Doubt, Faith, Fear, Hope, The Ultimate Treasure, Words of Endurance

When We Can’t Find the Treasure

Joanie Thompson was well acquainted with the world of suffering and how God could make His presence known in the midst of it. Through her prayer ministry, she had seen God’s love, peace and unmistakable presence touch the hearts of the broken women who had come to her for prayer. She marveled again and again at the unique way God would reveal Himself and meet the true need of each woman’s wounded heart. He never failed to pierce the darkness of each woman’s pain with the light of His love.

Many hurting women had walked out of Joanie’s prayer room with a renewed sense of God’s love, a healed heart and a treasured, personal experience with God’s mercy. Then Joanie became sick. Over a period of months, her health began to deteriorate. Her breathing became labored. She tired easily and had no stamina. It was her turn to receive what she had often seen God provide for others.

For two years, Joanie suffered without knowing what was wrong with her. Exhaustion limited everything, even the amount of time she could spend with family and friends. Her prayer ministry had to be curtailed. Doctors eventually diagnosed her with a chronic lung disease, but there was little they could do to help. They could improve her lung function with steroids, but the severe migraines that resulted were almost worse than the disease. The doctors couldn’t predict whether her condition would improve over time. But the worst part was that Joanie had prayed—as she had for so many others—for God to be near her in her time of darkness, yet God seemed distant and silent when she needed Him the most.

Joanie was not the first of God’s children to question His promise to be “close to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). Job cried out to God,“Why do you hide your face?” (Job 13:24). King David pleaded with God,“Oh my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2). Such experiences have caused many of us to wonder why, if God wants to give us treasures in the darkness so we’ll know that He is God, there are times when we just can’t seem to find Him.

The knowledge that other people have felt alone in the darkness of their suffering can be consoling. After all, giants of the faith—even Jesus—have felt abandoned by God (Matthew 27:46). Perhaps the inability to “connect” with God is, at least for some of us, part of the journey rather than a random, isolated experience. But why does God allow His presence to be hidden from us when we need and long for it the most?

We may never understand the why, but there is good news in the unanswered question. Our struggle to connect with God is evidence that our relationship with Him truly matters. It is evidence that although our faith may be threatened by the harsh reality of suffering, it is far from dead. And when God is hidden by the darkness, we may realize:

  • How desperately we want and need Him (see Psalm 73:25).
  • That every word of the Bible is true (see Mark 13:31).
  • That we are being prepared for a greater ministry (see 2 Corinthians 2:3-6).
  • That we have no source of true meaning and hope other than God (see John 6:67-69).
  • That earth is not our true home. Our hearts long to be with God in heaven, in uninterrupted relationship with Him forever (see Psalm 84:1-10).
  • That God is with us, and when we can’t perceive Him we must learn to live by faith (see 1 Peter 1:6-7).

God never “showed up” in the way Joanie expected, but she did find treasure in her relationship with Him—treasure that can never be hidden.

When God seemed hidden from sight, Joanie learned that her faith rested on what God had already done, not on what He was doing in the present. She realized that Jesus died on a cross and rose again to prove the extent of His extravagant love for her. History confirms it. Scripture details it. So whether or not she could feel His nearness in her present suffering, she knew He was already with her. In time, Joanie quit wrestling with the “Why didn’t He come?” question because, as she explains it,“He had already come. I realized that I still had the cross. Sometimes that is all we have, but it is enough.”

Dear God,
I am desperate in this darkness.
Please speak to me through Your Word.
Open my eyes, unstop my ears, soften my heart, so that I might see You in these pages,
hear Your voice speak these words
and be open to Your instruction.
Give me a hunger for Your Word.
Give me wisdom to understand it.
Guide my hands and my heart to a Scripture that will light the path before me.
Lead to me to a quiet place and time
where Your words can sink into my heart
and transform the darkness inside.