in a valley, and God allows us to experience them for a number of reasons. The truth is, we tend to learn far more from the low points in our lives than we do from the high. When do you learn the most about trusting God? Too often we take the good things for granted. It’s in times of trial that we learn how to lean on the Lord.
If you haven’t discovered who God is and how He operates, then start now. Spend time reading the Bible each day, learning his promises and committing them to memory. Remember to trust Him with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understandings—or emotions (Prov. 3:5). Follow Him, and He will walk you—and you will never be alone again.