“For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within” (2 Corinthians 7:5).
The New King James translation of this verse uses the painfully descriptive phrase “hard pressed” to describe Paul’s trials. “We were hard pressed on every side.” The origin of this phrase comes from the practice of squeezing a fruit or vegetable (grapes, olives) to extract its juice.
Some days (weeks, months, seasons, years) I feel hard-pressed. Like life has me between a mortar and pestle and is pounding me into fine dust. I know you can relate.
You sweat and groan and weep and rage and cannot find relief. The intense pressure doesn’t stop. You plead for rescue, yet the vise of life’s circumstances squeezes tighter and tighter until you think you might scream, and sometimes you do.
“Why doesn’t God rescue me?” you cry, and the question echoes back. “Why?”
I believe there are at least nine reasons why God sometimes chooses not to rescue us. If you’re feeling hard-pressed today or know someone who is, I invite you to prayerfully consider these reasons and ask the Lord to show you which might apply to your situation.
1. We don’t believe he can.
God works in response to faith. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith, it is impossible to please him. For God to answer our prayers, we “must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Our lack of faith can be a huge hindrance, not because God can’t overrule our faithlessness, but because he won’t. He never forces faith on anyone. Thankfully, all it takes is the faith of a mustard seed to invite God to work in our lives. It’s not how much faith we have, but in whom our faith rests that matters.
2. We have sin in our lives.
We cannot willfully choose to disobey God and simultaneously expect him to bless us. As human parents, we withhold blessings from our children when they rebel against us. God often does the same. More important than health, wealth, and happiness is whether we have a right relationship with God. He’ll often use difficult circumstances to help us realize how much we need him.
3. We need to learn to trust him.
Our faith begins small and increases with every challenge. Like a muscle, our confidence in God’s power grows stronger the more we exercise it. Trials, heartbreaks, and circumstances beyond our control force us to turn to our all-powerful God. Every time we acknowledge our weakness and see him act on our behalves, our faith grows. Before long, we have a long list of answered prayers that makes it easier and easier to trust him.
4. He knows that a rescue wouldn’t be best.
So often we just want OUT of a difficult situation. We’re not interested in what’s best in the long term, we want relief now. I remember when my daughter wore braces. Every month the orthodontist would tighten the wires on her teeth so much that her teeth would ache for days. If you asked her during this painful time if she wanted her braces removed, she would have said, “YES!”
Her orthodontist knew, however, that while taking off her braces would have ended her temporary suffering, it would have interfered with her long-term health. The same is true of many of our trials. The apostle Paul knew this when he wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
5. There’s a lesson we need to learn or a character quality we need to develop through this situation.
When my husband lost his job, we learned that God is our provider. When I cared for a baby with colic and another with constant ear infections, I learned patience, kindness, and unselfishness. When I worked with difficult coworkers, I learned to see them through Jesus’ eyes, not my own. Instead of asking Why? when we encounter difficulty, what if we asked What?, as in, What can I learn from this situation?
6. God is building our faith story so we can one day share what we’ve learned with others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reveals this purpose: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ … who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Because of the faith valleys I’ve walked, I can truly identify with and minister to those who have lost a loved one, parented a prodigal, experienced unemployment, and resurrected a stale marriage. Experiencing God’s faithfulness during these difficult times has enabled me to say with certainty, “God will help you.”
7. God is doing something amazing.
You can’t see it right now, but he is working out his purpose in your situation. Nothing can thwart God’s good purposes for his children. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
8. God is developing his mind and heart in you.
When circumstances press us hard into God’s Word and force us to seek him for wisdom, faith, grace, and strength, he begins to conform us to his image. We can’t spend large amounts of time in his presence without starting to think, act, and love like he does. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…” (Romans 8:28-29).
9. God is teaching you that a close, personal, spiritual relationship with him is sweeter and more precious than a happy, healthy, trouble-free, physical life.
I experienced a trial years ago greater than anything I’d ever walked through before. With one phone call, I felt like everything precious to me had been stripped away. I awakened the next morning feeling like I had nothing left but God.
As I cried, and prayed, and cried some more, Jesus met me there. He wrapped his big tender arms of love around me and spoke words of hope into my troubled soul. He spoke words of truth into my reeling mind. He spoke words of love into my broken heart. And he spoke words of courage into my trampled faith.
My encounter with him was so powerful and real that I will never again doubt his love, care, and purpose. “It was good for me to be afflicted,” King David wrote, “so that I might learn your ways,” and I agree. While I would never voluntarily choose to repeat those dark days, I know God used them to grow my love for him in ways he never could have otherwise.
“… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).
God is Still Powerful, Just, and Good
There are many reasons God chooses not to rescue us from our trials. I’ve listed a few here to get you thinking. What comforts me in the darkness of suffering is the knowledge that God is just, God is powerful, and God is good.
I can rest in this, and you can, too.
What about you? Have you come through a journey of suffering only to catch a glimpse of God’s purpose in the rear view mirror? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.