7 Ways to Thrive When You Feel Abandoned by God

7 Ways to Thrive When You Feel Abandoned by God8 min read

By Jon Beaty

December 4, 2015

Perhaps you’ve prayed for months. Maybe you’ve prayed for years. You hear nothing. People tell you to pray more.

But you feel abandoned by God.

You’ve met them. You’ve read their books. You’ve heard the speak. The saints who say, “Trust in God’s promises.”

They felt abandoned by God, but hung on. They walked through the valleys of trial and tribulation, depression and fear. They kept their flame burning. God walked them out the other side. Now they stand on mountain tops–shining bright and thriving.

But now you’re on your knees every day, praying. Asking…

God, where are you.

Your light is dimming. The next gust of wind or turbulent wave threatens to put it out.

How Can You Trust God When You Can’t See Him?

I tell myself, If I could see God standing at my side, it would be easier to trust Him.

If God would just send an angel to reassure me, I’d be stronger.

But then, I have to ask myself:

  • Am I any better than Adam and Eve, who walked with God in Eden, but doubted His promises?
  • What about Abraham and Sarah? They welcomed angels into their home, who destroyed the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Then Abraham and Sarah lied because they feared Pharaoh.
  • Am I any better than Elijah? He ran for his life, afraid Jezebel would kill him. Only hours earlier, God sent fire from heaven to consume Elijah’s water-drenched sacrifice, and the stones it sat on. God also sent rain in answer to Elijah’s prayer. After all that, Elijah felt discouraged and afraid. He asked God to let him die.
  • Am I any better than Peter, James and John? After three and a half years walking with Jesus, seeing amazing miracles, His closest disciples ran and hid when trouble came.

Those Who Saw God the Least Trusted the Most

There are those who trusted God when evil seemed to have the advantage. They trusted before any direct encounter with God or His angels.

If I could only have faith like these:

  • Joseph endured betrayal by his brothers, slavery and prison. But he remained faithful to God.
  • Daniel had been brought to Babylon a captive. Under Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, he’d been castrated with a knife. Humiliated, he was forced to serve in the king’s government. After all that, Daniel asked to hear King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He trusted God would interpret the king’s dream, and save his life.
  • Esther was an orphan. She’d been forced into King Xerxes’ harem. He made her his queen. The queen before her was banished for disrespecting the king. But Esther approached the king with boldness. She put her life on the line when her people were condemned do death, believing God had called her for such a time as this.

Joseph became a ruled at the Pharaoh’s right hand. Daniel became a royal official in the government of at least four kings. Esther prevailed for her people and continued to rule over Persia.

These are a few of the faithful. They held on when it seemed God had abandoned them. They walked through the dark, but their lights kept glowing.

You and I each have a story. Each story includes times of disappointment, discouragement, depression and fear–these are different for each of us. But I know what it’s like to have God lead you to what seems like a dead end. I’ve suffered from loneliness and broken relationships. I’ve experienced poverty. I’ve struggled with poor health.

I’ve tried trusting in God’s promises. At times I’ve wondered if the promises are true.

There are times when my light threatened to go out, because I doubted God’s faithfulness.

How to Shine in the Darkness of Discouragement and Fear

I’ve learned that the problem isn’t God’s faithfulness. The problem comes from failing to understand that many of God’s promises include a part for me to play.

Joseph, Daniel and Esther didn’t settle for being background characters in God’s story. They saw themselves in leading roles.

To experience the full power of God’s promises we need to understand our part and play it. We need to get off the sidelines, and into the game. We need to get out of the audience and onto the stage.

Joseph, Daniel and Esther overcame difficult circumstances and achieved great things by cooperating with God.

They refused to be passive.

They were faithful to what God called them to do. They remained faithful, no matter how dark their world became.

They refused to lose heart. They kept their lamps burning. Instead of focusing on the darkness they kept their eyes on the light.

They pushed disappointment, discouragement and fear aside, trusting that God had a plan and that they had a part In it.

They might have felt alone at times, but God never left them.

I’ve learned that when I feel abandoned by God, it’s a good time to revisit His promises and make sure I’m playing my part.

In the stories of those who didn’t let their flame go out when the world around them grew dark, there are 7 ways they kept their light shining.

These are 7 things God asks of us. When we do our part God fulfills His promises so we can shine in the darkness and thrive in the light of God’s power.

1. Stop Pointing Your Finger

Blaming our problems on someone else might make us feel better. But it does nothing to make our lives better. The Bible teaches us to not complain about each other and to not point fingers. In return for stopping these things, God promises to satisfy our needs (Isaiah 58:9-11; James 5:9)

2. Confess Your Sins to God

The Bible teaches us that God won’t hear us if we hold on to sin (Psalm 66:18). If you are clinging to a known sin, ask God to make you willing to let go of it. God gives us the desire and the power to overcome sin (Romans 8).

