IN THE DESERT OF “FEELING” FORSAKEN BY GOD?
(Subtitled: "God Help Me!")
(By: Norm Rasmussen)
Perhaps you are going through a very difficult time in your life right now where you are being tempted to “feel” like God has let you down – like He can’t be bothered with your heartache -- like He has completely forsaken you. It might be the most painful suffering you have ever gone through, and maybe you “feel” like God has not only betrayed you, but that He also can’t be concerned with the pain you’re experiencing.
Dear one … going through the desert of “feeling” forsaken is perhaps the most difficult trial God will ever allow us to be put through … yet the most beneficial - in light of eternity.
Job as recorded in the Old Testament went through similar feelings. He felt that God betrayed him. He eventually felt like God couldn’t be concerned with his painful suffering. He felt that he was being made to suffer unjustly. Job wasn’t aware that he was allowed by God to be made a “human football,” and the forces of evil were kicking him around in the desert of “feeling” forsaken just for leg exercise in a pre-game warm-up.
Would it surprise you to know that millions have been tested far more severely than Job was tested in feeling like God had forsaken him? Feeling like he was made to suffer unjustly? You might be one of those people yourself.
Mental Anguish Can Only Be Measured Internally
We may not have loved-one’s dying around us like Job had; our finances stripped away; plagued with boils from head to foot; friends wanting us to confess sins we never committed; a spouse telling us to curse God and die … but that does not mean our mental anguish is any less than Job’s was. Mental anguish can never be measured by external events that can be seen with the natural eye. It can only be measured internally, and only God has the ability to measure internal mental anguish.
Being tested in the desert of “feeling” forsaken is usually reserved for the more determined disciples of Jesus Christ – for those who can handle the trial. You think to yourself: I’ve been obedient to God as best as I know how.Sure, I haven’t been perfect, but who is on this planet? I’ve given of my time and resources to help the Kingdom of God advance in the lives of others. God has answered so many of my prayers in the past that books couldn’t contain all the praise reports. Yet now … it might seem as though God can’t be found in your time of great trial – like He can’t be concerned about your pain. Everything inside you wants to yell, “I feel betrayed, God! Why don’t you comfort me and give me some direction?! I feel like You have forsaken me!”
Remember, child of God: Satan is the one who is “fueling” or “energizing” this trial. What Satan desires is for you to quit putting your trust in God, and the promises in God’s Word for you. What God desires is that you hold on to the mindset Job held onto: “Even if you allow me to be slain, Lord, I will not quit serving you, nor will I turn my back on you. Not by my strength, Lord, but by your grace, I will not.”
Precious one – God is as close to you in times of your suffering as He is in your times of refreshing. However, when you are in the desert of “feeling” forsaken, the test by its very nature is designed to do just that: tempt you to believe God actually has forsaken you … to see what you are going to do. Have you come to that realization yet?
This writing is to help you have some comfort in your time of great mental anguish – to help you understand what is going on – to help you pass the test. My prayer is that no one reading this will fail the test … no matter how painful the trial. And your trial may be far more painful than Job’s was.
Do you know who else beside you and Job have been tested in the desert of “feeling” forsaken? None other than our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Being led into the desert of “feeling” forsaken was the most painful trial Jesus was ever put through. God the Father allowed Jesus to go through the most painful test/trial ever experienced by anyone who has lived on this planet. Jesus was tempted to “feel” like God the Father had totally and completely forsaken Him, unlike any other has ever felt … as He hung helplessly on the cross in his final moments of agony before dying. We know God the Father didn’t forsake Him however, because we get to read what happened to Jesus three days later after His death. He rose again!
The journey started in the Garden of Gethsemane. For those of us fortunate enough to have watched Mel Gibson’s movie: The Passion Of The Christ, or the equally powerful Jesus movie produced by Campus Crusade For Christ, we’ve come to realize that the torturous walk from Gethsemane to the hill of Golgotha had to be mental and physical torment of indescribable proportions for Jesus. Just witnessing it on the screen gave us a sickening feeling we all had a difficult time putting into words.
