Once again, we were on our way to the hospital – this time to the emergency room, my daughter in the back seat raging with fever and seizure-like chills. It seemed our car knew the way as we had made this trek one too many times over the last year battling her illness. Halfway there tears began exploding down my face as I felt a heavy darkness closing in on me. An almost audible voice said, “See, God doesn’t care about you. He’s not answering your prayers; your daughter isn’t getting better. Why don’t you just get it over with and curse God!” I sat there in the darkness – a part of me half believing it, but in the depth of my heart knowing it not to be true. “NO,” my thoughts shouted back. “I will not curse God – in the midst of unanswered prayers, questions, and incredible pain I will choose and keep choosing to trust Him.
Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
Luke 7:23 KJV
Have you ever felt offended by God? Glancing heavenward with a look of disbelief thinking, “How could this be happening to me and my family, my ministry? How could You allow this, God?”
Offend means to irritate, annoy, or anger; insult; to affect disagreeably. It’s often easy to feel offended by others, but I had never before thought about feeling offended by God. And yet, if I allowed myself to look deep enough, I know I have been irritated, even angry. In silence, we can be angry at God, resentful perhaps, even so deeply hurt that we erect a wall between ourselves and God. There’s no question that at times it’s very difficult not to feel offended by God – by His apparent inactivity or lack of care when trials unexplained or mysteries unresolved enter our lives, and when senseless circumstances daily gnaw at our souls.
Job was a man who not only suffered incredible pain and agony, but who refused to be offended by God, even when others were suggesting he should be. How many of us can choose to not be offended in the face of such great suffering and loss? In Job 1:8 and 2:3 God tells Satan, “There is no one on earth like him, he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” In other words, “a man who will be faithful to me no matter what.” What strikes me here is the incredible confidence God had in Job.
I wonder if He has that same confidence in me? I’ve had to ask myself that penetrating question many times over the last several years in the face of daily grief and pain. It has been a challenge, but those hard places in life and ministry give us the opportunity to respond to the very worst thing we could imagine happening to us in a God-honoring way, starting with the refusal to be offended. Job 1:22 says, “In all this (pain, loss, and heartache) Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” In other words, he wasn’t offended by God. It has to be a daily decision because our fragile emotions will tempt us to abandon what our faith knows to be true. What happens when healing doesn’t come, the pain doesn’t go away, or our grieving continues for years? Each day we have to respond faithfully – unoffended because faith that moves forward triumphs.
If we are to be like Job, we have to trust in God’s character and all we know to be true about Him in the dark. We trust that His character is good and that He is in control, knowing that whatever He allows in our lives will be for our good – not that whatever He allows is good. Our circumstances can never be an accurate reflection of God’s goodness.
I have so desperately wanted my daughter physically healed, but that has not happened completely. So, living unoffended means I will trust God even though the healing and miracle don’t come, when my earnest prayers continue to go unanswered, and when everything around me at times is filled with nothing but discouragement. I will not accuse God of wrongdoing. We are able to live unoffended by God and the things He allows in our lives only when we have a deep understanding of His character. And whatever our faith says God is, He will be.
Ultimately it is faith that enables us to live the unoffended life. And though He slay me, that’s the only life I want to live.
*First printed in Just Between Us Magazine, Spring, 2009 (justbetweenus.org)
SHELLY ESSER has been the editor of Just Between Us (justbetweenus.org), a magazine to encourage and equip women for a life of faith, for the last 26 years. Additionally, she is an author and freelance editor. For the last 15 years, she has been caring for her chronically ill daughter and husband. Her heart and passion is to walk alongside women to help them deepen their faith, and bring encouragement and hope, especially in life’s difficulties. She and her husband have four daughters, a son-in-law, and live in suburban Milwaukee, WI.
Radical hope. Compassionate change. Equipping those affected by chronic physical and mental illness through community and education rooted in Jesus Christ.