“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut 31:8)
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Ps 118:6)
Have you lived through the unthinkable? Had your life knocked off course in a matter of moments, along with what you thought you had faith in God for? An earnest prayer gone seemingly unanswered. Someone you love taken away. Something horrible happening to you. I have felt all these through my 33 years, but the first time my relationship with God was thrown into question took place when I was just nine years old, after I was sexually assaulted by a person I thought I could trust.
The incident kept me in chains way into my teenage years, becoming a raw, angry part of my heart I let no one — not God, not even my conscious self — near. Every time the subject was broached or triggered, the tears came, and so did unbridled rage. It was a mix of everything too painful to dissect, much less think about: Why had I let this happen to myself? How would I ever find full justice? Where was God when I needed Him most?
I didn’t resent this God I had come to know and love on other fronts of my life, but neither did I go anywhere near the glaring inconsistency between His goodness I read about in His Word and what had still happened to me. For all He said about never leaving or forsaking me, it sure looked like God had done so then. He had not helped me as my heart had filled with fear in that fateful moment — and judging by the searing pain I continued to carry, it seemed that a mere mortal had indeed destroyed my life.
This would change, however, almost six years later, at an unrelated altar call I had responded to during youth service. Expecting to be prayed for by the preacher, I found myself overcome by emotion as he said only five simple words to me: “You have to forgive him.” I had not been thinking about it, but what was buried deep inside came spilling out at once. “Yes,” I was somehow able to pray as I knelt at the altar, “Yes, I will forgive him.” I discovered later on that I was able, for the first time ever, to talk about the assault without shame or sting. God had healed me.
He then began answering the questions I had not dared to ask, revealing dimensions of His truth to my mended heart. Had He not protected me from experiencing sexual trauma? This is what I have come to understand: God may not intervene to disrupt the free will He has given all of us — to choose for ourselves without His interference — even when people choose to hurt each other. But His promise of never leaving or forsaking us remains true, a promise embodied in the person of His Son.
Jesus suffered on this earth that we may never be alone in any of our sufferings. He is with us when tragedy strikes, and He stays with us in its wake, no matter how long the road to restoration stretches. Neither does He watch helplessly as we writhe in agony: the Jesus I know wept when the brokenness of this earth touched those whom He loved (John 11:32–35) — and then He proceeded to redeem it (Rev 21:4). He faced the ultimate forsakenness on the Cross in our place, and was returned to life to give all who believe in Him both the promise of eternal togetherness and His Holy Spirit for our time on earth (Matt 27:46; Rom 3:24–26; John 20:21–22).
That is why the New Testament writer of Hebrews can repeat with confidence the exhortations of Moses and David to trust in God and not be afraid (Heb 13:5–6; cf. Deut 31:6; Ps 118:6), because with Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us (Matt 1:23) is now a promise that will be fulfilled for every believer, for every circumstance, for every doubt and dark time. My Great Helper is here for the whole journey, whatever it holds. I will not be afraid.
Dear Heavenly Father, I bring to You everything I hold in my heart: my doubts, my hurts, my questions. Help me to trust in You as I surrender them to You. Heal my heart as You renew my mind with Your truth. May I experience Your nearness in this journey. Amen.
1. Is there something you are struggling with that is hard to reconcile with your faith in God? Tell God the truth of what you’re going through, and ask for His help.
2. Are you feeling alone or abandoned? Commit to trusting that God is near, He is with you, and in Him you will find revelation, redemption, and restoration.
KNOW THE WORD
Allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate His truths in these passages:
– Psalm 34:15–20
– John 11:1–44; 16:33
– Isaiah 41:10; 43:2
“God’s absence is never true. His silence is not absence; His hiddenness is not abandonment. He is working for your salvation; He is working out his promises. He is keeping His promises even when it looks like He’s nowhere around.” — “The Hiddenness of God” by Timothy Keller
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