From Tim Keller:
"If you say: I believed in God, I trusted God, and He didn't come through, you only trusted God to meet your agenda."
This is true. True and difficult. But it raises a question that probably many suffering people have pondered: if "God" cannot be trusted to always help us in the way that we want, by giving us what we ask for when we ask, then is it possible that this is just a religious explanation for the simple fact that "s#*t happens" and there is no God at all?
I've wondered that. I've wondered that maybe the truth is that there is no God who intervenes and answers prayers. Maybe just whatever happens is what happens, and then we either say, if it falls down in your favor, "Praise God for answering my prayer!", or if it doesn't happen the way we want, "Oh, well God must have other plans." Maybe these explanations are little more than religious attempts at self-soothing and making sense of a world that, on one hand, can seem so remarkably ordered and wonderfully designed, yet on the other hand, so chaotic and painful.
I think this kind of reasoning demonstrates how our knowledge of God's existence and working in our lives cannot be ultimately found in how often or how well God gives us what we want when we ask in prayer. There must be a deeper foundation.
And I have glimpsed that foundation myself. I spent years, over a decade, praying essentially for the same thing, only to have things get worse and worse, the suffering more and more acute and mind-numbing. But now, looking back, it was not God giving me what I asked that showed me that God is there. It is seeing how God finds me today in the suffering I went through. It is in the intuitive, unspoken, know-that-I-know-that-I-know sense of knowing, while looking back, that God's hand led me to where I am today. He called me.
I remember being a little boy. I remember how simple life was back then. I am broken at times when I think of it in comparison to some of the past years of my life. But I also have a deep understanding that God called me to this, and He called me through this. To say, "Ok, this is why God did so" would be to try to discover the climax of the story before the story is completed, though I do already see reasons why He did call me to where I am today -situations, roles, relationships He called me to- and I know it was from Him.
I believe this is one of the many reasons why the Bible over and over points to the faithfulness of God. God is not God because He rescues us from every peril and situation we struggle through, and that might make us wonder if God is there at all. God is God because He is faithful, and that faithfulness is often only seen on the other side of the battle, while looking back at Sodom we walked out from. And in that, I can see why it is said that God always does come through, but not always in the way that we expected. You can only really see how God did come through when you see how He brought you to where you are and know there was purpose in it that is for good. Then our faith is realized. Then our suffering finds meaning in His purposes and in His closeness with us.