It is one of those nights where someone should take the computer away from me, shut the internet down, and relieve me of all rights to this blog. Maybe there will be a miraculous advent and this post, after I hit submit, will vanish into the netherlands of cyberspace lost forever. Then I will just say phooey, and go back to sleep. (That has happened many times before).

I remember when I was twelve years old, God peeked out of the shroud of experiential darkness. This is going to sound silly to a lot of you, but it was special to me nevertheless. I was at the Quail Creek Elementary School Carnival. All the kids went back to it after “graduating” elementary school for years (to show how cool the “post-grads” were). Each year they had a cake-walk. You know . . . where you walked around a circle of 36 numbers while music played. When the music stopped, you stopped. If you were on the number that they called, you won a cake. At that point in my life, I had never won anything that I can remember, but I wanted to win this cake so bad. So I prayed. “Dear God, if you are listening, please show me by allowing me to win this cake. Amen.” Music played. I walked. Music stopped. I stopped. They called out “32.” I looked down. I was on 32. Wow! It was something special. God made me win the cake walk. He really did care! He really was there. The next year, same time, same place, same prayer. And you know what? I won again. It was unbelievable to this now 13 year old kid. God was on my side!

I once heard someone say that God is often more evidently present in your life when you are a young Christian. I don’t have any biblical reason to believe that is true at all. However, recently it seems that God does often hide and he is hard to find.

God first seemed to be AWOL the day my sister died. Our family had yet to be touched with any significant grief. I was always the optimist, being the first to see the good in everything. I changed my life in the mid-nineties. It stuck. I was on a spiritual high through seminary. When things seemed to be going south in any way for anyone, I was the go-to guy because I knew God was present, even in evil. Everything in my life and career seemed as if God’s providential guidance was so present that if you took a picture of me and looked at the negative, you would see a clear picture of God’s hand over my head.

Immediately, after Angie died, I still took the road less traveled. When my mother had her aneurysm and stroke and lay in a nearly total incapacitated state, I became a bit confused. The miracle of her life being spared soon turned into a curse of pain, suffering, and heart-ache beyond anything her death could have hoped for.

It was very hard to see God in this. It is still hard to see God in it four years later. The change I had hoped it would bring about in dad has not been realized. In fact, I think he is worse off than anyone and it hurts to think about. So much so, I can barely stand to call him anymore. There are many other terrible details that follow here that I will not mention due to confidence. Suffice it to say that there has been a snowball effect of trouble that does not relent.

However, as I wrote at this time, I was still optimistic: it was raining in the front yard and sunny in the back. In short, while things in my family were very tough and God seemed to be hiding, things in the ministry could not be better. I took heart at what God was doing.

In ministry, it was so easy to see God’s movements. From the unlikely success in seminary, to my seamless hiring at the church of my hero, God was present. It was a cakewalk! The birth and growth of The Theology Program was amazing. I just sat back and watched as it turned into a ministry that simply could not have been more exciting to me. Everything I was touching was turning to gold (or at least the best kind of silver).

When did God start vanished from here? It is hard to say. (Sheesh…I am beginning to feel like this very blog post is a manipulative cry to him). Maybe it was when (and I am not going to mention particulars) a few groups of Christians attempted to legally pry The Theology Program away from the me. That was very discouraging. Maybe it was when I had to move back to Oklahoma to help with my mother and Rhome and I were separated. Maybe I felt that God was moving us to Norman in order to invest some time in a peripheral supportive ministry. I envisioned a software piece that would facilitate our online classes and it was really cool. However, I was forced out of the company through circumstances that left me scratching my head (that is all I will say about that). Now we are stuck in Norman and our house has been on the market for over 2 years.

My own exhaustion is a definite result of God’s hiding. Specifically, my exhaustion in raising funds for our ministry. This is the worst part of my job, hands down. Living every two weeks not knowing whether you or your employees are going to get paid the next takes it toll after a while. I simply cannot sit on my hands. I am fueled by vision. I see so many things that can happen and I open the doors for their realization, often finding myself second guessing my call to see that vision through due to financial shortfalls. Sheesh God…is it really that hard for you to cover our budget? It is not that big.

(As an aside: I don’t know if anything affects a man more than the prospects of not being able to take care of his family.)