Their Rejection Of Him Ripped Apart His Anguished Soul
Jesus had been sent to the Jewish nation to redeem them from their sins. They were His very own chosen people to reveal the Truth of God to the world. But now they wanted him destroyed. Their rejection of Him ripped apart His anguished soul.
On the cross, the physical pain intensified for Jesus. Yet in the mind of our Savior was a sickening feeling of being betrayed by his Father that mere words could not describe. Had he not been faithful to do the will of his Father? The pain in his soul was more excruciating than any of the physical pain that he had been afflicted with. Jesus had known the ending of His life on earth was not going to be pleasant … but this!?
“Father .. this is too much! You have set me up to make me feel totally forsaken! Father – I cry out and beg of you to remove this hell of feeling utterly abandonment by you! The sins of the world and your wrath have caused us to be separated forever! My God – My God … why have you forsaken me?!” … were the second to the last words of anguish that came out of his mouth, before He died.
Dear one … try to take comfort in your pain that the Father did not exempt Jesus from the test of being allowed to “feel” forsaken. It’s key to understand that God didn’t cause it – God allowed it. There is a big difference! Why would God allow such a thing? Isn’t that cruel and sick, we ask? From our human perspective, most would agree it was cruel. From a heavenly, eternal perspective … cruelty didn’t enter into the picture. It was setting up a catalyst for Jesus to experience greater joy throughout eternity than what any of us can possibly comprehend. God never allows suffering in those who keep placing their trust in Him to go wasted. God is too loving and too wise to allow such a thing.
Here’s the bottom-line truth regarding the affliction you are presently experiencing. Your suffering is qualifying you to experience greater joy throughout eternity than what any mere mortal can possibly comprehend this side of heaven. Just don’t quit on God. That’s all you have to do – not quit. Job didn’t quit, and Jesus didn’t quit. Sure – there may be some “questionable times” where you may have quit … but jump back in the battle of trust and keep on fighting! Jesus will never quit helping you fight your cross battle. He didn’t die for you to lose. He died to make certain you would stay enlisted in His army of overcomers.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted in every manner that you and I ever have, or ever will be tempted. God has not allowed evil to sift us like wheat that He didn’t allow Jesus to be sifted like wheat. Thus Jesus too has walked through the hot, dry desert of “feeling” forsaken by God – the same desert you may be walking through right now. It’s the most painful desert most will ever cross. (It will be a journey that never ends for those who spend eternity in hell, by the way).
My wife and I were privileged to minister to some incarcerated brothers in Carson City Correctional Facility in December 2004. I was taking a shower that Sunday morning previous, asking the Lord what I should minister to the brothers. God brought the book of Revelation to mind. The dialogue from the Holy Spirit went like this:
“Starting in Revelation Chapter 3, verse 7, read what I have to say about the church of Philadelphia. Take particular note of verse 10:
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”
I felt the Holy Spirit was saying this to me: “Most who have followed Me for any length of time knows what it is like to be tempted to “feel” like God has forsaken them. Many in prison “feel” this much of the time. “Feelings” are never to be trusted if they are tempting one to be resentful or angry toward Me. When “feelings” contradict what has clearly been revealed in My Word, my disciples must always realize Satan is trying to gain a foothold in their mind. Minister insight to them on this topic.”
I was blessed that God gave me some direction, as He always has, when we have the privilege of being used to minister to those in prison. But before I finished my shower … I believe the Holy Spirit spoke something else to me that He wants me to write about here.
“This hour of trial that will come upon Christians at that time will be a more intense test of “feeling” betrayed by Me than what most could imagine right now. The most difficult test one can go through is to have circumstances so adversely visit someone that everything in them will feel like my Son felt just before He died and yielded up His spirit … that I had totally, completely betrayed Him. No one will feel pain that intensely however … like He felt at that moment in time.
