By Colin Adair
This was originally published in the Good News magazine of the old Worldwide Church of God in October-November 1979. I, Bob Thiel, met him once in 1997 or 1998.
The atheist, to support his belief that there is no God, will point to the terrible conditions in the world and say: “See, there can’t be a god. And even if you could convince me there is one, I would say he has certainly forgotten and forsaken mankind.” We of God’s Church know this is not true. We know that God is and that He has a plan and is working it out step by step. He has not forsaken His people. And yet at times do we, His people, feel that God has forsaken us, especially when things don’t go right, when our prayers seem to go unanswered and our trials appear endless?
Human nature doubts
Similar doubts must have entered the minds of some of the great men of God, even when God was working with them, because it’s a human tendency. Noah may have looked out over the expanse of water and wondered if God would remember him. Noah and his family emerged from their place of safety after a year and 10 days. That’s a long time to be shut up in a ship. But whenever doubts entered Noah’s mind he must have reminded himself of God’s promise, and sure enough, God remembered Noah (Gen. 8:1). 11 Abraham, the father of the faithful, was not so perfect that he never thought on occasion that God had forgotten him. After being told that he would have a son and heir by his wife, Sarah, his patience wore thin. He may have reasoned that God had forgotten or forsaken him in his old age. But he discovered that God was very much aware of His promise (Gen. 21:1-2). Did Joseph ever have any doubts enter his mind? After having a dream in which his brothers and parents bowed down to him, he was soon after unceremoniously sold as a slave into a foreign land. His fortune picked up somewhat in Potiphar’s household only to vanish in the harsh reality of an Egyptian jail. Where was God? Had He forgotten and forsaken him? When the chance came to get out of prison, and it looked like God was at last doing something about his plight, his new-found butler friend, who had promised to speak to the Pharaoh on his behalf, promptly forgot him! This setback would have discouraged any man. Joseph, being human, must have had doubts cross his mind about God’s concern for him. But deep inside he remained convinced that God was with him, and subsequent events proved that God had never forsaken him for a minute. Perhaps the greatest example of a man whom God seemed to forsake was Job. After losing all his livestock, servants and his children in a series of catastrophes that resembled a modern-day blitzkrieg, he said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). He knew it was God’s doing and that God was still with him. At this point in his trial Job’s attitude was still exemplary. Verse 22 tells us in all this Job sinned not. Perhaps other men, with less strength than Job, would have accused God of forsaking them and not protecting their property and families.
King David’s example
Probably the best example we have of this tendency of human nature is that of King David. Many times he was in sore distress and felt that God had forsaken him. But notice how he tackled this doubt. In Psalm 13:1-2, we read: “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?” Here was his human nature crying out to God and in a sense saying God had forsaken him. But even as these doubts fired up his mind he quickly doused them with positive thoughts of God’s deep concern for him. Verse 5, “But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.” David knew deep within him that God would in His own good time rescue him and that he was not forsaken. Notice another time that David doubted for a while. Psalm 42:9-10: “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?” Not only was David wondering where God was, but his enemies taunted him and added to his temptation to doubt by their jeers. But David didn’t allow these negative thoughts to take root in his mind.
His knowledge of God and His love for Him dominated his mind during discouragement. He corrected his own thoughts. Verse 11, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” When David’s human nature was at its lowest he reached down into the depths of his mind and remembered God’s faithfulness and knew that he was not forsaken.
Who has forsaken whom?
Whenever we begin to think God has turned His back on us, we need to examine ourselves and see who has forsaken whom. Perhaps God doesn’t answer our prayers and save us from our trials because we have forsaken Him. What are the ways we forsake or forget God? The most common way is disobedience to His laws. Proverbs 3:1 warns, “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments.” Verse 6, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” God will always direct all our paths if we walk continually with Him and obey Him. Are we keeping the Sabbath properly? Are we faithfully tithing? Do we observe the Holy Days and plan to attend the Feast of Tabernacles by saving our second tithe? Do we obey God’s government, realizing His government is here right now in the Church, and God is watching our attitudes and degree of service? Another way we sometimes forsake God is by neglect of prayer and Bible study. Proverbs 8:33-34: “Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” Don’t accuse God of forsaking you when you turn your back on Him. Are you constant in prayer? Luke 18:1, “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Perhaps you ask once, and when you don’t get an answer immediately, you think God didn’t listen or forgot your petition. But God will answer in His own way and in His own time. We need to keep reminding Him and patiently waiting. Never assume God has forsaken you and is not interested any more in answering your prayers.
Don’t despise reproof
An important and often overlooked way we can forsake God is by not heeding His counselor advice. Proverbs 1:24-25, “Because I have called, and you refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But you have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof.” Verses 30-33: “They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away [we, not God] of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil.” 13 How does this counsel reach us? Most of it is through the ministry of God’s Church. It works in two ways. First, through sermons and secondly, through personal counseling. We open church services by asking God’s inspiration on the speakers. But as a member of the congregation do you think the minister is merely giving you his own opinion? Do you criticize the sermon afterwards? God’s true ministers will speak God’s will, not their own opinions. No, they’re not infallible and can and do make mistakes, but the overall messages you hear, the admonitions you receive, are from God through His servants. His servants give you the understanding of His will, built on the basic and proved doctrines of God, which all members already have as a foundation (Heb. 6:1-2). Here is where God counsels His people. Be sure you don’t reject it because to do so is to forsake God’s counseling. So we should not blame God when we are at fault, feeling He isn’t interested in us anymore. Look what He says in Isaiah 49:14-16 about this attitude. “But Zion [spiritually the Church] said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.”
After His kind
We are God’s special Work, His present spiritual creation. God has set His hand to create others of His kind. He does not forsake what He has begun. He sees it through. And Christ, our High Priest, is concerned that we make it. He will not drop our cause. John 10:27- 30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Together they are concerned about bringing everyone they choose into the Family of God. John 6:39, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” After making this commitment to Himself and to Christ, will He turn His back on us and busy Himself with some other work more important than His own reproduction? There is no more important work right now in God’s mind! Jesus Christ wills us to make it to the Kingdom of God. John 17:24, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.” How sad it is to see former brethren feel that Christ has forsaken His people, the Church. He tells us He will be with us until the end of this age (Matt. 28:20). What a pity the enemies of God’s Church don’t realize this before they lift their hand against the Church. They always find that indeed Christ is still with us and has not forsaken us. They discover it is hard to fight against God.
Put God first
As long as we seek Him and stay with Him, we have a guarantee that God will never leave us. Luke 12:31- 32: “But rather seek ye the kingdom 14 of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” There is nothing to fear. Whenever things aren’t going well, God knows it. He is well aware of it and has a purpose in it. We just need to make sure we don’t forget God. When we are tempted to think this way humanly, we should remember David and remind ourselves of God’s great promise, found in Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conversation [conduct] be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”