3. Focus on the Good

Have you ever cut or scraped yourself and not noticed the pain until minutes later, when you saw the wound? When hard times hit us, it’s easy to focus on the bad stuff that’s happening to us, and around us. But doing what’s easy only adds to our pain. The Bible teaches that if we focus our attention on what is good, the God of peace is with us (Philippians 4:8-9).

4. Remember Your Purpose

God calls us to a special purpose. We’re called to be lights in the darkness (Matthew 5:16). We’re in the middle of a great conflict between Christ and Satan. The devil’s dark forces are relentless, looking for every opportunity to put out your light. But this life isn’t all there is. Wounded soldiers don’t surrender to an enemy that takes no prisoners–we fight to the death, because Jesus conquered death (Ephesians 6:10-20).

5. Cultivate Relationships

There are two kinds of relationships that help us thrive in difficult times. One kind is where we bring encouraging words and help to others who are struggling. The other kind is where we surround ourselves with at least one or two people who give us encouraging words and help when we need it. A church provides opportunities for both kinds of relationships (Ecclesiastes 4:9-22; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:25).

6. Set Goals

Set up a list of tasks to work on each day. Ask God to guide you in this. Start with tasks that help you achieve your God-given purpose. Then add tasks designed to keep you in good health and strengthen your mind and your relationships. Write them down (James 4:13-15).

7. Get Busy

Get to work on your tasks and check items off in your list as you complete them each day. Savor each accomplishment. Make note of the tasks you don’t complete. Evaluate whether they’re necessary. Ask God to guide you as you choose what to keep and remove your task list (Proverbs 3:5-6).

The Greater the Darkness the Brighter the Light

Stripped naked and nailed to a cross, a crown of thorns piercing the skin on His forehead, Jesus fought for each breath. In God’s story, Jesus chose the role of the hero who dies to save the lives of the rest of us.

In His darkest hour, Jesus felt abandoned by God. He cried, “My God, My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” But God never left Jesus. And Jesus remained faithful.

In His darkest hour, the light of Jesus shone the brightest. His light penetrated the clouds over Golgotha, and stretched across the universe from the beginning to the end of time.

Jesus knows what it’s like to feel alone. He shows us how to keep our flame bright in dark times.

Looking at the list above, I see things I’ve done that kept me faithful in dark times. I also know there are things I can do better on each of these items to fuel my flame.

Are there things on this list, or not on this list that kept your light shining in dark times? If so, leave a comment below.


About the author

I help Christian leaders apply the ways and words of Jesus to:
- Overcome limiting beliefs, habits, and traits.
- Build stronger connections with the people they live and work with.
- Clarify and achieve their personal goals and life mission.

  • “Those who saw God the most, trusted God the least.” Jon, this is such a great reminder to not wait, but instead, to simply trust God right where I’m at.

    Currently, I’m learning to let God refine and lead me in His own way. This means learning to let go of my picture of how I think my life should be & allow God to lead me in His dirrection.

    Life is so much better & I am much happier when I do this. Sometimes God works through people in messy ways–which is a truth I tend to forget. Joseph, for example, did jail time & had a high-conflict relationship with his brothers. Yet, God was working in the midst of all of these things.

    I mention this because it brings me hope. I wish that some of the high-conflict & chaos in my life would resolve. However, I’m starting to thing that God may be using this to grow & refine my family & I.

    Thank you for an encouraging & hopeful reminder 🙂

  • This one is hard for me. Mostly because I don’t think that I have ever felt abandoned. Most of my life I was running from the truth but in the years I have accepted and professed my faith I have always felt God working in my life just maybe not the way I wanted but like Jed I have submitted to allowing Him to lead and guide me. Usually when I get to a point of despair I remind myself He is working in my life some how. I’m just not seeing clearly. Which makes me stop to think about the situation and try to get clarity. I hope never feel abandoned and can’t imagine what that is like but I would assume it is a very lonely place and looks a lot like depression and hopelessness which I have been there before.

    “The greater the darkness the brighter the light” takes on a lot of meaning for me and that God is the greatest healer. He mets us where ever we are and walks alongside of us in our journey. I think this is why I probably never felt abandoned is because I know He is there but what I am going through – the “Why” will be revealed in time. No matter how dim or dark it may seem. My greatest character strength is hope and optimism and I usually try to find the light in all. I also recognize that sometimes our greatest strengths are our weaknesses too.

    I really like #5. People are our greatest asset and the community is very important in our lives.

    • Kirby, Thanks for sharing your experience. I like your point about God meeting us where we are and walking with us in our journey. It reminds me of Footprints in the Sand. Sometimes He even carries us.

      • Jon,

        I saw a comic this year, and now, every time someone mentions the footprint poem, I have a hard time not thinking of it, and smiling. It shows Jesus, on the beach, pointing to a single set of footprints. Jesus says, “That’s where I carried you… and that big, gash in the sand over there, is where I dragged you along.”

