FS Sunday Sermon
God Has Not Forgotten You
By: Vaneetha Rendall Risner
“God has not forgotten you.”
As I heard those words, I was flooded with emotion. I hadn’t realized how much I needed them. As tears streamed down my face, I understood how lonely and forgotten I had been feeling.
I was in the darkest time of my life. My husband had left our family, my body was deteriorating, and I was parenting two angry adolescent daughters who wanted nothing to do with “my” God. I felt unnoticed.
But somehow, knowing that God had not forgotten me stirred me to press into him with renewed hope. Those simple words turned my mind and helped me focus on the truths that I needed to remember. That the Lord was with me and would sustain me through this trial. That God was using my suffering to accomplish something far greater than I could see or understand. And that my pain wouldn’t last any longer than was absolutely necessary.
Those truths grounded me. And those three assurances are still what ground me today.
1. God will be with me.
The assurance that God is with us is the most precious gift we have in suffering.
Of course, as Christians we know that God is always with us and that there is nowhere we can flee from his presence (Psalm 139:7–8), but actually sensing God’s presence and comfort is different. It has given me joy when I was discouraged (Psalm 16:11), refreshed me when I was weary (Acts 3:20), and taken away my fear when I was in deep waters (Isaiah 43:2). God’s presence has been more evident to me in suffering than at any other time, making it a priceless treasure of darkness (Isaiah 45:3).
In Psalm 23, David begins by talking about God and his tender care, saying, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). But when he moves into a place of danger and suffering, he shifts from talking about God to talking directly to him. He says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). There is a nearness, a personalness to God that David immediately feels in trouble.
The incomparable presence of God in our pain underscores that a day with him in trial is better than a thousand pain-free days elsewhere.
2. God has a good purpose for my suffering.
If my suffering were meaningless, I couldn’t have withstood it. I would have felt crushed, bitter, ripped off, full of regret and doubt, wondering whether my bad decision, or someone else’s, had kept me from the successful life I’d longed for. Life would have felt unfair and even cruel.
But thankfully, I know that the opposite is true — my suffering has been entrusted to me by God, and he is using every drop of it to fulfill his good purposes for me. It is full of meaning and will not be wasted, even if all I can see in the moment is my loss. By faith, I believe that God has a reason and purpose for my pain — perhaps thousands of reasons — and they are all for my good, regardless of what it looks or feels like on the surface (Romans 8:28; Genesis 50:20). While I may not see or understand any of them, I know that the Lord would never make me suffer unnecessarily. Now I see in a mirror dimly. I understand in part. But one day I will see face to face and understand fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).
The men and women in the Bible couldn’t see how God was using their lives and their struggles either. They lived day to day, as we do, disappointed, waiting, and wondering why their lives were so hard. Yet God used their pain for something more glorious than they could have imagined.
And so it is with us. We must trust that God is using our suffering for something greater than we can see now. Our suffering is accomplishing something eternal, preparing for us a weight of glory that is beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). As with Joseph, our trials may be for the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20), which we may see fully only in heaven. But we can be certain that, as Joni Eareckson Tada says, “We’ll thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials he sent us here.”
3. My pain will end one day.
No matter what pain we are going through, if we are in Christ, we are assured that it won’t last forever. Our suffering is “momentary” and “for a little while” as we consider and experience it in light of eternity. God will make all things new; we have endless and painless joy awaiting us in heaven.
But heaven may feel like little comfort as days of pain on earth stretch into months and even years. All of us want deliverance in this life, and many of us will see it. Nothing is beyond God’s ability to redeem. He gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). He knows exactly how long our pain will last, and he will give us everything we need as we wait. Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17). We can only live one chapter of our lives at a time, and none of us knows exactly what the next chapter will bring. Tomorrow may bring redemption beyond our wildest dreams, as Naomi, Joseph, and Job experienced. Or perhaps just a needed break from our pain and suffering. We may soon look back at today’s trials and marvel at God’s faithful hand in them.
But not all of us will be able to speak of pain in the past tense. Some of us won’t experience reprieve in this life. We will die from wasting disease. Feel the lifelong pain of acute loss. Live amid broken dreams. Agonize, wondering how our loved ones will manage. Struggle with debilitating physical and mental illness. We may never see the fulfillment of all we felt certain God would do. Like the saints throughout Scripture, who didn’t see God’s promises realized in their lifetime, we will have to trust that God has something better in store for us (Hebrews 11:13–16). A glorious inheritance. Untold riches. Crowns of glory. Pleasures forevermore. If we are his, our pain will most surely and completely end.
God Has Not Forgotten You
God has all of eternity to lavish his kindness on us (Ephesians 2:7). As he has promised, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). And I am convinced that the less earthly pleasure and reward we have received, the greater our pleasure and reward will be in heaven.
If you are struggling today, remember God has not forgotten you. He has engraved you on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15–16). He will never fail you or forsake you. He will walk with you through every dark valley. The God who has numbered every hair on your head and knows every sparrow that falls to the ground is aware of every detail of your situation. He is using your suffering and pain in ways you would not believe if someone told you.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)