Almost all of my counselees have the same problem. No, they’re not all anxious, or all depressed, or all grieving. But they do all have the same problem. In fact, every Christian who struggles with spiritual and emotional problems to the point where they seek counseling, has the same problem: At some point they lost sight of the God of the Bible and replaced Him with a god of their own making. They say things like, “I used to be able to trust Him, but now I can’t.” Or, “He used to be so good to me. What happened? Why did He stop answering my prayers?” The God they met on the day of their conversion is not the God they are experiencing now, and they are confused. Did He change?
You may have heard a story that has been told by a few preachers over the years. An elderly couple is driving down the road in their 1964 Plymouth Belvedere, with the bench seat in front. As they roll along the road, the lady recalls the former days, when she would snuggle up to her young husband, right next to him on that bench seat, and they would talk about the scenery, their destination, or whatever else came along. These are fond memories, but sad for her because she misses those days. She and her husband are not as close as they used to be, and she verbalizes this to him:
“I sure miss those days when we drove along hand in hand, sitting close together on this seat. What happened? How come we don’t do that anymore?”
“Well” he replied, hands firmly placed at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. “I haven’t moved.”
You see, over the years of their marriage, there were disappointments and unspoken frustrations that brought distance between this bride and her husband. Rather than using these challenges to grow closer to him, sharing her heart and hearing his, she kept quiet. Because he hadn’t turned out to be the perfect man she’d imagined in her mind, she began to distrust her husband, and to distance herself from him. As she lost confidence in his love for her, her love for him grew cold, and soon she was as far from him on that bench seat as the Belvedere would allow.
Do you see the analogy here? When we first come to Christ, we may have great expectations that He is going to make our life wonderful, joyful, and complete. We want to be near to him all the time. We love Him with our whole heart, and we are sure of His love for us. Then, we begin to really battle sin in our hearts and the hearts of others. Pain, suffering, disappointment and grief come along, and we begin to feel angry and cheated out of that abundant life we were so sure was ours. Like the woman in the story though, we don’t share our sadness with our Savior. Instead, we harbor feelings of resentment toward Him, and we begin to doubt His love for us. As our prayers go seemingly unanswered, we begin to feel bitter toward God, and soon we have completely lost our trust in Him. We drop out of church, stop reading His Word, and stop praying. We become anxious, depressed, and hopeless.
If I’ve just described you, then I want you to ask yourself some questions: What happened? Did God change? Did he become different as your trials increased? Did He begin to love you less as you became disappointed in Him? Did He lose His power as you lost your confidence in His ability to help you? Did He become less trustworthy because you didn’t get the answers you wanted? Did He stop listening when you stopped praying? Did He stop speaking as your Bible gathered dust?
The answer to all of these questions is no. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 8:13). He is “The Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. (James 1:17). In Malachi 3:6 He says, “I am the Lord. I change not.” Like the man in our story above, as you were moving farther away from God, He had his hands firmly planted on the wheel, guiding and directing your life according to His plan for you. He never moved or changed. It was you who began to believe your own perceptions of Him instead of trusting in what He says about Himself in His Word. To boil it all down, you began to see God through the lens of your circumstances instead of seeing your circumstances through the lens of your God.
Here’s a sentence for you to memorize, that I hope will help you in those moments of trial, fear, doubt, and sadness. I repeat it to myself often, and I believe that it will help you, too.
God is God, and He is who He says He is,
no matter what is happening to me right now.
Friends, we must base our view of God on what He says about Himself in His Word, and nothing else. The second we move away from that, we have a different God. The God of the Bible is good, faithful, all-knowing, and loving, no matter what apparent contradictions this world brings. If you are disappointed, sad, grieving, suffering, and struggling, tell Him about it! Pray the Psalms of Lament (do a quick Google search), and pour out your heart to Him. Instead of questioning His love for you, soak your pillow with tears and beg Him to show you that love. Reach out to the body of Christ to comfort you in your pain, instead of scooting toward the passenger door.
You will find that, as you believe and obey the words of your Savior, your cold heart will grow warm, and He will breathe new life into your faith. It’s true. Take it from a sister who’s been there, and is now snuggled up next to her Driver, chatting about the scenery and trusting Him to get her safely to her eternal destination.