Many have felt abandoned by God in their times of greatest need, asking God for help but not receiving what was asked for. Does this mean that God doesn’t care or that He is ignoring our cries for help? When we cry out for Him, asking Him to stop the pain and suffering, we are communicating a universal desire to avoid hurt. That is not weakness, but it is human.
The Bible records several testimonies of those who called out to God in a time of need and, at least for a while, were met with silence. Job is the most obvious example, as in his distress he felt as if God were nowhere to be found: “If I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him” (Job 23:8–9). The psalmists also struggled with the feeling that God was not responding to their cries: “Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1); “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1); “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” (Psalm 44:24).
Jesus understands the mindset of not wanting to experience pain and suffering. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His arrest, Jesus asked His Father three times, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39) (also see Matthew 26:42 and Matthew 20:22). Though He asked for the “cup” to pass, Jesus asked with the condition “if it is possible.” Jesus was in complete submission to God’s will and not His own. If His suffering was a part of God’s will, then He was willing to accept that.
When we cry out, “God, please help me,” God hears us and always responds. He may not respond in the way we wish, but He responds nonetheless. Understandably, when amid the throes of pain, suffering, and grief, it is difficult to see the wider perspective of God’s plan, especially when we receive an answer of “no” or “not now.” But we can trust in God’s sovereignty because we know He is good (Psalm 48:1; 95:3, 6). Even as we go through the trials, God gives grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). After Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him” (Luke 22:43).
Since God is omniscient, He is privy to details we cannot begin to understand. Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” When we cry out to God, “Please help me,” He sees the heart and understands (Hebrews 4:15), and His response will always be out of love (Romans 5:8; Psalm 139:13–16). We can submit to His authority because He is trustworthy. Remember, God broke His silence and revealed Himself to Job in an unmistakable way (Job 38:1).
Jesus assures us that God will only give us what is good and right in Luke 11:11–13, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” The God who keeps track of every sparrow cares about the details of our lives, too (Luke 12:5–6).
Since God knows what is best for our lives, He will not say “yes” to a prayer that goes against what is best. We may not understand or agree with the why of that response, but we can trust that God does and that His actions will redound to His glory and our ultimate good (Psalm 19:7; 2 Corinthians 4:7). Through painful moments in life, we can learn Christlikeness and glorify the Lord with our words and actions even through our suffering (Job 1:22; James 1:2–8; 1 Chronicles 16:28–29).
God responds to every call for help. But whether or not that answer is the one we most desire is up to God. God works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) and for His glory. We can trust that He will always respond to cries for help in accordance to His good and perfect will. Even when the psalmist was searching for a seemingly absent God, he chose to live by faith: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:5–6).