“Many of those who will rise above this time of testing once it covers the whole earth -- I am already putting them through this test to different degrees right now, or soon will be - to cause them to realize that there is only one way to pass this test, whenever it visits them. To confess with their mouths every time the temptation of betrayal sears their anguished soul and spirit that though they believe I have given them false hope, betrayed and abandoned them … yet will they give me praise and thanksgiving that I find them so special to allow the sufferings of Christ to visit them. The “sufferings of Christ” means: suffering unjustly for putting their trust in Me.”
“Many of My followers have sought to know me only as their God of favor, financial prosperity, and healer, and that I am. But without my allowing them to be led into the hot, lonely desert of “feeling” forsaken by Me, will they be pruned of the dead branches of self-will that hinders greater intimacy with Me … and more Christ-likeness in them that will last for eternity. Greater intimacy with Me creates an increase of joy … always. Both for Me, for the one being intimate with Me, and all others who are with Me.
“Tell my people, especially those who are incarcerated, that the strange or painful circumstances that they find themselves in are not a “mistake” at all. Whether their suffering is the result of poor choices they have made, or my allowing Satan to outright afflict them, which is usually the case -- it makes little difference. Tell them that they are experiencing the most difficult trial/test my followers can experience … the temptation of “feeling” like I have forsaken them. Of course, as My Word declares, I never have forsaken them, and I never will. (See: Hebrews 13:5-6). Yet in my wisdom, I will allow some of them to be purged and purified more severely and more painfully than what my servant Job experienced – so they will have increased capacity to experience greater joy through eternity. Some will even die painfully in their time of trial, and will not see deliverance until they cross over into eternity.”
On November 19, 2004, a good friend of ours, Cal Aldrink, was thrust smack dab in the center of the desert of “feeling” forsaken. Cal and his wife, Diana, have ministered to prisoners in one way or another all around the world for years. On November 19, brother Cal asked the Lord if what he was about to do was safe. He didn’t get a check in his spirit that it was not, thus he proceeded to accomplish the task at hand.
High in the air on an extended ladder, it would be my guess that Satan was allowed to give the ladder a shove, causing the ladder to fall to earth and Cal falling with it. At the end of the day, doctors stated that he crushed several vertebrae in his upper spine, which was causing total paralysis just below his armpits all the way to his toes. The crushing and ripping of the vertebrae stretched and twisted the spinal cord and nerves so violently that the spinal cord, for all practical purposes, was totally destroyed – thus permanent paralysis.
Falling face first on the ground, Cal also broke a collarbone, his sternum, and several ribs. If this wasn’t severe enough, he broke the very last vertebra of the spine that your head rests on. It is a sizable vertebra, and it was broken in two different places. If this vertebra gets broken only in one spot, often times it causes near instant death to the person because the spinal cord can take very little trauma there without causing the heart to stop beating. In brother Cal’s case, this vertebra was broken in two different locations! Being broken in two different places increases one’s odds of dying even much quicker, yet God kept Cal from dying. The surgeon determined that the hospital should not attempt surgery to these two breaks on this vertebra, because surgery of that sort is very, very risky. Rather, they would take their chances and see if the vertebra would heal on its own without causing pressure to the spinal cord or any surrounding nerves and tissue.
For all practical purposes, those of us who know and love Cal should have already attended his funeral. Cal should be in heaven right now, pain free, rejoicing. Yet that is not the case as of the time of this writing. The Lord has seen fit to keep Cal alive … and it is Cal’s prayer that no matter what the outcome is from here, God will use him in greater ways than ever before to touch lives for Jesus Christ.
Many of us who know and love him are believing for a complete miracle of restoration. We have a choice in how we want to believe, and it only makes sense for us to believe that way. Yet we also align our faith with brother Cal’s – that whether God does a creative miracle of healing to his physical body or not – we believe that God will use him in greater ways than ever before, and give sufficient strength and grace to Diana and family to be servants of Jesus Christ to Cal until the Lord takes him home in glory.
King David experienced the testing of feeling betrayed of God. In Psalms 27:9-10, we hear his cry:
“Do not hide your face from me; do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my help; do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation.
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me.”
