What do you do when God doesn’t deliver you from hardship, even after He delivered you in the past? What do you do when you have faithfully prayed, but God is not responding as He has before? I have asked these questions myself many times.
I know He is able, but it looks like He is not showing up this time.
We love hearing stories of answered prayers and God’s miraculous intervention in someone else’s situation. We have faith. We are encouraged. We become bold.
We feel convinced that God will answer, but sometimes, we are utterly confused by His silence.
The first church in Philippi shares our experience. In Acts 15-16, we read about their miraculous stories of deliverance and a second chance at life. After being imprisoned in their Philippian jail, Paul and Silas started praying and praising God. Suddenly an earthquake shook the prison’s foundations and set all the prisoners free of their chains.
However, later, Paul is back in a different prison. And, while writing this letter to the Philippians, there is no “prison break.”
What is happening? Where is God this time?
I imagine that the Philippians not only fearfully miss their leader, but they are waiting in expectation to see him soon. They desperately hope to see him free as before.
Instead, Paul writes to tell them that the painful things that are happening to him—the beatings, the imprisonment, the false accusations, the chains—are for a good cause. Listen to what Paul says to them:
“And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).
While Paul was in prison, the gospel was growing as people gained the boldness to share the message of Jesus!
When I am in pain, trauma, turmoil or affliction, my first response is often to worry. At most, I will pray for a way out of it. Yet, from Paul’s story, we see that when God is in it, He is using it for His glory.
Paul was even ready to die. However, he did not quit because he knew that his life was solely for glorifying God, whether alive or dead.
How about we pray and then let God work it out? How about we quit focusing on our painful circumstances and focus on how God works on us in them?
For even when we don’t see or feel it, God is still with us, and He is still at work.