When God Lets You Down

What do we know about God? He is love; he is the creator of the universe; he does not want any of us to perish; he gave his Son to die for us. Remember what Jesus has already done for you. Think about the ways he has already proven his love for you. His Son endured crucifixion, a form of execution so horrific it is outlawed all over the world today, just for you. He has forgiven every failure you have ever confessed to him, and will continue to do so. He knows every sin you’ve ever committed, and what’s more, he sees every sin you will ever commit in the future. But he loves you anyway. He likes you. He finds joy in you even as you read these words.

Think of all the ways he has already blessed you. Does your family love you? So many are trapped in loveless, abusive homes. Has he provided for your material needs through physical abilities and vocational opportunities? So many are trapped in endless poverty. Has he given you the privilege of life in America’s freedom? Who of us earned the right to be born in this country and not in Iraq or North Korea?

Remember his grace in your life, and judge the dark by the light. I’ll never forget a seminary student of mine named Walter. The year his wife and several children died, his pastor called every day to say, “Walter, God is still on his throne.” Then Walter told our class, “God is still on his throne.” Judge the dark by the light.

Understand that his ways are higher than ours.

The leper has it right: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” But God’s will and ways are not always clear to us: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8, 9).

Joseph didn’t understand why he was enslaved in Egypt. Moses didn’t understand why he had to spend 40 years in the desert. Joshua didn’t understand the flooded Jordan River and fortified city of Jericho; Daniel didn’t understand the lion’s den, or Paul his thorn in the flesh, or John his Patmos prison. But we do.

Trust God to give you what you ask or something better.

Here we come to one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. When we prayed for something God did not grant, we can know that it was best that he acted as he did. Even when we do not understand why. The person did not get well. The house burned down; the divorce became final; the car wreck happened. It’s not a question of timing, for the worst has already occurred. And we do not understand why God did not grant us our prayer.

A very dear friend in our congregation suffered from cancer for many months. I prayed every day for her healing. When she died at a young age, I was deeply distraught. Her healing would have brought such glory to God and good to her family. I didn’t understand, and still don’t.

Dr. E. K. Bailey was the Senior Pastor of Concord Missionary Baptist Church here in Dallas, and one of the finest ministers of the gospel I have ever known. Our friendship was priceless to my soul. His preaching at Park Cities will be remembered always. Several times, God healed my dear friend of cancer. Then he did not. I still don’t understand why.

I must assume that it was not best for them to be healed. They are both with the Father in glory, in a paradise we cannot begin to imagine. One second on the other side of death, they were glad they were in glory. In the providence of God, their contribution to his Kingdom on earth must have been completed, their reward prepared, their eternity made ready. Even though I don’t understand or like it.

That’s the faith assumption I must make when God does not grant what I ask–he is doing something even better. Though my finite, fallen mind cannot begin to imagine how that could be so, I must trust his love and compassion enough to accept it by faith. Not until I became a father did I understand some of the things my father said and did. Not until we are in glory will we understand completely our Father’s will and ways (1 Corinthians 13:12). When we cannot see his hand, we can trust his heart.


Sometimes Jesus heals us physically. But sometimes he works an even greater miracle–he heals us spiritually. He gives us the strength and spirit and courage to bear up under life’s sufferings. Sometimes he removes the pain, and sometimes he does the even greater work of giving us the strength to endure it. Either is a miracle of the Lord.

In such times, God’s greater miracle is to enable us to withstand such horrific pain and loss. He can heal our bodies, and what’s more, he can heal our souls. Which do you need him to do for you today?

Consider the example of Larry Nixon, a veteran Baptist pastor who suffered from chronic heart disease. He finally died from his illness in October of 1996. Larry struggled to reconcile his call to ministry with the limitations placed on him by his damaged heart. He trusted the will of God, even when he did not understand it. He trusted the promises and protection of God, even when they seemed to fail him. And he found the answer to his dilemma in a poem he often quoted:

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man,

And skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When he yearns with all His heart

To create so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,