Feeling Betrayed?

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Have you ever felt betrayed by God? At first that may seem like a blasphemous thought to some, yet I know many of us have felt this. I know I have felt this before. Think about it…you’ve been a good person; you’ve tried to follow God. You love Him and truly seek His will for your life, and yet, you’re not receiving some of the blessings you have prayed for.

“Shouldn’t my faithfulness be rewarded? Doesn’t God’s Word teach that if I follow God, if I pray for things in Jesus’s Name, that He would give me the desires of my heart?”

We know the promises of Scripture:

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:13-14 ESV

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 ESV

These are just a few!

Not only have we not received our desires, but we look around and see others, non- Jesus followers, maybe even cursers of God, get the things we have often prayed for ourselves. Their lives seem so blessed and easy. Like Esau, in Genesis 25:29-34, we feel as though our “birthright” has been stolen! We were the faithful ones, doing what God wanted us to do, yet some schemer received our reward. The feeling is even worse when we see them also take advantage of, or misuse, the gifts God has given them.

As a follower of Jesus this is one of the most distressing questions of life. God’s Word has many promises for the faithful and lists many punishments for the wicked. Yet here on earth, at times, this seems so distant from what we see around us. “Down here” it appears the wicked are blessed and the faithful are crushed[1]. And so, we question,

“Why doesn’t God give me the desires of my heart?”

Now, I’m not talking about riches or material blessings, though many could be struggling to get by and though they are faithful to Jesus, their struggle continues. Maybe it’s a needed job. Maybe a desired spouse. Maybe it’s children of your own that you have planned. Maybe it’s the healing for yourself or a loved one. And so, we question,

“I have faith, why don’t I receive _____________?”

“Why did they get ___________ and I didn’t?”

My wife and I lost three babies in our early years and never had children of our own. Though God has allowed us to impact many other children from our friends, family, and time in youth ministry, we still question why we were not blessed with our own. Today we are often comforted knowing we’ve impacted the lives of these children for good, but it does still hurt when we have known drug addicts that have had perfectly healthy children, when we could not. It sometimes hurts when we have known parents that have abandoned their children, when we would not. And so, we still have our times of questioning; “Why?” “Why did God not allow two faithful people of His own to be blessed with children that would have been so loved and cherished?”

Reward for Faith?

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

– Matthew 17:20 ESV

I doubt many of you have asked God to move a mountain recently. But you have likely had that “mustard seed of faith” Jesus speaks of when you have prayed for healing, for provision, or for the other desires of your heart. So why did you not receive what you prayed for?

I have no easy answers to any of these questions. All I can do is search God’s Word for truth.

There are many examples of faithful followers of God that were found on the wanting end of being rewarded for their faith. For some the blessing came later in life when they had all but given up hope. For example, Abraham and Sarah were not blessed with their first child until they were in their 90’s![2]

Others, such as Moses, only got a glimpse of the Promised Land but never got to experience the reward himself.[3]

Some, like Joseph, Daniel, and Paul, were imprisoned wrongfully even though they had served God with all their heart.

Many of God’s profits, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and others, suffered many different pains and persecutions.

In the New Testament, Paul was not only imprisoned many times, but also beaten, shipwrecked, snake bitten, and plagued by an infirmity that God would not grant his prayer to remove.

As we approach Easter, and as I seek to Focus on the Cross, I cannot help but think about Jesus and the life that He led. God’s own Son suffered in many ways though there was no one more faithful and obedient to the Father than He. Yet He was cursed.

Jesus’s initiation into ministry was 40 days of hunger in the desert and then a fight against His biggest adversary.[4]

He suffered the loss of His first real supporter, John the Baptist, the one who “cleared the way for Him[5].” John was arrested and eventually beheaded.[6]

Jesus was constantly rejected by people.[7] He experienced multiple attempts to take His life.[8]

One of His own chosen friends betrayed Him leading to His arrest.[9]

Jesus’s own prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane for “the cup” to be passed from Him three times, was not granted.[10]

Jesus suffered the abandonment of His friends[11], three times denied by one of them[12], and eventually was hung on a device of torture by the very people He came to save.

