When God Seems Silent
Finding His Grace During Seasons of Struggle
It is no secret. The holidays are not the happiest time of the year for many people. Instead, the season produces loneliness, stress, depression and myriad negative emotions or memories. The loss of a marriage, broken relationships with adult children or a lingering sadness that life is not what you expected it would be. Not only will stress and depression ruin your holidays, they can adversely affect your health as well.
“God created us to be social creatures,” says Joni Eareckson Tada. “Loneliness is kind of a social pain—a psychological trigger that alerts us to be aware of isolation and motivates us to seek social connections.” In her new pamphlet, No Longer Alone (Rose Publishing), Joni explains that loneliness is part of the human condition. “Nobody likes to be sad or lonely,” she explains but God wants to redeem your seasons of social pain and loneliness.
“I have lived as a quadriplegic for more than 45 years and have survived stage 3 cancer,” she explains. It is easy for us to look at what’s not working in our lives and feel a sense of the injustice of it all; the chronic pain, the depression, the disappointments. In the midst of these times of hopelessness and despair, says Joni, “God wants to extend his mercy to this world through the declaration and demonstration of the Gospel of Christ.”
When our lives seem disconnected and alone, it hardly seems like God cares, or that he is near. These times of despair are often the opportunities God places in our path. Through them we learn how to trust him more fully. When we do, it forges a deeply rooted character. In her pamphlet When God Seems Unjust, Joni says, “There is, in fact, no fairness in this diseased and broken world . . . all things in life are definitely not equal.” While we know this truth on an intellectual level, we still want to believe there is justice in the midst of our sorrows.
As we look to the season of hope, the season of joy, the season of giving, we see a God who has given all so we could have life everlasting. The gift of salvation, the gift of grace, his unrelenting mercy in spite of our own failings is testament to the deepest and most enduring love and Father Heart of God. Our tendency is to lose perspective in our pain, sorrow, or loneliness. We fall into the trap of obsessing over a past we cannot change in hope for a future on earth that may never occur. We see a half empty glass—broken dreams and failed promises, and think “God, how is this fair?”
“I have lived long enough in this wheelchair to know that sometimes our idea of ‘good’ falls short of the real definition,” says Joni. But, she reminds us, God never withholds good even if we don’t experience immediate comfort in our circumstances. For perspective, she reminds us that we are not to become satisfied with a world destined for decay. “It’s why Jesus spent so much energy emphasizing the end-time perspective,” says Joni.
No stranger to pain herself, in Pain and Providence, she says both psychological pain and physical pain can be equally devastating. “The God of the Bible is not some celestial ogre who is out to make your life miserable,” she says. We are not the first to experience pain or endure sorrows. We have no monopoly on hardship in this fallen and broken world—but we find hope knowing this is not our final home.
The good news, says Joni, is that no matter what we are experiencing this holiday season, God intends good for our lives. “He is a God of intention—he has a purpose, a target, a goal, and a plan,” says Joni. Our pain, our frustration, our lack of answers is never a good reason to fret or to give up. Rather, as he did with Joseph, God is working a higher purpose and plan—always.