When It Feels Like God’s Not Doing Anything

One of my favorite ways to study Scripture is to consider the mindset of those in each Bible story. (Perhaps this is why I love the Old Testament so much.) What was Noah’s wife thinking when they were seventy-five years in to building the ark and there was still no water? What was going through Sarah’s mind when not just once, but twice, Abraham made her join a king’s harem? 

What doubts about God did Joseph struggle with after the cupbearer forgot about him in prison? Did Moses feel rejected by God as he fled into the wilderness after killing the Egyptian? What was Daniel thinking as he and his friends were being marched as prisoners to Babylon? What about his mother? Was she killed? 

It puts a different spin on things to think of these Bible characters as real people we’d probably have over for dinner, had they been born in our era. Because that’s what they were—real people, with real struggles, real doubts, real fears and issues and hopes and dreams and thoughts. 

And just like we struggle to believe God is working in our lives, I have no doubt they did too. We can simply turn the page to see the outcome of their story, but some of our favorite Bible heroes waited years to see God’s active hand in their lives. 

Yet God Was Still Working

Actually, Hebrews 11:39 says all of them are still waiting, seeing only glimpses of God’s promise in their day. Yet many (especially those listed in Hebrews 11) are commended for their faith. They didn’t lose heart; they believed God. But the question is, can we say the same for ourselves?

When circumstances turn sour or take too long, it’s easy to think God’s forgotten us or would rather not deal with our issues. But to think He isn’t doing anything—to think God doesn’t care—is simply not true. He is still just as much in the details and the outcome of our lives as He was in Bible times. 

The stories we read in Scripture aren’t just there for our entertainment, but to remind us that He is still working. God is still active and powerful and sovereign and providentially aligning all the details, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Consider David:

It’s no secret that David struggled with doubts of God’s care and concern. In Psalm 13:1 we see David crying out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He was anointed as the next king of Israel, yet was chased in the wilderness for years on end by Saul who longed to see him dead. Yeah, if I were David, I would have wondered too.

Yet God was working in David’s life, solidifying his faith and preparing him to be king. And what’s more, God was indeed doing something! Just look at the Psalms we have because of David’s time in the wilderness. While David hid in caves, seeking for encouragement through song, God was writing His Word! 

Consider Ruth:

Ruth was a Moabite who married a Jewish man, only to see her husband, father-in-law, and brother-in-law die in a famine. Left with only a despondent mother-in-law, do you think she had doubts about God’s presence in her life? I would have. 

Yet God was doing something, wasn’t He? He was taking her to His people. He was giving her one of the greatest blessings ever bestowed on a woman—the opportunity to be an ancestor of Jesus Christ. Remarried to Boaz, who appears to be a wonderful man, Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of King David. Indeed, even amid trying times, God was working, leading, and guiding. And though it may not have felt like it—Ruth was always in His hand. 

Consider Esther:

Talk about a girl forgotten! Esther was a lowly Jewish girl in the Persian empire during the time of Israel’s captivity. Her parents were dead (Est. 2:7), and the responsibility of raising her fell to her cousin Mordecai. Do you think Esther ever felt a wee bit small? Think she ever struggled? We like to jump straight to the part when she becomes queen, but let’s not forget she wasn’t born that way. How many tears did she cry for her parents? How hard was it being raised by a man? 

Then the king’s edict went out that beautiful young virgins were to be sought for the king. Esther 2:8 says Esther was “taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women.” Did she have a choice? Did she want to go? Was she scared? “LORD, why aren’t you doing anything?” Think she said it? I would have. 

Yet God was doing something alright. He was putting the pieces together to save his people from annihilation. His work in our lives often reaches places we can’t see, making it essential that we trust Him. 

Consider Elizabeth:

Righteous before God, “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (Luke 1:6), and yet childless. Do you think Elizabeth ever questioned God’s involvement in her life? Year after year her deepest longing went unfulfilled. Why aren’t you doing anything LORD? I know I would have said it. 

Yet God was doing something. He hadn’t forgotten Elizabeth. He had plans for Elizabeth to be the mother of one of the greatest men who ever lived (Luke 7:28), John the Baptist. But the timing had to be perfect, so Elizabeth had to wait. Though I’m sure there were moments Elizabeth felt forgotten, God was indeed working in her life, writing a story we’re still telling today. (We just never know what God might be up to.)

Consider Mary, the Mother of Jesus:

Standing at the bottom of the cross, watching her Son endure unfair, excruciating pain, do you think she wondered why God wasn’t doing anything? Where are you God? Why is this happening? 

But God was doing something. He was saving the world; He was saving her. Things aren’t always as they seem, my friend. What we might label the hardest thing we’ve ever had to endure just might be an avenue of God’s greatest blessing in our lives. 

The LORD Does Not Forget His Children

In Isaiah 49:15–16 the LORD says this, 

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” 

But here’s what I love about Isaiah 49:16: the walls God is talking about are Jerusalem’s walls. And when the LORD spoke these words to Judah, those walls were a heaping pile of rubble destroyed by the Babylonians. Yet God hadn’t forgotten them. He was still working, and those walls (or huge piles of rubble) were continually before Him, though I’m sure everyone who walked by must have thought the opposite. Where is your God now, Israel?

In each of these situations it would have been easy to think God wasn’t doing anything and that God didn’t care. Yet in each account we find a God that’s actively involved in the details. A God who is providentially guiding His people even when it didn’t look like it. 

So even if your life feels like a heaping pile of rubble right now, remember, Israel’s heaping piles of stone were ever before the LORD. God sees your rubble; God has not forgotten you; God is still working. John 5:17 says, “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working.’”

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6)

Beloved child of God, you are not forgotten, you are cherished; and always and forever in the sovereign hand of the Father. Though His ways are not our ways, we can be sure that God is still working. 

A version of this post originally appeared at Deeper Devos. Republished with permission.

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About the Author

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery

Stacey Salsbery is a farmer’s wife and mother of four. When she isn’t serving a meal on the side of the road, riding in a tractor with her husband, or driving kids to practice, you’ll find her escaping the crazy by writing devotionals at Deeper Devos, where she gives readers a weekly practical and deeper look at God’s Word. Her favorite things in the world (not counting her Savior, husband, and kids) include flipping houses, buying new books, and going for a nice long run. Stacey and her family reside in the cornfields of Indiana.