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Why Does God Seem So Indifferent?
By David A. DePra
This is a question most Christians find themselves asking at one time or another. God is never indifferent, of course, but sometimes, to US, it sure seems like it. In fact, read the Psalms. One time through the Psalms and you will discover that this is a question that is common to those who believe and trust God. It is, in fact, business as usual.
Because it is impossible that God is indifferent to us, the real question is exactly as stated above: Why does God SEEM so indifferent to the problems we have, and to the prayers we say? SEEM is the important word here.
I want to give four reasons why God sometimes seems to be indifferent to us and to our lives. Along the way I will give passages to show that He is never indifferent. But just as importantly, I want to show WHY IT SEEMS LIKE HE IS – sometimes.
#1: God’s Purpose is Different Than Ours
If you are seeking a goal that is a different one than the goal God is seeking, TO YOU it is going to seem as if God is indifferent to your goal. And because you don’t know you are seeking a goal that differs from God’s goal, indeed, you might think that your goal MUST be God’s goal, this will add to the confusion. You may spend much time and energy trying to get God to do this or that, help you along a certain line, or accomplish something in your life. All the while, however, God may have no intention of doing what you want Him to do. Again – this will make Him seem indifferent to you. In fact, you are lacking in your understanding of HIM.
Probably the best general principle that applies here is found in the words of Jesus:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)
Imagine if you are trying to SAVE your life, and God is trying to get you to LOSE it. You will be walking contrary to His present purpose in your life. To make that more clear, suppose you are trying to HAVE YOUR LIFE YOUR WAY, and God has other ideas. Suppose you are trying to BE, or DO, or achieve a certain lot in life, and God cannot affirm these because He either has other purposes, or perhaps you are not yet fit for those things. It is going to seem as if God is against you, is indifferent to you – or you may conclude that you are out of the will of God and have no hope of finding it. The problem is NOT indifference on the part of God. Rather, the problem is that we have not come to a surrender to Him.
There are some Christians who cannot conceive that God would not want to give them what they desire in life. Because what they want means so much to them, they assume it must be at the top of God’s priority list. This is false. First of all, until we lose ourselves into the hands of God, including everything we think we want in life, there is no way to be sure that we know much of anything about God’s will. Secondly, if we will lose our right to our life to God, our thinking and desires may change completely to the point where we no longer want what we wanted. Thirdly, God cannot give us much until He knows that it won’t hurt our life in Christ. So He may be working towards bringing us to a surrender, all the while we are holding on. It’s not that we are openly rebelling, mind you. But this is simply what we do when we don’t understand.
There is much Christian teaching out there today that blinds us to the Truth about this. We are told we have the authority of Christ, and that we can decide what we want from God, and that God will give us the desires of our heart. All of this is supported, supposedly, by scripture. But missing from the whole thing is the fact that none of it applies to us unless we have surrendered to God.
The problem here is that people separate getting THINGS from God – they separate that from a relationship with God Himself. But Jesus told us that IF we seek first HIS kingdom and HIS righteousness, that all else would be given to us. In other words, God wants to establish His rule in us, and a relationship with us, before He is going to trust us with THINGS. I’m not saying this is a hard fast rule and that God never blesses otherwise. I’m just saying that this is His general purpose and a principle, if we would believe, would explain MUCH.
The apostles of Jesus wanted a kingdom – a physical kingdom that they thought was the will of God. It all had to come crashing down – better said, THEY had to come crashing down. But then they went to Galilee and saw Jesus, and then to Jerusalem to tarry. They ended up with – NOT the kingdom their way – but the kingdom GOD’S way. It was better, and they knew it, and were thankful for it.
So the first reason why God may seem indifferent to you is that you may be seeking to have your life your way – not in rebellion, but because it is all you know to do – and God may be bringing you to where you are going to have to lose your life into His hands. The good news is that if you lose your life into His hands, you will find – not necessarily what you thought you wanted, but HIS will, and HIS life for you.
We need to understand that God HAS a will for each of us, and that if we open ourselves to Him for it – no matter what it takes – it is going to happen. This leads us to the second reason why might seem indifferent to us.
