The Old Testament tells the story of Elijah, who challenged the prophets of Baal to determine who was the true God. Baal was the sun god, the god of fire. So Elijah thought a reasonable challenge would be to let the one true God respond with fire.
The followers of Baal agreed to the challenge and took their turn first. They prepared their sacrifice and then prayed … and waited. But nothing happened. Then they started yelling, and still, nothing happened. So Elijah told them, “You’ll have to shout louder, for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming, or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (1 Kings 18:27 NLT)
Elijah actually was having a little fun with these people: Yell a little bit louder! And that is what they did.
Sometimes people might feel as though they have to yell a little louder to get God’s attention. But God is aware of what we are going through. God hears the quietest whisper. God bends down to hear what we are saying. We don’t have to scream at God to get his attention.
God never sleeps. The Bible tells us that “he will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3). You can always get through to God, 24/7.
Thankfully, God has not succumbed to voice mail like everyone else. Can you imagine praying and getting voice mail? Hello. This is heaven. God is not available right now. Select 1 if you need forgiveness. Select 2 if you need divine direction. Select 3 if you need healing. Select 4 if you have another problem. Thank you.
God himself listens to the prayers of his people.
Sorrows will come into our lives, and none of us enjoys them. They are a reality. You are going to experience heartache. If you ever choose to love anyone, if you ever choose to extend your friendship to another person, then you are going to be disappointed. You are going to be let down. You are going to be heartbroken. There are going to be great disappointments for you in life.
You will lose loved ones, and as you get older, you will lose more loved ones. There might even come a day when you will recognize that you actually have more friends in heaven than friends on earth. You will be aware that it won’t be that long until you join them.
But there also will be times of laughter and dancing in our lives, times of great joy and celebration. And one of the lessons I have learned from life is to enjoy the good times. Don’t take them for granted. Savor the moment. You can be sure that some difficult times will come down the road. But thank God they will go through His providence, because he continues to be in control of all circumstances that surround our lives.
God can use suffering. He can use it to deepen you and to teach you compassion. He can use suffering to make you into a different person.
And sometimes God even uses suffering to bring us to our spiritual senses. I have seen many occasions when people who have had no interest in God or spiritual things suddenly were awakened to their need in the midst of suffering.
I have met many people who have been given horrible news from the doctor. Needless to say, they start taking stock of their lives and asking themselves questions like Where am I going? and What do I live for?
Suddenly those things that were so important are not so important anymore – things like What outfit am I going to wear tomorrow? Is it going to rain tomorrow? don’t matter so much. They only have a month, two months, or six months to live. So they rearrange their lives.
I have seen God use suffering.
As the psalmist wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67 NKJV).
Maybe you have recently come through a time of suffering. Maybe you are going through such a time right now. Maybe you have recently lost a loved one. Maybe it has you asking the big questions in life. If that is the case, then that is a good thing.
Jesus Christ can bring comfort to a mourning person. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). If your heart is filled with sorrow right now, if it is filled with heartache, if someone has let you down or abandoned you or deserted you, or if you have lost someone you care about, then cast your cares upon God. He will give you a special strength in your time of need.
Solomon wrote, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
There are things that we go through in life that will not make sense at the time. They may seem haphazard. They may seem crazy. They may seem pointless. And in a broad sense, that is true if you are living apart from God. That was the very conclusion Solomon came to: Without God, life is meaningless. It doesn’t matter if you have the finest education, all the possessions a person could want and all the pleasures the world offers.
If God is out of the equation, then life is empty. It’s like chasing the wind.