Chad Gibbs, in his book God and Football, describes his dedication and worship of college football. He grew up as a hardcore Alabama fan, only to go to Auburn for school and eventually be converted into an Auburn fan (this is a good way to get you disowned from your family, by the way).
He describes two instances with two different teams: with Alabama in the late 1990s where they had the chance to go all the way to the Championship and blew it. Then, after a couple of years at Auburn as a student, having been converted to the Tigers, he witnessed another heartbreak in 2004 - an undefeated season and an SEC crown was not enough to go to the National Championship because USC and Oklahoma apparently deserved it more that year.
When my team crashed in such incredible fashion years later, I had to step back and ask, 'Why is this so important to me? Why do I spend all my money to go watch something that only makes me angry? Why do I waste so much of the time I've been giving to this game played by college kids I've never met? Couldn't and shouldn't that be spent on eternal things? Why do I worship something that I know will let me down when I could be worshipping a God that I know never will?'
This brings up an interesting question: WILL God ever let us down? And have you ever felt like He has?
I'll be honest - I have. I look at my life and the direction of things, and I look at my family and friends' lives and I sometimes feel like God has let me down. Like I've asked for something sincerely and with a true heart and God had chosen to ignore me.
Maybe already in your life you've had something that you've felt like God has let you down. Like God took a vacation with your life and just said, "You can handle this by yourself."
Maybe it was a close friend or relative dying. My Aunt died of cancer when I was 20 years old, and she was only 54. That doesn't seem fair.
Maybe it was divorce that split up your family. My mom and dad were separated for months when I was 16. My mom basically kicked my dad out. He wasn't a drunk, or abusive, or anything like that, but they just weren't getting along. I felt like God had let me down during that time.
Maybe it was a difficult time in your life. There were points when I was in Iraq and Afghanistan and I'd been in bits of combat here and there and I felt so scared and alone that I felt God had really let me down. That sometimes He wasn't even there at all.
One of the biggest truths I can tell you about my experience over these things: is that God NEVER lets us down. God is ALWAYS faithful to us. God has not only shown us this in his Word, but in our lives. A huge part of having God in our lives is trusting Him to know what's best for us, even when it doesn't make sense.
What do you do when you feel God has treated you unfairly, left you unprotected, undefended or abandoned?
Know that you aren't alone.
You know, we aren't alone in this. Sometimes we may feel that questioning God makes us bad Christians, but in truth, it can actually help us strengthen our faith.
In Zechariah 13.9, God says,
"[I will] refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God."
Have you ever thought about the refining processes of gold and silver? Lots of people don't know this, but gold and silver are found together in most places. In the ancient world, gold had to be separated from silver. Silver was thought to be a by-product for a while, almost regarded as worthless. Gold was where people thought the real value was. Gold and silver are refined and purified by harsh processes in the ancient world involving fire, acid, and salt to separate and refine. This was called 'gold parting.'
It wasn't until 1874 when Emil Wohlwill perfected purification of gold to what is known as the Wohlwill Process, which produces a near-perfect purified gold product with a purity of 99.999%. Most processes up to the this time only got up to 90-95% purity, and ancient processes were lucky to get 75-80%.
Our Christian lives are a lot like the gold purification process. We don't necessarily know the value of God until our faith has been tested and put through the fire. James 1.2-4 [NLT] tells us this:
"For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything."
If you find yourself doubting God and his Will for you, you're in good company.
In Psalm 13.1 David asks,
"How long Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?"
In Psalm 69:1-3 David confesses:
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God."
Ever felt like this?
David's prayers are bold and brutally honest. Have you ever felt this way, as if your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling? As if God has earplugs in and isn't listening to you at all? King David, a "man after God's own heart," even felt this way. So how should we respond when we do feel this way?
David's two responses in these prayers: Psalm 13:5-6:
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.”
“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”
Look for an occasion to give thanks.
Sometimes this is hard. Let's be honest - ALL the time, this is hard.
