Watch

Talk

Think of a time when you were disappointed or hurt by someone or something. Briefly describe how you felt when this incident happened and what, if anything, you did to move past that rough patch.

Read

I always highly valued my family. Being a good daughter was on the top of my list. But to my dismay, when I became a Christian in college, my relationship with my non-Christian parents began to decline. The more I obeyed Jesus and took risks to follow him, the worse it got.

When I started leading Bible studies on campus, my parents insisted there were better things to do with my time. When I fundraised for a summer missions trip, they were incensed I would even consider approaching family and friends for money. The tension reached a point where my parents stopped talking to me; they didn’t even tell me when my dad had surgery.

Instead of their dutiful daughter, I was called a disappointment; during a particularly heated argument, I was even labeled worthless.

If God is supposed to be faithful, why wasn’t he helping my family—and why wasn’t he helping me? If God cared, wouldn’t he do something? Was he really the kind of God I wanted to follow?

Talk

In your relationship with Jesus so far, what, if anything, has caused you to doubt whether he really cares? What happened?

Context

Sometimes people think of the Bible as a book of faith heroes, but upon closer inspection, there are several stories of doubt and disappointment in God. By the time of this story, Jesus had become a well-known miracle worker. Martha, Mary and Lazarus were among his closest friends and devoted followers.

Read

Take turns reading verses from John 11:1-45.

Talk

  1. How do you think Martha and Mary were feeling when they approached Jesus after his delayed arrival?
  2. Based on verses 22 and 39, what do you think Martha believed Jesus could and could not do?
  3. Besides Martha and Mary, the author John also includes other people’s reactions to Jesus’ visit to the tomb. In verses 36-37, how would you describe the two types of reactions the Jews had to Jesus?
  4. According to Jesus, he waited to come to Bethany so that God would be glorified. How did Martha, Mary, and the Jews each “see the glory of God” by the end of the story (verse 40)?
  5. John mentioned Jesus’ love for Lazarus multiple times in this passage, directly and indirectly. But everyone else seemed to be thinking, “If Jesus loved Lazarus, how could he have let him die?” How would you describe the kind of love that Jesus had toward Lazarus?
  6. Our doubts about God often emerge from two kinds of feelings: God is distant or God does not care. Martha, Mary, and the Jews all experienced these feelings toward Jesus in this story. What can we learn from this passage about how to respond when we have these feelings?

Read

I used to pray all the time for my family to know Jesus, but I stopped. I didn’t want to bring it up with God anymore. My disappointment was too great. What was the point of talking to someone who seemed like he didn’t care?

Then, at the end of my junior year, I got an unexpected call from my mother. She was in charge of planning a relative’s funeral. The grief in the family had become so overwhelming that she felt like she needed me. That event reopened our relationship, and as I cried, listened and prayed for my family, something clicked for my parents. My presence at the funeral helped my parents open up to the possibility of God’s existence.

After the funeral, I realized that this was what I had been praying and longing for the past few years; I could hardly believe it! I saw that God had been behind the scenes, preparing for this moment, even when he seemed so distant. And amazingly, in the subsequent years, my relationship with my parents is more open and honest than it was before I even became a Christian. I can’t pretend to understand why God took this painful route to get us to this place, nor can I wipe away the disappointment from those years. But I think I understand a little better now what it means for God to be good and faithful.

Listen & Reflect

Milestone Graph

  1. Make a short list of milestones, whether positive or negative, in your relationship with God.
  2. Transfer the milestones chronologically onto a graph.
  3. Take turns sharing your Milestone Graphs and thanking God for his goodness.

Give Thanks

When you're feeling doubtful and discouraged, the most natural reaction may not be to give thanks. But thanking God is a powerful method to move beyond your doubt. When you choose to see life through the eyes of gratitude to God, it changes everything. Especially you.

More than optimism, thanksgiving is a deliberate choice to declare your belief in God's goodness and faithfulness. It's choosing to remember how blessed you are and have been in the past, even in spite of what you feel at the moment. Thanking God will refocus your attention on him.

You can start to make thanksgiving a daily habit by telling God the things you're thankful for, or writing them down in a journal. When you don't have words of your own, the Bible is full of thanking and praising God, so here are a few verses from Psalms that you can say as your own:

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
   in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
   and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 100:1-5

Praise the LORD, my soul;
   all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
   and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
   and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Video

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Books

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Recounting his own experience with depression, Matt Rogers explores the question of how, in a world of suffering, we can call God good. Without appealing to easy answers, Rogers offers a ray of hope to those who suffer from depression, encouraging them never to give up.

Have you ever felt like God has let you down just when you needed him most? In moments of crisis, our view of God is challenged and our faith is shaken. In this book, Alex Gee offers true companionship--though not easy answers--as you search for the way to hope.

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Audio

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Articles

Joy is not merely a feeling; it must be cultivated and practiced. The best way to maintain an outlook of joy is to abide in Christ, remaining close to the Lord every day. God invites you to be joyful and it is a choice that you can make.

Discover four things you can do when you begin to face doubts about your faith and God’s love. As life presents new challenges, they are often accompanied by struggles in your relationship with God, so don’t panic, “God is right there, whether you feel it or not.”

One writer's story of how the cracks in his belief actually ended up saving him.