I live in two worlds now. In one world with the ever present realization that the funds are going to dry up anytime. The one where God, for some reason, does not seem to want me here anymore. The world where my drive continually produces hope that things are going to change. The world that keeps me begging for money in humiliation. And the other world with the newspaper opened to the jobs section wondering “what on earth else am I qualified to do besides this.” In both, God is silent.

Where did I go wrong? Where did I fail to get off the highway? When did you completely shroud yourself in darkness? Why did you do that? I am tired. I have already called “uncle.” Am I less devoted to you now? Whatever it is that I’m supposed to be learning, I plead with you to give me a hall pass. Better: how about a raincheck? Can’t I just learn it in Heaven?

It is not as though I am walking away from God. It simply feels as though he is walking away from me.

Those of you atheists and former Christians who suspect that they are about to have another Christian cross over to the dark side, put up your party hats, blowouts, and (ahem) cake. I am not close. One thing that I have learned, believe, and teach with great conviction is that my circumstances do not have a vote in truth. Nothing that I go through can alter or affect the cardinal issues of my faith. Jesus Christ either died and rose from the grave or he did not. It is upon this that the entirety of my faith rests. It is not on my sister, my mother, my kids, my finances, my emotional ups and downs, the success or failure of my ministry, or my cakewalks. It is on the historical person and work of Christ alone.

In fact, these times give me more passion for what I do: instilling a strong theological foundation. I am motivated by the reality that all I have described here in this blog is not unique to me. I know that you all have your stories as well. I know that many of them will be much more tragic, desperate, and exhausting. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I don’t just say that. I often lay my head down in my own pain praying that people don’t let their pain dictate the truth of God’s reality, love, and plan.

God is not real only when I win a cake. I don’t know God loves me because I can pay bills. God is not active only when I find myself and my family in good spirits and health. God is real, active, and loving because of the reality of Christ and his work for me (and you) on the cross. Nothing can change that.

I know that there are those times when you look to heaven and all you see is the reflection of your own troubles, with no sign of help or hope. But we have to believe that God is on the other side, looking through a two-way mirror being intimately acquainted with our direness, full of love and concern, and guiding us through. He will pull us out of the mire one day.

Lord, though I have not won a cakewalk lately, I thank you that my faith is not resting in such things, but is grounded in the death, burial, and resurrection of your Son. This is precious to me. Let it be to all. But I still cry “uncle” once again.

(Follow-up): Ironically, while I was finishing up this post a 3am, my computer shut off automatically for updates. This was not much of a problem since I had a copy of most of it in an open word doc and because WordPress automatically saves every minute or so. However, when I opened back up my computer, it said the Word doc was corrupted. Then I noticed that the internet was down and I did not know how long it had been down. I spent the next two hours trying to find this post. I attempted to hitchhike on my neighbor’s internet and for the first time, it was not working either. I called my ISP and learned that the internet was down. I thought to myself, “typical.” Finally I checked this blog through my iPhone and saw that it was saved, but some was lost. But my iPhone would not let me edit. Finally I went back to bed and tried to say “phooey,” but could not. Laid there for an hour arguing with God. Just now got back up (it is now 6 am) and checked again and the neighbor’s internet was working. I have done the first edit and wrote this. Now I am going to try to hit submit.

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C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger.

Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I’m a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminar (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    41 replies to "God Has Gone AWOL in My Life or “When Life is No Longer a Cakewalk”"

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      Michael, thank you very much for yet another great post. I know that I did not run into your Blog some two years ago coincidently, but by sheer providence. You have taught me, not just theology, but how to ‘do’ life. You are so much of an inspiration to me that I forward almost all your posts to all of my Christian friends, so that they too, would not only learn good theology, but would properly learn to ‘do’ life. Thank you for all that you do!

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks so much Leslie.

    • John C

      Michael,

      You’re a good man. I have been through similar times, when it felt like God was a million miles away. I have felt the financial pressure, worked as a bivocational pastor for 4 years because the church couldn’t pay us much at all. Been there, done that.

      Thanks for the reminder that in times like these, our faith rests not on a God who is a genie in a bottle but on a Savior who conquered death.

      Praying for you today.

      John

    • Neil Hess

      “my circumstances do not have a vote in truth” Michael, that quote is so reassuring. For myself and hopefully for you as well. It is so easy for people to give up when the road is tough and looks like there is no end in sight. Thank you so much for this post. Not that I like hearing about another brother in Christ struggling, but knowing that I am not alone when things get tough is really comforting. Thanks again for this outstanding post.

