I love practical jokes. The more elaborate, the better. I saw a video of a practical joke where a magician was performing in a park to a crowd. Everyone was in on it except for the person who walked up and joined the crowd. After a bit, the magician needed a volunteer. The person who walked up was chosen. After he made them “disappear”, a person from off screen would come and interrupt the show and take the magician away. While the magician was away, two people would come up and take a selfie in front of the chair. When the unsuspecting person saw the phone, the didn’t see themselves and thought they were invisible. Some who “disappeared” had fun with it, but most panicked when no one could see them. They desperately tried to get people to acknowledge them, but the crowd who was in on it, pretended they weren’t there. When the magician felt they had enough, he would return and make them “appear” again.
In Genesis 16, Abraham and Sarah had been told by God they would have a child. After waiting and trying and not seeing they answer, they preempted God’s plan. Sarah gave her maid, Hagar, to her husband in order to have a child. After her son was born, Hagar taunted Sarah to the point that Sarah kicked her out, but God saw her and comforted her. She called Him El Roi the God who sees me. He then sent her back. Several years later Sarah gave birth to Isaac. When he was weaned, she had Abraham kick out Hagar and her son. Hagar found herself in a desperate situation in the desert. Her resources were gone and she had no hope. Right when she was giving up, God showed up and showed her an oasis of water to meet her needs. God proved to her again that she was not invisible to Him and that He cared for her.
Psalm 33:18-19 says, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine” (ESV). I want you to know that no matter how dire your situation, how depleted your resources are and how invisible you feel, God sees you. His eye is on you. Continue to hope in Him and He will deliver you from the famine you’re in. He has not forsaken you. He has not forgotten you. In my own life, I’ve found that God uses those desperate, wilderness places to reposition us and to build our faith in Him. You may feel invisible to the world around you, but God sees you. What feels like and ending is often God creating a new beginning for you.
2 Kings 18 tells the story of King Hezekiah. He was a good king who was compared to David in his zeal for the Lord. Verse 5 says he trusted in the Lord like no other king in Judah. In his fourteenth year as king, the Assyrian army came to attack. They were the world’s most dominant army at the time. No one could stand against them. They were undefeated, and Jerusalem had a small army at the time. The king of Assyria took control of the city’s aqueduct and then sent people to try to get Israel to surrender. They started off in verse 19, “This is what the great king of Assyria says: What are you trusting in that makes you so confident?” (NLT) Hezekiah had confidence in God while he was facing insurmountable odds in the face of defeat.
In chapter 19, King Hezekiah did what we need to do when we’re facing insurmountable odds. He went to the Lord in desperate prayer. He then sought a word from the Lord from Isaiah. God said he would send him back to Assyria where he would be killed. However, the stand off continued. The king of Assyria taunted more. He said, “You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different?” He reminded them of all the other people they destroyed, but Hezekiah still went to God for help even when it looked like God wasn’t answering like he said. Then God moved against Assyria killing 185,000 of them in one night. The king broke camp, went home and was killed.
Hebrews 11:1 says, “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see” (GNT). You can have confidence in God even though you’re facing an insurmountable odd today. Whenever you’re feeling like the situation is taunting you and it looks like you can’t win, turn to God. When you look at what it has done to others and the thought comes that says, “Why should you get a different outcome,” turn to God in faith. There is nothing God cannot do. There are no insurmountable odds that He can’t overcome. Faith is to be sure of what He can do in the face of what you can’t overcome. Don’t listen to the voices of doubt or the words that tell you there’s no hope. Trust in God no matter what insurmountable odds you face.
To me, one of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling of being helpless. When everything seems to be going against me and there’s nothing I can do to stop it, there’s a sense of fear and desperation. In those times, all my efforts to help myself, or to get myself out of it, are fruitless. Many times when that happens, the harder I try to get out of the situation, the worse it gets. It’s that feeling where you’re stuck in the mud and the more you push the gas, the worse you get stuck. My feelings and thoughts quickly turn negative, and if I’m not careful, those feelings and thoughts can dictate my actions. We all face times like these, even the heroes of the faith who are in the Bible.
David often found himself in desperation. You can see how his thinking affected him and his actions. In Psalm 28, he’s going through a helpless situation. In verse 1 he prays, “I pray to you, O Lord, my rock. Do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you are silent, I might as well give up and die” (NLT). At this point, he’s not even sure God is going to come help. His fear is causing him to doubt just like our fear does to us. If we trust our feelings over our faith, life can feel a roller coaster. Emotions were given to us to help us gauge a situation. They were meant to be what we trust in. They often lie and manipulate us. We must learn to trust God over our emotions and over how they’re making us feel about our situation.
In verse 7, David moves his trust his emotions to God. He reminds himself, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” When we switch where we place our trust, our emotions follow. We need to trust God with all of our heart instead of our emotions. He sees what you’re going through, and He will not abandon you in it. He doesn’t always remove us from the situation or give us the answer we’re hoping for. The question is, will you trust Him anyway? Will you have faith that whatever it is, He can turn it for your good? It’s not easy to do. However, where you place your trust will determine how well you come through it.
