Why hasn't God moved my mountain?
Does he love me? Is he punishing me?
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there," and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
- Matthew 17:20b
I know for many of you this verse is hard.
It’s not just hard to wrap your mind around, but personally and profoundly hard. You have a mountain, a really big one. And, you’ve asked, you’ve pleaded, you’ve begged. But, it’s still blocking out the sunlight, and you’re just sitting in the shadow of it wondering, “Why me?” You’re exhausted and worried, despairing and heartsick. You might be saying, “What about this verse, now?”
First off, I am so sorry.
On behalf of Jesus, please hear me say, “He mourns with you.” He weeps with us when we weep, like he did with his friends at Lazarus’ tomb, like he cried over his beloved people in Jerusalem. Jesus knows your sorrow. He has felt the pain of your suffering in full. And, he sits with you in your pain even now.
Then, why doesn’t he relieve it?
It’s not for me to know the mind of God specifically. But, all of us can know the mind of God generally in his word. So, let me tell you some things that you can know your suffering does NOT mean.
Your suffering is NOT because God doesn’t love you.
I know this might sound ridiculous. You might be saying, “I know God loves me. He loves everyone.” But, in your heart of hearts do you feel it? In light of your mountain, do you really believe it? I can’t convince your heart, I can’t make it feel what you don’t feel right now. But, I can encourage you with Romans 8:37-39, and tell you that there is absolutely nothing that can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. God’s love for you will never change and overcomes all obstacles. And, even if you don’t feel it, it’s still right there. It hasn’t gone from you. Ask him to help you feel it.
Your suffering is NOT because God doesn’t care.
You know Paul, right? He was an apostle who wrote a lot of the New Testament. Jesus revealed himself miraculously to him and gave him a profound international Gospel ministry. In the world of Bible super heroes, Paul’s action figure would be a top seller. But, Paul had his fair share of mountains. He was beaten numerous times, he was constantly on the run from people seeking to kill him, and in fact, much of what he wrote was penned from prison. Eventually, Paul was martyred for his faith. Those are some pretty big mountains. Many times God miraculously moved those mountains for Paul, many times God displayed his glory for the benefit of Paul’s ministry and his life. But, there was one painful thing God didn’t deliver Paul from, and I’m not talking about his martyrdom. I’m talking about his mysterious “thorn”. We don’t know exactly what it was, but there was something painful that Paul struggled with, something he called a “thorn”. He pleaded with God, begging him to remove it. But, God did not. Did God hear Paul? Did he even care about Paul? Certainly, we must say yes. But, God still did not remove that wretched thorn. How did Paul come to terms with it? He decided that his thorn was there to help him rely more intimately on God. His weakness was an opportunity for God to show his power and glory. (Read about it in 2 Cor. 12.) God cared deeply for Paul, and he cares for you, despite your mountain.
Your suffering is NOT punishment.
Oh sweet follower of Jesus, he is not punishing you for your sins! How do I know? Because HE took the punishment that was rightfully ours for our sin. Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath down to the dregs, all of it. Isaiah 53 tells us that Jesus bore “ the punishment that brought us peace”. And, we know from Romans 8 that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. None. Period. Please take this in: your suffering is not God punishing you for your sins. Sometimes, we’re tempted to question this. Don’t let your mind go there. It is just not true.
This reminds me of one more mountain.
It's a mountain God didn't move, though he was asked to move it. It's the mountain Jesus climbed after he was betrayed into the hands of angry men, unjustly tried, and sentenced to death. It was really no more than a hill, called Calvary. And though Jesus pleaded earnestly with his Father to remove that mountain, it remained. So, Jesus went willingly up it for our sake. There, on that mount, Jesus proved his love for us on the cross. He endured the deep darkness of our punishment, while the Father turned his face from him. Why? So we might never experience the same. And, these mountains we still have, they aren't because our God is distant and uncaring. We have seen him display his radical love for us in his own suffering on our behalf. God's ultimate purpose in Jesus' suffering was our freedom forever from it. And all of our troubles, every hurt, every pain, God is working together for the for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28). Period.
I hope this is somehow a help to you as you sit in the shadow of your mountain. Jesus sits with you. And one day, he will flatten them all.
When God doesn’t move your mountain do you tend to feel like he doesn’t love you, doesn’t care, or is punishing you?
How can you battle these feelings with the truth of God’s Word?
Did you notice how many times we quoted Romans 8? Go read it and find great encouragement and deep truth for today.
Natalie co-founded Dwell with her sister, Vera. Together, they're committed to helping others connect with God each and every day. Natalie also hosts our weekly podcast, Dwell Differently. She and her husband, Jason, live in Chicago with their 5 kids, where Jason pastors First Free Church.