During trials of seemingly unanswered prayer and unrelenting circumstances, we are shaken to the core. This can become so severe that we wonder if we've been betrayed by God himself. We reason that we are doing our best to fulfill our commitment to Christ, but it doesn't seem that he is pulling for us, but instead against us. Unanswered questions nag at our hearts: Is God really who he says he is? Can God do what he says he can do?
For years we have taught others that God is good, loving, and faithful. Now we wonder if it is really true. Besides our inner struggle we realize there are people who look to us as an example during these hardships.
I became fed up and very angry when I faced my own crisis of faith. A profound sense of abandonment settled over me. My prayers seemed distant and hollow. I didn't know what to do or how to how to respond.
My faith and my ministry were at a crossroads. I thought through my options. I could abandon my own faith, become a hypocrite, or work through this with the Lord. Option one would destroy my family. Option two went against my nature. I chose to pursue option three.
As long as I could remember, my relationship with the Lord meant everything to me. I couldn't bear to lose it. So I shared my struggle with my closest friends and family and solicited their prayers.
Scripture says to wait expectantly on the Lord. Day after day I did just that as I sat quietly in the early morning with my Bible open to Job and Psalms. I read Scripture and prayed honest, struggling prayers. I was desperate to hear some direction and assurance from God. More than a response to my unanswered prayer, I needed to reconnect deeply with him.
The more I read the Bible, the more I was confronted with my own pride. I was demanding that God answer my prayers in ways that I deemed best based on my limited understanding. One verse that really stuck with me was Isaiah 7:9: "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." I prayed, "Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief."
Scripture helped me see faith through God's viewpoint. It opened my eyes to see that our faith is very important to God. Phrases such as "your faith which is of greater worth than gold," "without faith it is impossible to please God," and "when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" haunted me. One morning I sensed the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart. "I am God. Trust Me." I finally yielded my painful circumstance and my life anew to God's plan and his glory. I began to see God's grace as he tested my faith to strengthen it.
Life can be intensely difficult. At times trials can seem unbearable. I still live with the same circumstances that tested my faith many years ago. Yet God continues to show himself faithful to me and my family. He reminds me that my life is not my own, that there is a plan beyond what I can see, and that my faith means more to God than I can imagine.
Sherryl Stone is actively involved in ministry at Ginger Creek Community Church in Aurora, Illinois, where her husband is senior pastor. She holds a bachelor's degree in Bible from Mississippi College and a master's degree in religious education from Southwestern Seminary in Texas. This article first appeared at GiftedforLeadership.com on October 9, 2007.