What We Must Always Realize Is That In Light Of Eternity ... God Will Not Forsake Us
Even if those closest to us should cause us to feel betrayed and be unfairly judged by them, that is when the Lord will gather us closer to Him than ever before and assure us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us, as is promised to us in Hebrew 13:5-6.
What we must realize is that in light of ETERNITY … God will not forsake us – as long as we don’t permanently quit on Him in this life.
Brother Cal Aldrink has set an example that I hope the Lord allows me and other soldiers on the front line to follow. Cal is not a complainer. He is quite certain where his affliction came from. However, he also believes that God is sovereign over all that happens on this planet, which includes what the devil is allowed to do and not do. Cal’s heart cry and request to God is, “Father … my prayer is that you use me in greater ways than ever before, even if I remain paralyzed and handicapped.”
Dear one … is that your request to God when you may be feeling tempted to believe that God has “betrayed” you? Is this your prayer: “Lord … please use me more than ever before!” Talk about a weapon of grace from God!
Does God want to challenge us to do some serious soul-searching in asking ourselves what we are going to do if God should allow us to become paralyzed at the next intersection? What will we do if our house burns to the ground for no reason, and possibly losing loved ones in the fire? What will we do if money dries up and bills stack higher and higher? What will we do if loved ones around us keep being afflicted, or dying? What will we do if God allows an earthquake to hit on Sunday underneath every church in our city? What we will do if God allows terrorists to rip our city and nation apart? Will we give in to one of Satan’s most subtle temptations of trying to manipulate us to believe the lie that God has finally forsaken us after all?
Or – will you purpose right now to thank Him and praise Him no matter WHAT might happen to people you love … no matter how much pain the trial may bring … no matter how “unfair” of a trial it might seem? Giving thanks to God for all things even includes giving God thanks for allowing you to partake of the sufferings of Christ to whatever degree(s) God so ordains for each of us to drink of that cup.
Partaking of the sufferings of Christ are never easy, nor are they fun, because almost always, the temptation is always ever present in “feeling” like God has either betrayed us, or forsaken us. When those temptations become so real inside us, we must turn to God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to burn these truths into our soul and spirit:
“We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our mortal flesh. -- 2 Cor. 4:8-11
“My brethren, Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” -- James 1:2-3 [Patience is the gasoline than fuels the engine of perseverance].
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. -- 1 Peter 1:6-7
“Beloved, Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” --1 Peter 4:12-13.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” -- 2 Cor. 4:16-17
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” -- Romans 8:28
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I will also keep you from the hour of trial which will come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. -- Revelation 3:10.
From what I see in this above passage, the QUALIFIER in being kept from this very painful “hour of trial” is to persevere before this hour of trial comes upon earth – meaning, as in: begin persevering now! (And you know an “hour” in God’s time can be a whole lot longer than 60 minutes our time. Maybe 60 earth-years?)
Persevere doing what? Persevere in what? I believe God is saying that no matter what obstacles or circumstances or attacks from Satan that may seem to try to hinder our inner confidence that God is in full control of everything that is being allowed to affect us personally -- God wants us to keep preserving in praising Him and thanking Him that our affliction and emotional torment is working in us eternal good.
I also believe it means being as faithful to our call as possible … no matter how little “fruit” seems to be coming from our ministry endeavors. Remember … God won’t reward us for the fruit that comes from our call. He will reward us for our faithfulness to the call. And let us always remember – wherever there are people, there will always be people we can minister to -- be a blessing to. Our “call” can change very quickly, but where there are people, there will always be people who need a touch from the Lord.
If we’ll do the above two things prior to when this hour of trial comes upon the whole earth (and none of us can’t be so certain that it’s not right around the corner) … God is either going to somehow supernaturally sustain certain of His saints while remaining on this planet, or it shouldn’t surprise us to see these faithful saints who have persevered through trials up to that moment in time … get translated into the heavenlies to be with Jesus and the rest of the saints passed on to glory (Or – perhaps the ability to translate from location to location around this planet).
Praise and thanksgiving is the substance our helmet of salvation spoken of in Ephesians 6:17 is made of. Attitude and gratitude is the chin strap that keeps it on in the midst of the battle. And - To gain altitude in the Lord, we have to maintain our attitude.