When my Aunt died my mom blamed God. But my mom was angry, and she didn't respond in the right way. Truthfully, I didn't either in my own way. I blamed God too. Why would He do such a thing?
It wasn't until years later that I could look back and say that my Aunt passing away strengthened my faith. On her deathbed she told me to never give up on God. She told me to always be thankful. In an indirect and convoluted way, she helped my mother and father strengthen their relationship with one another and with God.
Our greatest reward is to thank Him in our weakest moment.
That's what David did. That's what Jesus did.
Jesus doesn't necessarily thank God, but he does put his whole trust in Him. In Matthew 26.39, facing almost certain death by crucifixion, he says, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will."
David went through trials and thanked God. Jesus faced certain death and put his trust in God.
Realize that you don't have all the answers - God does.
We live in a world where people need to learn to "pick themselves up by their own boot straps," which means, succinctly, that everyone must work hard to get where they want to go. Everyone must do what needs to be done to be successful.
But what about doing what needs to be done - even when it doesn't make sense?
I love the movie The Karate Kid. It's a classic. It's about a kid, who, well, learns lots of life lessons while also learning karate.
In the movie, the kid named Daniel is excited because he's just convinced Mr. Myagi to teach him karate. He goes in for his first lesson, and Mr. Myagi has him wash his car, wax it, and even paint a fence, but he shows him how he wants it done. "Wax on, wax off." No karate whatsoever. Just work.
Daniel is frustrated. He pitches a fit and says that he never wanted to teach him karate, just to have him work. And then the moment of realization comes when Mr. Myagi asks him to show him the moves he's been doing over the past few days. Wax on, wax off. Daniel didn't know it, but he was creating those basic karate moves with muscle memory.
How often are you faced with something in life that doesn't make sense? How often is an obstacle put in your way, or a trial put in your path that you just don't understand? How often do you ask God the question, "Why am I doing this? It doesn't make SENSE!"
The Children of Israel had this happen to them. In Joshua chapters 1, 2, & 6, we learn about the fall of the walls of Jericho.
Jericho was a small city of 10 acres but was packed with as many as 10,000 people. Ten acres isn't much land. It's estimated though that at least half of those 10,000 were soldiers. Joshua, meanwhile, commanded 600,000 men. They could have very easily and without much loss overtaken the city of Jericho, despite its fortified double-wall structure.
But what did God do? Instead of telling them just to overtake them, God told them to march around the wall.
Okay, let me reiterate this: instead of easily capturing the city in maybe a matter of minutes or hours, God told Joshua to march them around the city seven times each day and then seven times on the last day. He told them to blow their trumpets.
I don't know about you, but I would be the one saying, "Um, this is stupid. Can we just overtake the city already?"
Why would God do this? Because maybe God wanted to work things out so that they knew it wasn't them who did it.
God wants us work out things in our lives and see his power, to know who's really in charge, and for us to know what it wasn't us. He wants us to realize that we in our own power don't have all the answers - He does. He wants us to follow Him even when it doesn't make sense.
Romans 8.28 is powerful - so popular and powerful in fact that we overlook this scripture sometimes. Romans chapters 6-12 are some of the most complex to understand in the Bible - clearly Paul is showing us his educational chops when writing this advanced text. But in the middle of all that, he writes this:
"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."
All things will work together for good in our lives if we love God. Loving God is a whole other lesson entirely, but this is a truth that we need to heed. We can trust and be still and know that EVERYTHING in our lives - from our college choices to girlfriends and boyfriends to deaths in our family to divorce and remarriage and affairs and accidents and lies and all sorts of other bad stuff that may happen to us - God can use that.
I imagine God sitting up on His throne watching over us and seeing our struggles and smiling, saying, "I can work with that." And BOOM. He goes into action.
You hear people say "Everything will be alright" all the time…if we're on God's side and love and trust him, we can truly say that.
So when it feels as though God has let us down, don't forget that you aren't alone, give thanks, and realize you don't have all the answers, God does.