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When Mountains Don't Move

Responding to unexpected trials and tragedies.

Last fall, my dad, Mel, died. After a prolonged illness, he passed rather quickly. His death left me struggling with doubt and confusion. Throughout his illness I prayed for his healing and had absolute faith that God could easily turn the situation. God could move mountains. I knew and believed that He could heal his body and restore his health easily. God was able.

Instead, God took him home. It was not the outcome I wanted, nor one for which I’d asked. Why was a God who was perfectly capable of intervening unwilling?

At times we all face situations in life that shake our faith. Sometimes we lack faith to believe God can do the impossible. Other times we believe He’s able, but find it’s not His will. How do we respond when the answer we want from the Lord doesn’t come? How do we keep the faith when nothing makes sense?

Mercifully, we’re in good company. Late one night in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded with His father, asking, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39 ESV). With angst and dread, Jesus was reluctant to drink the cup of God’s wrath He’d shortly endure in the torture of the Cross and, finally, death. Thankfully, God didn’t answer His prayer. There was a purpose to the suffering that provides salvation for every believer today. And, through His anxiety, Jesus understood this, praying with faith, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

Life will at times bring uncertainty, suffering, and even tragedy. But, God’s Word offers hope for those who face these trials.

Trust God’s Character

Through our pain we must focus on what we know to be true. The Bible declares that God is good. The Psalmist reminds us that His faithfulness and mercy endure. He knows all things. His knowledge is perfect and complete. His wisdom far exceeds ours.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

God is just. He acts fairly and correctly in His dealings with us. God is love and it’s His love that motivates His relationship with us, even giving His own son to satisfy a justice we deserve.

When faced with times of suffering and despair, our confidence may be shaken. But, then we must rely on what we know about our Lord. God is good. He loves me. He will not fail.

A young toddler was rushed to the emergency room after a small toy had become lodged in his ear canal. The child screamed as the doctor used tools to retrieve the obstruction. The little boy looked in confusion at his mother, wondering why she would allow this man to bring pain to his little life. Meanwhile, the mother, through tears of her own, tried to comfort her child, knowing the momentary suffering was necessary in order to bring healing.

Through our pain and confusion, we must continue to trust God’s character. We may not always understand how He works, but we can be sure that His purposes are always loving and always good. And, He will work all things together for our good too.

Rest in His Presence

We are not alone in our pain. Jesus promises never to leave us or forsake us. His Holy Spirit resides in us and is our constant comforter. A storm arose on the Sea of Galilea and the disciples were terrified. In their fear, they wondered why Jesus, who was sleeping, seemed unaware of the situation and did nothing. But He was with them. They were never alone and, in His time, He calmed the raging sea.

David found rest in God as he fled for his life from his enemies. He acknowledged God’s presence surrounded him so that he could lie down and sleep in peace because the Lord sustained him (Psalm 3:3-6). Jesus promises to be with us always. He sends His presence through His Holy Spirit to be our comforter.

Some years ago, I had to travel out of state to deal with an extremely stressful situation. Thankfully, my wife was able to accompany me. Having her by my side brought comfort. Her words of wisdom, but mostly her presence, helped me remain calm and level-headed throughout the ordeal.

Having a trusted loved one or friend in our court brings great comfort in our trials. How much more this is true of our Lord’s presence. No matter what we endure, our Lord goes with us. That is His promise.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

Look for Christ’s Return

Suffering in this life reminds us that this is not our home. We are meant for another world. Someday soon, either through death or Christ’s return, we will forever be with our Lord, in a place where there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain (Revelation 21:3).

What a thought! Imagine living in a place where cancer, diabetes, and heart disease do not exist. Imagine reuniting forever with friends and family who have died. As an old song says, “Heaven’s sounding sweeter all the time.”

At the end of a long, difficult day, do you enjoy falling into your favorite chair, taking a deep breath, and exclaiming, “Finally, I’m home?” Isn’t that a great feeling? Someday we will experience a much greater peace and joy as we reach our final home with the Lord.

Jesus says we will have trials and troubles in this life, but to be encouraged because He has overcome the world. Our struggles and tears remind us that this world is not our home and Jesus will return for us. He will take us to our true home with Him, where we will find rest and peace forever.

As a pastor, my father made many hospital visits during his years of ministry. Occasionally, someone would ask him if he felt bad when he prayed for people, but they were not healed. He would always respond, “No, because I’m not the healer.” Dad trusted His sovereign Lord, prayed with faith, and left the results to God, who was wiser than he.

Are you currently enduring a difficult situation? Maybe you are struggling with doubt as you feel your prayers are going unanswered. Remember God’s character. He is good and loving and faithful and wise. Rest in his presence. God is with you and offers peace and comfort through His Holy Spirit. Know that your struggles are temporary. Soon, Christ will return to take us to a place where no pain or trials exist. In the midst of our suffering, when life is most difficult, we have this hope!

Keith Surface

Keith Surface is manager for AG News and public relations for the Assemblies of God. He is a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Keith is an adjunct instructor of church history for SAGU. A licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, he regularly teaches and preaches in local churches. Keith and his wife, Melanie, have four children and live in Ozark, Missouri.