If anyone deserved the easy life, for His prayers to be answered the way He desired, Jesus was indeed the One! “Yeah, but Jesus’s mission was to die for the sins of the world, hence He could not escape the Cross.” That is a true statement, however, the truth is that God the Father had a plan for Jesus’s life on earth that included saving the world by Jesus’s suffering.

God has a plan and purpose for all His people.[13] His plan is not to allow us unnecessary pain and suffering, yet He, in His goodness and sovereignty, may use such for our own good, and for His glory. He always redeems our struggle for our good. God’s Word is overtly clear: He does not promise the follower a perfect, pleasurable life with all our heart’s desire.[14] On the contrary, Jesus warns His followers multiple times, we will have pain and suffering and persecution in this life. However, we have no idea what the reality of that means until it happens. Then we look around and compare our suffering, or our lack of certain blessings, to someone else’s “blessings” and we wonder, “where is mine?”

Maybe the problem is we are looking at others and deeming them unworthy based on how they live and how they treat what God has given them, all the while thinking of ourselves as better than they. “We would never misuse God’s blessings.” Right? I’m not saying we would or wouldn’t, but I am saying that we have to place our trust in God’s sovereignty, and His work in our lives, and know that He knows and is doing what is best for His purpose.

Think about some of those biblical examples mentioned earlier. Remember Joseph? His being sold as a slave and being imprisoned for years brought him to a place to save his whole family from starvation due to the most severe famine experienced in their region.[15]

Would the Apostle Paul had been able to write such important letters to the churches that take up half of our New Testament Scriptures and explain some of the most important doctrines of our faith, if he had not been imprisoned when he was?[16]

Look at the Cross of Jesus. It was painful. He did not want it. He prayed for God to make another way if possible. But where would we be without it? Without the abandonment He faced, the betrayal of His own friends, and His own Father allowing what was necessary, He would not have been able to claim, “It is finished,” when it came to the price it required to redeem us sinful people.

If we feel God has betrayed us, it is likely the result of our sinful thinking in comparing and seeing ourselves more deserving than those that received the blessings we prayed for. Betrayal is transactional thinking that if I am “good” then I deserve a reward. However, our faith is not something to be used for bargaining with God. Our faith is to be continued obedience and trust, even when we do not get what we desire. It is faith in the Father’s knowing what is best for His children even when His not giving may cause us pain. We have to trust the Father in His wisdom and His love because His perspective of our situation is so much greater than our own. His promises stand true, but like a good Father, He knows what is best to give and what is best to withhold even when it hurts those He loves…even His own Son.

 

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4:10 ESV

 

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

[2] Genesis 17:17, 21:1-7

[3] Deuteronomy 34:1-7

[4] Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-12

[5] Matthew 3:1-17, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3:1-22, John 1:19-34

[6] Matthew 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29, Luke 9:7-9

[7] Mark 6:3, Matthew 8:34, Luke 4:29, John 1:11

[8] Luke 4:28-30, John 8:59, 10:31, 11:7-8

[9] Matthew 26:14-16, 47-50, Mark 14:10-11, 43-45, Luke 22:3-6, 47-48, John 13:21-30, 18:1-5

[10] Matthew 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46

[11] Matthew 26:56, Mark 14:50

[12] Matthew 26:69-75, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18, 25-27

[13] Exodus 9:16, Psalm 138:8, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, 2 Timothy 1:9

[14] Psalm 34:9, Isaiah 43:2, Matthew 5:10-12, John 16:33, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 5:10, 2 Timothy 3:12, James 1:2-4

[15] Genesis 45:6-8

[16] Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon from prison. He is responsible for 13 books in our New Testament Scriptures.