      Be still and know that he is God. You are in my prayers.

      -Neil

    • Joe Horn

      Michael,

      Stand firm, my friend. This is part of your post-doctoral training in trusting God as things go dark. I spent 2009 in agony as 1/3 of our church walked away, baselessly accusing me of wrongdoing and both me and our leadership of theological and biblical unfaithfulness as they went. I wondered what I had done to deserve this and where God was in the midst of it. I became intimately familiar with the meaning of Psalm 69. Seeing God’s army in the hills when the Enemy draws near is awfully tough, and anyone who says differently has either never really been there, or has a book to sell. Yet if the Cross says anything, it says to us that God is present even when we cry out forsaken, even when it seems that the Father has turned away his face from us. In the midst of your pain, remember Jesus, who alone reminds us that even God himself knows what it is like when His face seems hidden from us.

      Stand firm. And after you have done everything else, stand.

      Joe

    • RonH

      I think those of us deep in evangelical subcultures grow up with a somewhat distorted view of God. We’re raised on all these great Bible stories full of miracles and interventions, and come to subconsciously expect that as God’s regular mode of operation. But the periods of time in which those sorts of things happened were miniscule relative to the vast span of human history. For every psalm of praise there’s at least one or two more wondering where exactly God is and when he’ll step in and save his people.

      God, frankly, doesn’t make much sense to me anymore. Not in my own life, at least. And it makes no sense to me why Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, finally gets a book published and now may very well not live to see it go on sale. I don’t have any answers, of course, but an essay I’ve found to be helpful and have read over many, many times is this one by Doug Jones. (Can’t find it directly on the “Credenda” site anymore, though you can still download the PDF of the whole issue.)

    • Tracy Forde

      I have never read your blog before……but thank you for sharing such conviction. My heart goes out to you. God is not finished.
      My pastor Matt Chandler has brain cancer and he too stands on this truth….making much of Christ…even when things are going bad. The messages and my James study the last few weeks have been so much about this….to suffer with Christ….brings perseverence…..even John the Baptist sent a message to Christ in his darkness….needing to hear from him.I pray for you brother that God will continue to guide you and sustain you as you cling to His truth. Thank you….I will pray for God to provide in this place and help you see what He has brought you to this place for….even in such a wilderness. If I had money…..I would give it….because that is what the people of Acts showed us we are to do….no one was with out need…..I can only pray…so I will.

    • J.R.

      Michael

      With what has happened in my life this past year, losing both my brother-in-law and sister to suicide your post brought tears to my eyes.

      Your words of encouragement to yourself are also words of encouragement to others. I still struggle with absolutely knowing when a person’s prayer has been answered based on past experiences but I too must accept as you have accepted “that my circumstances do not have a vote in truth”.

      This post was perfectly timed, thank you my friend.

    • Rick

      Michael,

      I am 65 years old and have gone through a number of “God questioning” experiences. A couple of things that took years to finally sink in were these:

      1. Most of the circumstances around me that are experientially unpleasant are not about me. It is my strong tendency (sinful) to evaluate what is happening from my very limited perspective. It took a long time to come to grips with the simple truth that I may be going through something very difficult for reasons I will never understand this side of the Kingdom. My role: Simply to trust in a God who has His glory as a motivation and He often doesn’t share His strategy with me.

      2. God is not an employer. He is a Father. It is so deeply ingrained in me that if I do this or that then somehow I have earned some favor or benefit from God. This is not to say He doesn’t grant favor and reward service and obedience. It is just to say that I often slip into the mindset that He owes me something for the things I have done (or not) but He will be the debtor to no man. He doesn’t employ. He child trains.

      Having said all of that, I find Him more and more difficult to understand and to “hear” from as I age. I actually believe He is saying, “You know what to do.” to me in His silence. And while this could be easily misunderstood, I would say, I don’t need Him constantly encouraging or reminding me of how and how much He loves me. Those two thoughts are almost ever present and growing daily.

      Press on.

    • Lisa Robinson

      I recall last September, when my son and I were being robbed at gunpoint and forced to drive the perp to the ATM, I kept asking God to intervene. This incident happened in the midst of some rather intense exposure (seemingly all at one time) to so much loss and difficulty in my life – troubled childhood, death of my mother, poor choices, difficult marriage, loss of husband, undesirable circumstances. After we dropped that perp off, and thankfully my son and I were unharmed, the first thing I asked in the midst of everything that was happening was “God, where were you?”