If you have lived very long, you’ve been through some diffuse times. Maybe you’ve cried out, “God where are you in all this? Why don’t you show up and intervene? Have you forgotten me? Why can’t you hear me? I need your help desperately and you’re not answering!” I know I’ve used those words in my prayers before. It seems sometimes that when we need God the most, He is quiet. When we pray those desperate prayers and it appears to fall on deaf ears, it hurts worse. Your mind may even start to wonder what you’ve done wrong because it feels like God has left you when you’ve needed Him most.
I don’t know why we go through these times, but I do know that you’re not the only one who has gone through them or felt that way. In Psalm 77, Asaph, who was King David’s chief musician, went through times like that and recorded his prayers. Can you hear the desperation in verses 7-9? “Would you really walk off and leave me forever, my Lord God? Won’t you show me your kind favor, delighting in me again? Has your well of sweet mercy dried up? Will your promises never come true? Have you somehow forgotten to show me love? Are you so angry that you’ve closed your heart of compassion toward me?” (TPT)
First of all, it’s normal to feel those feelings and to ask those questions, but don’t stay in that place. If you do, those feelings can allow bitterness in and it can drive you away from God. Instead, do what Asaph did and remember the character of who God is. Verses 11-12 say, “Once again I’ll go over what GOD has done, lay out on the table the ancient wonders; I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished, and give a long, loving look at your acts” (MSG). When you quit focusing on why God isn’t intervening and remember His character, you flip the table and your faith grows. You get the strength to begin doing what you need to be doing in your situation while you wait for God to show up and do His part.
Recently two Florida teens were swimming in the ocean when they were pulled away from shore. They found themselves two miles from shore. The waves were choppy and the current was strong. After treading water for two hours, their strength was giving out. Hope was gone as reality was setting in. In desperation they cried out to God, “If you really have a plan for our lives, just bring something!” It was about that time that a boat named “The Amen” was going by, thought they heard something in the water and found them. They were rescued from their situation and returned safely to shore.
I haven’t been in a situation like that before, but I have been desperate for God to answer in a hopeless situation. Desperate prayers cut through our religious jargon we like to say to God. They are the most authentic prayers and that’s why I believe God answers so many of them. Our need for God to move will increase our faith in Him and His ability to intervene. God desires that we would have that same desperation for Him even when our circumstances aren’t dictating that need. We are all eternally hopeless without Him. It’s time our lives, our prayers and our relationship with Him reflected that kind of desperation.
Here are some Bible verses on desperation.
1. I was desperate for you to help me in my struggles, and you did!
Psalms 120:1 TPT
2. When the woman realized she couldn’t hide any longer, she came and fell trembling at Jesus’ feet. Before the entire crowd she declared, “I was desperate to touch you, Jesus, for I knew if I could just touch even the fringe of your robe I would be healed.”
Luke 8:47 TPT
3. For when I was desperate, overwhelmed, and about to give up, you were the only one there to help. You gave me a way of escape from the hidden traps of my enemies.
Psalms 142:3 TPT
4. GOD is good, a hiding place in tough times. He recognizes and welcomes anyone looking for help, No matter how desperate the trouble.
Nahum 1:7 MSG
5. When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle-deliverance when I needed it most.
When people ask where I went to school, I often say, “Hard Knocks University.” For the longest time, it seemed that life kept knocking me down. No matter what I did, I couldn’t gain ground. In fact, it felt like the bottom kept falling out from underneath me. I learned that the only way to fail Hard Knocks University is to quit. I also learned that the only way to graduate was to get closer to God. The troubles we face in life can either make us bitter or better. We get to choose by how we respond when we keep getting knocked down.
For me, I let it push me closer to God. I found myself praying more asking God for the wisdom to make better decisions. I also started reading the Bible more. I knew there were principles in it that could help with the things I was facing, so I began to consume the Bible looking for answers. What I got was a deeper relationship with God and the promise that He wouldn’t abandon me in my troubles. I began to put my focus on Him instead of my problems, and then I began telling my problems about Him instead of the other way around.
The Psalmist must have graduated Hard Knocks University too. Psalm 119:71 says, “My troubles turned out for the best – they forced me to learn your textbook” (MSG). If you’re in the toughest school around, let it draw you closer to God and His textbook. He probably won’t take the troubles away as quick as you like, but you are guaranteed that He will walk through them with you. Failure can’t be an option, and you don’t want to keep taking the same course. If you want to graduate, you’re going to have to read the textbook. I recommend you start with a chapter in Proverbs each day to get the wisdom you need.
One of the stories on the Bible that speaks to me every time is in 1 Samuel 1. Hannah wasn’t able to have a child so she was ridiculed, taunted, bullied and shamed. Year after year this went on. One year she had enough. Instead of attacking her bully, she went into the Sanctuary to pray. She wept bitterly before God, crying out in prayer for a long time. As she prayed, her lips were moving, but the words were coming from her heart. She wasn’t leaving until God answered her prayer for a son.