        I think that if Jesus and I were standing on the beach, we would find plenty of places with one set of footprints, and a fair share of long, drawn-out gashes too.

        I’m so glad that “Jesus knows what it’s like to feel alone,” and is willing to carry and drag me along when needed 🙂

        • Thanks Jed! I like that picture of Jesus dragging us along. It’s so true! As much as we say we want Him to lead us, sometimes our faith isn’t up to the challenge — but He is.

  • I have felt abandoned by God and have sought solace in Buddhism. I was raised Catholic and it worked well for my wonderful parents and for me during the formative years of my life. I have personally experienced a lot of evil by the hands of people who have gone on to appear to have God’s favor— inspite of their deeds. Although deeply hurt, I did not exact revenge in any way because I did not want to further add to evil in the world or add bad karma to spirit— inspite of my realization that my prayers weren’t worthy of God’s ear and blessings. I dont know that it takes, but livng decently and providing assistance , empathy and compassion to others is not enough. Seemingly, being pure evil might help. Lol! Maybe one day things will be made clear to me, but I feel too exhausted to pray to an entity that can’t/won’t hear me. Stopped doing the Catholic church thing when I realized the Pope and the church use donation money to fund legal fees for pedophiles. The Pope is God’s shepherd on Earth for the Catholic Church, so go figure!
    I have no choice but to keep being a kind, compassionate person, as this is something that gives me some semblance of peace and happiness to offset some of the pain caused by feeling God’s abandonment. That and the endorphins I get from exercise help tremendously!
    Hope this helps anyone out there who feels abandoned by God. Just know you are not alone. There are others that feel the same way!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience of rising out of a confusing, abusive and oppressive situation to one where you are now thriving.

      • Hello, John Beaty. My name is Nataly. And I am exhausted. I am 31 years old. When I was 7,my dad left us, and he.. Had thrown us, my mom and me, on the street. He married another woman, and she is into black magic. He has got a daughter. My mom and me, we had to live in the village with relatives, and they hated us because we were so poor. I had a bad childhood, I was humiliated and offended a lot. And I was physically a very weak child, I always had cold, pneumonia etc. The time passed, I entered the university. The faculty of foreign languages. When father had got to know about it, he started to help me financially. I studied linguistics, and knew two languages, English and French. Now I don’t remember French. My native language is Russian, and I know I bit of Ukrainian. When I’d finished the university, I found a job and worked hard as an interpreter. But in a year I got sick. I worked so hard that I had a nervous break down, astenia and finally I got psychosis. I got into mental institution. I ve been sick for 8 years, and I was hospitalized 20 times. Now I am home, but I still can’t work, I ve got cognitive problèmes. My father left us in trouble again, during this time of coronavirus he refused to pay for a rent of an apartment. I feel hopeless and helpless.. I don’t see the way out of the situation. I think about committing a suuside. Why does God hate me so much. I tried to be a good Christian, go to the church, did good deeds.. Helped people as best as I could. I asked God to arrange my life, give me a place to live, job, husband, kids.. Just these simple things other people take for granted. I am dating a guy for 11 months, but he doesn’t hurry to marry me. And he is poor too, an orphan.. Now I sit in the strangers apartment, homeless, hungry, sick and unhappy. I thought, maybe there are some good rich people who can buy me an apartment, haha.. I am being so naive.. What can you tell me?? Why? Why does God hate me????

        • Dear Nataly,

          I love your name. I’ve always thought Nataly is such a beautiful name.

          Thank you so much for sharing your story. You’ve endured so much pain. It is no surprise you wonder why God hates you.

          David sometimes felt the same way. I encourage you to read the Psalms. One of the Psalms David wrote says, “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.”  Psalms 27:10 (ESV). I believe this is a promise that God will take care of you. But God has never promised that our mortal life will be free of troubles, sorrows and pain. However, we can thrive in the midst of our difficulties knowing that God has promised a better life to those who know and trust Him.

          Begin by getting to know God through Jesus. I am encouraged every time I read of Jesus and read His words and about His love in the Gospel of John, especially in dark times, because Jesus is the Light.

          I am praying for you Nataly and trust that God will walk with you and hold you close if you ask Him to.

  • Forgive me, my Father
    For I am a sinner. Please don’t you ever dare to abandon me. Im unanswered, abandoned, unforgiven, hopeless. Please have mercy

  • The only thing keeping my light shining, so to speak, is the fear of ending up in a Hell worse than the one I am already in.

    • This life can feel like Hell, but remember Jesus Christ took our place on the Cross to pay for all the things we have done , if you accept His Free gift of Eternal life he will forgive those sins and you will be in Heaven one day , He paid it all on the cross, it’s a Free Gift, take it freely, John 3:16

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