#2: We Need to Become the Will of God
The second reason why God may seem indifferent to us is that we want a THING called, "the will of God," and God is working on us BECOMING His will. This is closely related to the first reason. In this case, we want God to do a thing, or give us a thing, or give us a lot in life. God sees that He cannot until He establishes with us a relationship in Jesus Christ – or He sees that what we want is based in ignorance, and that this will be cleared up once we see Jesus.
Here we might mention the matter of spiritual authority. Today many are teaching that we have all the authority of Jesus Christ because we are believers. This is true in a potential way. But it is not true in a functional way. Functionally, we have authority only to the degree that we are under HIS authority. All power in the life of a Christian is directly related to our dependence and submission to Jesus Christ as Lord.
Can we see a BECOMING in this – "becoming," because we are rightly related to Christ? And THEN, and only THEN, can we live IN the will of God, because we are adjusted to God Himself, and becoming an expression of His will?
We need to understand that God has a will for you and I. He really does. It is purposeful and real. But He is not going to settle for anything else. If you and I have other ideas about God’s will, He is not going to respond to us – which may make Him seem indifferent. The call upon us, in that case, is to seek God – and ask Him to do whatever it takes IN US to bring His will to pass. God will then both cause us to BECOME His will, and then do His will in our lives.
The great news here is that if we surrender to God in this way – even before we know His specific will – His will is a guarantee. God is working towards getting us to where we will not settle for less than His highest, and are willing to allow Him to do whatever it takes to bring that to pass first in us, and then in our lives. You cannot want God’s will more than He wants it!
So a second reason why God may seem indifferent is that He is trying to cause us to become His will, and working on a relationship with Himself – and we are focused on some THING we want from God, or want God to do. The solution – again – is to seek God and to surrender to Him.
#3: We Are Doubting God’s Faithfulness
There are two ways to doubt the faithfulness of God. First, we do just that – we don’t believe Him. We actually entertain the accusation that God is indifferent to us. Second, we doubt OUR faithfulness to God, and believe that this is why God is indifferent to us. This is more common. But what we are really doing is putting our faith in ourselves, and then when we see we come up short, we blame God, and accuse Him of holding it against us.
The reality is, most of what we think about God is really a reflection of US. We create a god in OUR image – fashioned by our emotions and psyche – and this can become so dominate and controlling that we never question it. The real Truth is, God is never indifferent, never forsakes us, and always loves us. He is always working in us unto His purpose. It doesn’t matter whether we feel like it or can discern this. It is true. And the fact that we sometimes feel the opposite is just a testimony to the futility of the flesh, rather than the reality of the Spirit.
When everything is said and done, God will often seem indifferent to us precisely because we believe He is – we doubt Him. That creates, if you will, an opening for the spirit of unbelief. And once that comes in, God’s indifference will seem quite REAL.
But it is all a big lie. God is never indifferent. He is always faithful. The problem, therefore, is US – we have to start believing. The Bible says:
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them (i.e., a responder to them) that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
This is a great verse because it tells us that it is not possible to seek God and for God to be indifferent. But note: This is not talking about seeking God for THINGS. It is talking about seeking God for HIMSELF – or to put it another way, it is talking about seeking the Truth about God. Don’t seek God unless you want the Truth. It is all He has to offer.
But this points us back to an earlier point: If all God has to offer is the Truth, then before He can give that to us, He must make US TRUE. Some of us cannot bear the Truth presently. We have no capacity for it. So God must work. That is why He seems silent and indifferent.
Another thing this verse suggests is that even if we are doubting ourselves, or doubting God, we can nevertheless TURN and SEEK HIM. We can ask God to help our unbelief. We can ask God to do whatever it takes to set us free.
Now, we may not feel like God is answering. But He will. You can bank on it. Often when we ask God for the Truth, or to show us His mind, we expect a narration, or information. God usually doesn’t do that. Rather than give us information, God will give us a revelation of Himself, which will set us free from what ails us. And to make it possible for us to receive it, God may allow practical situations to hem us in – so that we can surrender to Him. This is just what is necessary because of the stuff of which we are made.
