When You Wonder Where God Is in Your Suffering

by Ruth Schwenk September 23, 2020
“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:8-10 (NIV)
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We were heading home when the nurse called with news for my husband, Patrick. I was driving when he answered his cellphone. It was a quick exchange, but when I glanced over at him writing on a scrap of paper, I could see the word “cancer.”

It’s true that hearing the “C” word is like being punched in the stomach. I wanted to throw up. We both sat in silence. Although it is all a bit blurry to me, I do remember pulling into our driveway, the two of us crying and speechless. At some point, I hurriedly got out of the car and ran up the stairs to our bedroom.

It seemed like a safe place, even if that was just an illusion.

My entire body felt like a balloon someone had just sucked the air out of. I was in complete disbelief. Alone in our room, I Googled blood cancer and collapsed to the floor as I read the word “incurable.” I read it again. Incurable.

My thoughts raced. Or rather raged against me and inside of me.
I thought about sickness. Suffering. Death.
I thought about growing old alone.
I thought about our kids’ graduation.
Sons and daughters walking down the aisle one day, without their father.

This happens to other people. Not us. How could this be happening to our family?

Everyone’s pain is unique. I am certainly not an expert on suffering. But the worst pain of all, the darkest suffering, is when in the middle of our storm, even God feels far away. Distant. Uninvolved. And that is exactly how God felt to me.

Maybe you are in that place right now, feeling darkness and dryness — like God Himself has left you. Whatever you are facing, I first want to remind you that you are not alone in feeling alone. You are not the first person to walk through hardship and wonder whether God is for you or against you. This feeling is not a weakness or a sign of your lack of faith. Most importantly, I want to remind you that you are not alone because God IS there. Even when it seems like He isn’t.

As the psalmist reminds us in Psalm 139:8-10, there is nowhere we can go where God is not already present: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

Notice the psalmist uses the word “hand” twice. Once to tell us God is guiding us and the second time to tell us God is possessing us or seizing us (verse 10). He is leading us and holding us, even when we struggle to feel Him there.

As I faced my storm and the months went on, I did the only thing I knew to do. I stayed on my knees. I devoured Scripture. I wept. I prayed and worshipped as I waited for the season to pass. And it did — with the miraculous healing of my husband.

Not that long ago, I remember looking a friend full in the face as she declared she couldn’t find God in the middle of her suffering. I pleaded with her, “Don’t stop seeking Him. He is here.” I’d say the same to you today. What is more important than us feeling God is knowing and trusting that He has found us. He loves us. He is holding us. He is present with us. And He is faithful to get us through the storm, no matter what happens.

Heavenly Father, help me to know You are with me. Through the power of Your Spirit, draw me closer to You. Give me grace for one more breath, one more step, one more day. I want to know You, love You, and bring glory to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Hebrews 13:5, “… Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (NIV)


In a Boat in the Middle of a Lake by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk is a powerful reminder that your storm doesn’t have to sink you. In this compassionate and moving book, the Schwenks weave together lessons from their own experience of multiple miscarriages — and then years later, a cancer diagnosis — with insightful Bible teaching to remind us that one of the greatest ways God transforms us is through trials.

Today — in your confusion about God’s intentions, your disappointment over lost dreams, your disillusionment about prayer — God is offering hope. Visit


Join Ruth and Patrick as they share life, theology and everything in between on their podcast, Rootlike Faith.

Enter to WIN your very own copy of In a Boat in the Middle of the Lake by Patrick and Ruth Schwenk. To celebrate this book, Ruth’s publisher will give away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and then notify each one in the comments section by Monday, September 28, 2020.}


How can walking by feeling instead of faith be dangerous?

In what area of your life is God asking you to trust what He says and not just how you feel?

Ruth Schwenk is the founder of the blog,, and co-founder with her husband Patrick of the blog,, and a new podcast, Rootlike Faith. She is the author of several books, including Pressing Pause Devotional, Settle My Soul (co-authored with Karen Ehman), and The Better Mom book and devotional. Ruth and Patrick live with their four kids in the dreamy college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan.


© 2020 by Ruth Schwenk. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson | Nelson Books for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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