When I learned my dear friend was killed in a car accident this summer, I was stunned. She was my second mom, and a faithful wife, mother, and friend. She was unforgettable. And her life was snapped so abruptly that I couldn’t process it.
Immediately I turned to the Lord. In this sick confusion, this shocking storm of fear, this sudden disruption of a beautiful existence, I cried out to him.
And I heard nothing. Absolute silence.
This unsettling sense of abandonment appeared to contradict Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Why was it that when I most needed his presence he seemed most agonizingly absent?
As C.S. Lewis so bluntly asked in the midst of his own grief, “Why is he so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?”
God was totally sovereign over the scene. This truth felt more painful than comforting in the aftermath. Mere seconds or inches, and she could have been spared. Her end was not random. It was at least allowed, if not orchestrated, and this terrified me. God, who I trusted, wrote this suffering into our story.
So, when you’re tempted to distrust what feels like an absent God, what do you do?
First, I Ran
In turmoil, I unburdened my soul to my dad. “I’m afraid,” I told him. “God not only allowed this; he willed it. I’m terrified of the one I need help from. What do I do?” He answered me with Proverbs 18:10: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
“We only have two options,” he counseled. “We can choose to run toward God or away from him. Running toward him is scary sometimes — he’s massive and powerful. But running away from him is even more frightening.” God made me realize that we can’t lose hope in him when things are hard. We must petition him untiringly, like the persistent friend in Luke 11.
God reminded me that his ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). After all, the worst event to ever occur — the murder of his Son — became the most wonderful thing for us, securing our salvation and revealing the supreme glory of God.
We must run to God in joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, life and death. And we are promised this: if we draw near to him, he will draw near to us (James 4:8).
Then, I Waited
Along with persistently pursuing God, we must faithfully await his answer.
I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:1–2)
John Piper observes that Psalm 40:1 doesn’t specify how long we must wait. The psalmist merely says, “I waited.” The psalmist also doesn’t say, “I screamed fervently at the Lord until he heard my cry and rescued me.” Waiting requires surrender. It is nearly impossible to save a drowning man who is flailing in panic trying to save himself. When he relaxes, however, he can be rescued.
After revealing that God is a “very present help in trouble,” Psalm 46 says in verse 10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This submission is crucial to our deliverance, something we must ask God to help us accomplish. We must rest in his love, trusting that whatever he does is truly for his glory and our good.
God, My Comforter
Healing didn’t happen right away. I spent many days in terror, poring over Scripture and calling out to God. There were countless moments I had no words in me except “God, help!”
When I first began to call out to God despite my fears, it felt like my supplications rose no further than the ceiling. Did God even hear me? I felt like the persistent friend only to experience what Lewis described as, “A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.” But over time, with Christ’s gentle work in my heart, my prayers increased. Scripture comforted me in new ways as he sent people with reminders of his love and his word at perfect times — priceless treasures to my aching soul.
Some days I stumbled back to “God, help!” But in these times, he was patient with me as he is with all of us. Gently, his peace came to guard my heart and mind. It stole in undetectably at first, like the earliest light of sunrise, but it came to comfort me, just as he promised (Philippians 4:7).
In the end, we look to a hope far greater than any pain we experience here on earth (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18). We are promised a happy ending, union with Christ, and that what happens here won’t last forever. Christ is coming. We must only keep running to him, waiting in trust and peace.