I get questions on a frequent basis that say things like, “What am I doing wrong?” & “Why doesn’t God love me?” It’s hard to get those messages and emails because I know the feeling behind them.
I have been the person begging for God to heal me. I have been the person praying constantly for God to take away the thoughts and dreams that clog up my brain and overwhelm my ability to think about anything other than desperation, pain and hopelessness. I have felt that darkness that sucks me in like a black hole, some days slower and with more cruelty. Other days with the ferocity of a 30 foot wave crashing down before I know what has hit me and spitting me out on the shore with all the other shells on the beach, left feeling empty and torn apart.
If God loves me then why?!?! Why won’t He take this away? Why won’t I be allowed to be “normal”? Why does MY normal consist of being so very tired all the time? Why God, why?
Many of us have been told that if we just pray hard enough and have enough faith that our mental health issues will go away. That Jesus wants to heal us and is just waiting for us to ask in the “right way, with the right heart.” It’s as if God is some cosmic vending machine waiting for us to put in the correct change so He can dish out the goodies we’ve been longing for, and all we have is a wrinkled dollar bill that keeps getting spit back out.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that God is perfectly capable of healing anyone. And I believe He wants us to ask for things like healing. I can see plenty of examples in scripture where healing happens and I don’t believe that the Holy Spirit has a “back in 15 minutes” sign hanging on an office door. Healing does still happen. But I also believe that, “No.”, is a perfectly valid response when we ask God for something.
In 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 we are given an example of just that. The Apostle Paul (The guy who wrote down most of the New Testament in the Bible) had been given a “Thorn in his flesh”. No one knows for sure what exactly that thorn was. The prevailing thought among many theologians though is that the thorn was some sort of physical ailment. Here is a conversation that Paul had with God about that thorn.
“8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”
So Paul, the guy God used to plant the first Christian churches, asked for healing and it didn’t come. God replied with, (and I am paraphrasing here) “I gave you my Grace. That’s enough. This ain’t about you.”
If God gave us everything we asked for whether it was what is best for us or not, then He would at that point, stop being in control. We would be. We would be the ones telling God what to do. That is not going to happen. God is in control and He is going to stay in control. But that is ok. It is a good thing. We may not have chosen to orchestrate our lives the way He did, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t know what He is doing. He does know what He is doing. And when we get to sit with God in Heaven we will be able to see that everything we have gone through, every pain and every hurt was never wasted. That there was a purpose behind our struggles. And even though God has not chosen to heal us does not mean that He doesn’t care for us. Our lives still have meaning and purpose we just have to see beyond our pain to find it. It is in God’s Grace that we are able to see beyond that pain. This doesn’t mean the pain will go away necessarily, we just look beyond it.
This is what Paul does when He responds to God.
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul could see God working in the circumstance. He could see that God had a reason for allowing things to happen the way that they happened. And if God was working in it then there was nothing more to ask for. Paul was weak, he needed God. God came in and used His power in Paul’s life. Paul was made strong because of it. Paul saw his circumstance as a time to be used “for the sake of Christ.” If he was living for Christ then he knew, no matter what happened, God would make things right.
In John 10:10 Jesus says, ”… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” He doesn’t say that you will get everything you want right when you want it. Because then we are looking to our wealth or our health to make us happy. Jesus came so that we could be restored to Him. And that is where we can find our abundance! In Him!
Jesus gave me the ability to keep living. He helps me to see that by continuing to go on one day at a time, one moment at a time, leaning in Him for my strength, I can have a life with purpose.
So instead of asking God “why?”, I ask “why not? What could God possibly be doing in this and what is my part in it?” God’s grace doesn’t always make it so I don’t see the pain; His grace does make me see more than just the pain. And this is where I find peace.
National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery