God, don’t you care?
It’s not a question we would normally ask. A lot of the time it’s not a question we would acknowledge we have, even to ourselves.
It doesn’t seem like the kind of question we should ask, so we don’t. We try to keep going, keep trusting, keep believing that of course God cares, that circumstances will turn around soon, that we’ll see what God is doing, that we’ll find some sense of purpose in it all.
Yet the longer it goes on, the more it builds inside us, until finally it bursts out, usually in desperation and frustration.
God, don’t you care?
Don’t you care that I’m suffering?
Don’t you care that I’ve tried so hard to keep going and keep doing the right thing?
Don’t you care that this situation is just unfair?
If you’ve ever been there, be reassured that you’re not alone. I have certainly asked this question at times, and we also see it come up a couple of times in the New Testament.
The first time it is Jesus’ disciples who ask the question. They are sailing across the lake, with Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat, when a fierce storm begins. Despite their valiant efforts to head for the shore, the wind makes it impossible, and the waves crash over the boat, filling it with water, leaving them in real danger. It must have been a particularly wild storm as some of the disciples had previously been fishermen and were presumably used to being out on the water in all kinds of conditions.
This time it gets too much for them. They wake Jesus in a panic and ask the question:
“Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” (Mark 4:38 NLT)
The second time, Martha is the questioner. She has welcomed Jesus into her home and she has worked hard, preparing a special dinner, but becomes increasingly frustrated that, instead of helping, her sister Mary is sitting listening to Jesus’ teaching, leaving her to do all the work. Even worse, Jesus is not saying anything about it. It seems that all her effort is going unnoticed.
Eventually the frustration bubbles over and she asks the question:
“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself?” (Luke 10:40 NIV)
There are other times when the question is not asked out loud, but when it was surely asked in people’s hearts: for example by Jairus, as he endures an agonising wait for Jesus to come and heal his daughter as he had said he would, only for him to be waylaid by a woman seeking healing for herself. Doesn’t Jesus care that his daughter’s situation is much, much worse? Why can’t Jesus tell this woman to wait until later?
His worst fears are confirmed when a servant arrives with news that it is too late his daughter has died.
I imagine it was similar for Mary and Martha as they waited for Jesus to come and heal their brother Lazarus. Rather than going to them straight away, Jesus waits two days, and when he finally arrives, Lazarus is dead. Both sisters greet Jesus with the same statement: “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, 32 NLT)
You can sense the pain in their words and almost hear the underlying question:
Didn’t you care enough to come sooner?
So, what are we to make of it we find ourselves questioning whether God cares? When it seems that our prayers go unanswered? When we just can’t understand why, if he really did care, he didn’t step in and do something long before now?
First of all, it’s okay to be honest with God. Sometimes we can feel that we have to hide certain feelings, but you just have to take a look at the Psalms to see people pouring out all kinds of emotions and questions to God. He welcomes us as we are.
I liked how my blogging friend, Ceil, put it in her post last week: “Why continue prayer that feels forced and inauthentic? But instead of quitting altogether, beginning to pray from the heart, no matter how the heart feels, would be a sincere and healing step. God knows how you feel anyway, nothing is a surprise to him. So why not settle in to prayer and let your feelings flow?”
Secondly, no matter how we feel, the truth is that God cares.
He assures us in his Word that no matter what we are going through, he sees and he cares. He demonstrated it in sending Jesus to bring restoration, and to ultimately bring an end to suffering, injustice, and pain.
Finally, the fact that God cares doesn’t necessarily mean he will deal with our situations in the way we expect.
Sometimes he steps in and “fixes” the situation straight away- as with the disciples caught in the storm. Other times he performs a miracle even when it seems like it is too late- as with Jairus’ daughter, or with Lazarus- showing that no situation is beyond his power.
Other times, his response is not what we would expect or hope: rather than Jesus ordering Mary to help her with the food, Martha is told that Mary is the one who has chosen what is really important.
Recently I have been reading a book “When God Doesn’t Fix It” by Laura Story, in which she shares her story of dealing with her husband’s illness. There are many times of questioning God’s care and pleading with him to change her situation, but her story is a powerful testimony of coming to know God’s care in a deeper, more personal way through a situation that hasn’t been resolved as she expected or hoped. I’d highly recommend the book, especially if this is a question you are struggling with.
Laura’s song, “Blessings” is one that helped me through a particularly difficult situation and reassured me that, even when we can’t see what God is doing in a situation, one thing we can always trust in is his care.
Last year, I wrote a series focusing on different questions Jesus asked people in the Bible. This year, I am going to do a similar series, looking at questions people asked Jesus. This post is part 1 in the series. Join me every Monday over the next few weeks for more.