Verse 10 says, “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord” (NLT). One of the first questions that comes to my mind is, “When is the last time I prayed with that kind of desperation?” Most of our prayers are simple ones with little emotion. I believe one of the reasons God answered Hannah’s prayer, and will answer ours, is because it was fervent and came from deep within her soul, not just her mind.
Verse 12 says, “Hannah continued to pray to the Lord for a long time” (GNT). I’ve heard the saying, “Don’t pray until you’re through. Pray until you’ve prayed through.” This is where it is applied. Too many times, we ask God for something and when He doesn’t answer right away, we quit praying. Hannah didn’t just pray for a long time, she prayed a long time for years. God uses her internal torment to develop a life of prayer. She wasn’t going to stop until she got her answer. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is because of persistence.
After the Eli, the priest, had told her God would answer her prayer, verse 18 says, “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad” (NLT). Hannah believed God would answer and acted accordingly. She didn’t let the years of God not answering prayer create doubt. She held onto the promise and acted in faith before God answered. She quit believing the words of the bully and held onto God’s Word instead. One of the reasons God answered her prayer, and will answer ours, is when we act in faith.
Several years ago, I attended a conference of authors for authors. One of them spoke on the importance of turning in your work by the deadline. In fact, he spoke of how he tries to beat the deadline by as much as he can. His reasoning was that the longer the editors have his work, the better it will be. Plus, he thought of it as the gift of time to them. He wanted to give them time to do their work instead of making them rush when he turns everything in at the last minute.
Sometimes I wish God had that philosophy! In all my years of praying and needing something from God, it’s never been early. I’ve been sweating it out, praying so hard that I can’t sleep and God showed up just in the nick of time with the answer. I’ve figured out He doesn’t work on my timetable. Many times I felt like He was late in answering my prayers, but it turned out that it was right on time.
There have been times where I’ve prayed for Him to respond because I thought it was critical, but He didn’t. In those moments, I felt crushed, defeated and disappointed. Looking back on those moments, I can see why God didn’t answer. There was something better waiting that I couldn’t see. Though I felt crushed in the moment, overall, God has proved that He will do what is right for my life and just barely beat the deadline.
Micah 7:7 shares my sentiments and confidence in God to do the right thing in my life. It says, “As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me” (NLT). Even though I have many seemingly critical prayers that have gone unanswered, I still look to God for help when I need it. I’ve learned to confidently wait for Him to meet a His deadline, not mine, and I know He hears me when I pray.
Lamentations 4 and 5 are two of the saddest chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was so descriptive of what life was like living under the control of their enemy. The people who were once wealthy were digging through the trash to find food. The kids were forced to do manual labor that was too hard for them. Anyone caught looking for food outside the city walls was killed. Confidence was replaced with desperation, and joy was replaced with a deep depression.
People no longer gathered to talk. No one sang any songs. The population was dwindling down because people were dying of starvation. It was a very dark period in Israel’s history. Jeremiah knew they were living under the enemy’s control because they had turned their back on God. He cried out in repentance and asked God how long would they suffer. Then he remembered that suffering is temporary, but God is eternal.
You may be going through a dark time in your life right now as well. It may feel like God has abandoned you and that you are living under the enemy’s control. I know what it’s like to live through that. I know what it feels like to lose everything and wonder if you should still try to keep going. I can let you know that the suffering is only temporary. It does end and the sun comes out again. God has not abandoned you no matter how alone you feel.
I pray Jeremiah’s prayer in Lamentations 5:21 over you today. It says, “Restore us, O Lord, and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!” (GNT) I’m living proof that God restores what the enemy stole, and that joy returns. When God restores you, He will rebuild everything better than it was. When He gives your joy back, it will be greater than before. What feels like forever is only a season. Restoration is coming.
There have been a few times in my life when I’ve been desperate for hope. When I was in my early twenties, my mom was in ICU at the M.D. Anderson cancer center. I remember living in that holding room for families. Each family in there lived day to day desperate for good news. Some families got it, but most of us didn’t. We were tired, exhausted, mentally drained, and were looking for a ray of hope that might mean our loved one would walk out of there.
Another time was after my first wife left me. My business was failing and the world all around me seemed to be crashing in. When I thought I had hit rock bottom, the bottom would fall out. When I thought I had good news, it turned out to be wrong. I just wanted something to hold onto in order to keep from from falling deeper in that hole, but everything I grabbed seemed to slip between my fingers.
To be without hope is a dangerous place, yet so many of us live there. Our lives seem to have no future, and we just want something we can believe in to brighten up the darkness a little. The writer of Lamentations was there too. He was in a desperate place having lost everything. As he recounted his trouble in chapter three, he then wrote in 3:22-23, “Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue” (GNT). His hope returned when he took his eyes off his situation and focused on God.
I love what he goes on to write in verses 25-26. He says, “The Lord is good to everyone who trusts in him, So it is best for us to wait in patience—to wait for him to save us—.” God sees us in our hopeless darkness. Looking back, He used those times to shape me and polish me. Trusting God when you can’t see a future is hard, but be patient. The Lord is good and is working things out for your good. Hope will return because God has not forgotten you.