Ask Your Preacher
My twenty-eight-year-old daughter was murdered over six years ago, and my only daughter left was thirty-two when she committed suicide five months ago. I was saved and water baptized in 1982; over the years, I haven’t lived the spiritual life I should have. I have prayed and repented, and it seems like God has forsaken me. I don’t know what to do. How do I get back to God and let go of the past? I would appreciate if you could help me.
We cannot imagine the pain that you are in and the trials that you have seen. The loss of a child is a devastation that only those who have experienced it can truly understand. In this world of sin, unmentionable things happen. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, death, pain, and suffering have become a regular part of our world (Gen 2:17, Rom 5:12).
So what can we do? God doesn’t desire to forsake us… in fact, He says that if we trust in Him, we will always have Him with us. A life with God in it isn’t free from trials, but you have hope that heaven awaits. You mentioned that you haven’t lived the life you know you should have. Jas 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” God is ready to forgive you and bring you comfort through your deep sorrow, but you have to reach out to Him. A large part of that is by going to services and attaching yourself to a faithful church (Heb 10:24-25). We would love to help you get in touch with a faithful congregation near you that could support you and help you draw near to God again.
Thank you for answering my past questions. I would like to ask another one please. I have wanted so badly to change things in my life to overall happiness, to a fulfilling job, having friends, a relationship, etc. I pray all the time and ask for these things and trust that God will show me the way. I have been praying for about ten years now and still remain stuck in life and in pain. After a while, I feel like maybe God wants me to search on my own to make a change. I then look for answers on my own as well and fail time after time, becoming so discouraged. Either way, I am unable to make a change with or without God’s help. How do I know if He wants me to stop trying so hard or to look for answers on my own? Is it His plan that I struggle all my life or that I just accept my life and be thankful for what it is? I'm confused because I've always thought of Matthew 7:7. Thank you.
Matt 7:7 (and more specifically Matt 7:9-11) teaches that if we seek God, He will provide… but it doesn’t mean He will provide for us in the ways we expect. Sometimes children ask their parents for a cookie, and the parents give them broccoli instead because what the child really needs is healthy calories, not junk food. God provides in a very similar manner. He knows what we really need, and sometimes He answers our requests in unexpected ways.
In 1 Tim 6:6, the apostle Paul explained that trusting in God combined with an attitude of contentment yields great gains. Sometimes, our lives are already blessed; we just fail to count those blessings. If every door seems to be shut, then the answer may be to find peace where you are. We aren’t clairvoyant, so we can’t tell you why God hasn’t had things change in your life, but we can tell you that there are blessings hidden in life if we will accept His will above our own. Sometimes, life seems like just a struggle, but we forget that God is disciplining us for our eternal good (Heb 12:6). We can guarantee you that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord, but that is only true when we accept His purposes for us (Rom 8:28).
If His eye is on the sparrow (Matt 6:26), how are we to feel and react to the amount of suffering in the world? I do not mean accidents or things that happen as a result of the free will of people – I'm thinking specifically of starvation, people who live with large families in small shacks, etc. If God feeds even the birds, why does He allow children to starve? How am I, as a Christian, supposed to reconcile this with the idea of a God who loves us and will care for us when we are in need?
God does keep a closer eye on us than He does the sparrows, but you must remember that Matt 10:29 says that even the sparrows that God cares for fall to the ground in death. Death is inevitable ever since Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen 2:17). We will all die, and sin’s destructive power is the source of all suffering.
You see, starving families are an act of mankind’s choices. All experts agree that there is more than enough food to feed the whole world – starvation is due to oppression from others, a lack of compassion for our fellow man, and countless other sinful behaviors. There is no valid reason for anyone to go hungry in this world – it is sin that causes all the harm we see to our fellow man.
God does watch over everyone, and He is intimately aware of every hair on our heads (Lk 12:7), but God must balance His love and desire to intercede for us with His promise to let us make our own choices and suffer the consequences (Gal 6:7). All the great tragedies we see in this world are consequences of mankind turning its back on God. From God’s standpoint, as horrible as it must be for Him to watch children suffer, He also knows that when children die, they go home to be comforted by Him.
I made a horrible decision when I was eighteen. I had an abortion even though I knew with every bit of my being that it was wrong. I was weak, and I made a decision that has sickened me ever since. The Bible says God will forgive anything if you are truly remorseful, and I am saved and have been baptized, but I struggle with the notion that I do not, and probably will never, feel like I am truly forgiven. Maybe it's the fact that I am so horrified by what I did that I know I deserve hell. I'm assuming I will feel that way for the rest of my life and rightfully so. I'm scared of God's wrath and of hell's fire so much that I have an irrational fear of dying and facing God only to be turned away. I don't want to seem like I have no faith in God's boundless mercy, but can I ever forgive myself? Should I even forgive myself? I just would like your opinion; I am too close to my preacher to bring it up; I'm so ashamed. Thank you.
What you are asking is one of the most difficult things in life – forgiving yourself. Like all things, God is better at forgiveness than we are. Many people hold on to the guilt and shame of sin far too keenly – you are not alone in this struggle. God tells us that there are several things to remember:
- Even if your heart condemns you, God keeps His promises. On the Judgment Day, we will be judged by God’s standards, not whether or not we feel worthy (1 Jn 3:20).
- We can reassure our own hearts that we have been forgiven when we study and live by the truth of the Bible (1 Jn 3:18-20). The more we immerse ourselves in God’s teachings, the quicker we begin to realize that forgiveness isn’t about being worthy… but about having faith in the mercy of God.
- Another way to look at your problem is to remember that saying, “I can’t believe God will forgive me” is the same as saying, “I don’t believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was enough”. That may sound harsh, but our forgiveness is based upon Jesus’ blood (Col 2:14). It is an act of faith in Jesus to accept our own forgiveness.
All in all, self-forgiveness takes time… just like all areas of growth.
How do you know if you are getting a dream from God, and not just you or the devil?
Dear A Dreamer,
The days of dreams and visions have passed. In the past, God spoke to various people through dreams, visions, and prophecy, but today He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). Now that we have the complete and perfect Bible – there is no need for God to give people individual dreams or visions. It is through the Word of God that we learn how to live faithfully (Rom 10:17).
We are sure that your dreams mean something, but they don’t mean anything supernatural or prophetic. What you had was not a vision. Prophets have visions, and there are no more prophets since we have the perfect and complete Word of God (1 Cor 13:8-10). The human mind is a complex and wondrous thing (Ps 139:14). It is perfectly normal for our minds to make mental connections as we pray, study, sleep, etc. Those mental images aren’t visions; they are just your own thoughts as your mind meditates upon what you have said, read, or heard.