The key here is that we purpose to keep praising and thanking and trusting God that He will sustain us in our current time of trial we might be in now, or soon might be in up ahead. If we pass the tests he allows to come our way now … I see this as the qualifier in exempting us from a very painful period of trial that is one day going to visit this planet.
King David was called by God, “A man after my own heart.” David probably sinned worse than you’ll ever sin. David got angry at God often, because David had ample reason to feel like God had betrayed him time after time. Yet what does God show us in Psalms over and over? That David poured out his afflicted soul to God, and ended up proclaiming over and over … “God – though you allow me to “feel” forsaken and afflicted with all kinds of testings that make absolutely no sense to me … I am going to praise you and thank you and trust you all the more … because I’ve come too far to turn my back on you now.”
David didn’t always do it perfectly, but David did the one thing God asks you and I to do that will qualify us to be exempt from the hour of trial that will visit this planet at any time now … David persevered in giving his everything to God when He was afflicted on every side … when humanly and logically speaking … it seemed to be absolute – utter lunacy.
That’s all we have to do to pass every test God allows to come our way. We put substance to passing the test by thanking and praising Him for every trial we face, no matter how unfair and unjust it may seem, even to perhaps our dying breath
Partaking of the cup of suffering of our Lord is the highest privilege any of us can drink of in this life. It’s not fun – hardly enjoyable – never easy. Jesus knew His journey to the Cross wasn’t going to be fun either. In fact, He came to realize it was much worse than He could possibly imagine prior to it happening. But scripture tells us He preserved in seeing it through, because of the reward of joy that waited for Him in eternity. The redemption of your spirit, soul and body is part of that joy ... qualifying you to co-reign with Him throughout eternity.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, for consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. – Hebrews 12:1-3
Child of God – when you enter into eternity to meet Jesus eye-to-eye … you will be filled with joy, most certainly. However, I don’t believe any of us can know the fullest of joy Jesus now gets to experience when He looks down from heaven at you and I in our time of struggle and pain … whispering … “Come on! Don’t quit now! Don’t give up! The joy you have as your inheritance waiting for you in glory is beyond your wildest comprehension! Keep persevering in your trial, dear one. Your suffering is only for a short season – a very short season. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory and joy that you would gladly ask me to extend your suffering … if you only knew the glory and joy that will come out of it once you pass into eternity!”
In conclusion, always remember: No matter how much pain and suffering is allowed to come your way … the Spirit of God will enable you to keep praising and thanking God for His goodness toward you that will be fully realized throughout eternity … even to your dying breath if your suffering is that severe.
PRAISING and THANKING God in the midst of your trial is wisdom, wisdom, wisdom! Attitude and gratitude is what it's all about.
Some of the greatest rewards you can lay up in heaven for yourself is praising and thanking God every time “feelings” of God having forsaken you are knocking loud on the door of your mind.
Finally, precious one, keep your journey here on earth in proper perspective. This present world is not your home. You are an uninvited alien and stranger to it now, since you placed your trust in Jesus Christ to save you and become your Lord. Someone wills for you to leave this planet immediately, or defect to his side. You are not wanted here as long as you keep whispering the name of Jesus Christ with tender intimacy. Satan believes with every fiber of his being this planet is his, and the way the rules of the universe are being played out is that Satan is going to do everything in his power to make your life a living hell every moment you take up space on his domain. God can grant Satan’s wish and take you to your real home in a moment of time. Until your time is done here … God can and will use everything painful that happens to you while you are here as something valuable to make you that priceless, shining living jewel He is making you to be.
All you have to do is not permanently quit on Him, but persevere in praise and thanksgiving that He has found you precious and special enough to partake of the unjust sufferings of Christ (See: Philippians 3:10).
(A "P.S." regarding issues on "suffering" -- you may also want to check out these link):
If you would like to read Norm's born again testimony, you can click on this link: http://precious-testimonies.com/BornAgain/L-N/Norm.htm