Certainly related to the need for faith in God, is the need for obedience. By this I don’t mean that God is grading us, and will not do His will in our lives until we make the grade. No. this isn’t about a performance based acceptance. I’m simply saying that there are often points of obedience that it is possible for us to meet that are necessary if God is going to do His will. It is utter nonsense to say that we want God to do His will in our lives, all the while we won’t do God’s will in our lives!
One example – suppose someone is living in sin outside of marriage. You can correct that. It is simply obedience. Move. It is useless for you to ask God to make it happen for you. He won’t. You know to obey, and how to obey – despite possible consequences and hurts. God may be waiting for you to do this.
So a third reason why God may seem indifferent is that we believe He is indifferent. In other words, our own unbelief and fears have painted Him that way – and we believe it. Deliberate disobedience on matters we CAN control may compound this. Yet all the while we are lamenting the indifference of God, He is trying to set us free from the unbelief that has blinded us to His faithfulness.
#4: The Enemy Is At Work
The enemy of our souls is also God’s enemy. He does everything he can to oppose the will of God, and the work of God. Thus, it is possible that the reason God seems indifferent is that the enemy has a foothold.
Now, if there is one thing we must remember it is this: The enemy does nothing except God allow him. There is a reason for this: God wants us pressed and tried, and He wants us to overcome.
In the Bible we read, "He that overcomes….." We OVERCOME the enemy by COMING UNDER Jesus as Lord. That is certain. But at some point, WE must do this. There are times and seasons and situations wherein we must take a stand in faith and refuse to be moved. We must do that.
If I am surrendered to Jesus as Lord, and have come to know the will of God in a situation, then I can be sure that God will do His will. This is as sure as God in heaven, because I cannot want God to do His will more than HE wants to do it. But what if it is NOT happening? In other words, what if what MUST happen is NOT happening? And what if what is presently happening is clearly not to the glory of God? Well, then it is probable that the enemy is at work. But what should we do in that case?
Well, have you ever noticed, and wondered why, for example, that God, on the one hand, says, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you," but on the other hand, has allowed the Devil access to you to begin with? The reason is the most obvious: God has allowed the Devil access to you for the very purpose that you will resist Him! This affords you the opportunity to come under the Lordship of Jesus, and then the opportunity to live out overcoming and victory. You would have it no other way.
Now, if you grasp what I’m saying, we never resist the Devil by attacking the Devil. How are you going to do that? No. We resist the Devil – but we resist him by submitting to God. Then, because we are fully IN CHRIST as to surrender, we have the authority of Christ to live out God’s will.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:6-11)
In all of this we see a related reason why perhaps things just seem to go on and on without a change, even though we know they are NOT God’s will – we have not fully come under the Lordship of Jesus. He has not overcome US, and so we cannot overcome Satan. The only power in the universe that can overcome Satan is resurrection life in Jesus Christ. But this is only ours if we first DIE to our will and our control. Again – we must lose our lives to find them in HIM.
The good news is that God is continually working towards bringing us under the Lordship of Jesus. Yes, we are under Him through salvation, but we must live it out – otherwise all the verses in the Bible about the need to overcome would make no sense.
So a fourth reason that God may seem indifferent – and again, this harmonizes with the other three – is that God wants us to overcome the enemy by faith in Christ, to submit to Christ, and to resist what the enemy wants to suggest to us, and do in our lives. God is working in us towards that end. Our mistake was to perhaps expect God to simply go, "zap!" and make it happen without our cooperation. No. He wants to do it through us.
Well, this is not guesswork. If we seek God with all of our hearts, over the course of time we will see what God is after, because if you seek God, YOU FIND GOD – which means you see Jesus, and come into a knowledge of the Truth. And with this, we have our answer to the question, "Why does God sometimes SEEM indifferent?" Because we need to see Jesus. See Him and things begin to get clear in a hurry, and we will see that God is never indifferent to any of His people. His goal is Christ and the purpose of the Holy Spirit in this age is to make Him know to us and in us and through us.
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