      Of course I knew the answer to that, he was right there. Why did he not intervene especially considering the context of personal pain? I don’t know and suppose I never will. But I do know, that beyond the lack of explanations, there is a plan, a divinely orchestrated one that is far more comprehensive than I could ever imagine. Like Peter said to Jesus when Jesus asked if he wanted to follow the crowd that was leaving him – “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that you are the Holy one of God.

      There is no other option. God is good, even though at times we don’t see it.

    • Sam

      When I cannot enjoy the faith of assurance, I live by the faith of adherence. –Matthew Henry

    • Great post. Thanks for your honesty. It is a strange thing that discouragement can become encouragement.

      God Bless,
      Ben

    • R.Guyton

      I think God wants us to know He is not of this world. Our troubles are, we are, but somehow I think He sees things so differently than we do. Our trials and troubles are our textbooks, and the answer Key is His Word, the test is simple, Can we remember Him always and don’t forget where the answers are and they are not what we think.
      I too have been through more than there are pages to write, since accepting Christ 3 years ago, I have lost all that is of value in this world except the love of my husband and kids. The one thing that continues to grow is my relationship to God.
      I dont’ understand very much, but this much I am sure of I am no longer of this world and when I look at the world it seems much darker than I remembered it to be before Jesus. His light seems to make things of this world less desirable. Sometimes they are worse than before but I think that is because the view has changed, not the circumstance. But like I said I am fairly new at this and don’t understand alot. Praise God for the Holy Spirit and His Word, this world would look so different, don’t you think?

    • Brett

      Seriously? Standing up for the truth, often leads to martyrdom.

    • Pauline

      I’m sure my husband has had many of the same thoughts, since five years ago when the church that had called him decided, after six months, to ask him to resign. Since then he has not been able to find a job that lasts more than a year. Right now he works in inventory control at Wal-Mart, and recently he started preaching at a church 38 miles away that is between pastors. (They may call him as pastor, but then we would have to move there, and I’d have to give up my job or have a really long commute, and our special-needs son would have to go to a different school, and what if that church didn’t work out either…)

      Lisa’s experience of being robbed at gunpoint reminds me of when I was raped 22 years ago. I had prayed, at bedtime, to sleep in safety – not thinking of anything in particular to be kept safe from, though. The man kicked down my door, and I was sure he was going to kill me before it was over, rather than let me go to the police. I finally had to promise to see him again before he would leave. (I actually invited him to my church – he claimed to be a backslidden Christian.)

      For years I found it hard to pray for anything, because God so obviously had His own agenda regardless of what I prayed. Someone pointed out that God kept me safe through the experience although not safe from it. But I didn’t find that very comforting. After all, even if he’d killed me you could say I was kept safe because my soul would be safe with God. Why pray for God to do something if virtually any result can be called an answer to that prayer?

      I’m not sure what exactly my faith rests on. Certainly not on things going well. Sometimes I wonder if I even have it. But on the night I was being raped, sure I would be dead soon, I found that in spite of all my doubts, I was confident that God was good and He would do what was right, regardless of what that meant personally for me.

    • C SKILES

      Michael, thanks so much for your honesty. Never doubt that God has called you to do what you do. The comments to this post should confirm that.

      Last week my 49 year old cousin died from a 5 yr battle with brain cancer. My brother held his hand while he was dying. After the funeral my brother shared this and the details of other stuggles in his life and I felt that this post would be very encouraging to him so I sent him the link to your blog.

      As my pastor has said, we often think that the christian life should get easier as we get older, but if any thing it gets harder.
      As I think of my own struggles and want desperately for things to work out according to my plan, I can’t help but think that if I always got what I wanted how much faith would it take to trust God?

      Spurgeon once said , its not when things are going well that a man knows what he’s made of, but when they are difficult , that he knows his true self. I don’t know about you but for me that is very convicting.

    • Richard

      Michael,

      I post this–on purpose–without reading your article here. Are you serious? Are you kidding?? 🙂 I say this with loving sarcasm. “God Has Gone AWOL in My Life or ‘When Life is No Longer a Cakewalk’ ” Honestly, where can anyone find such a true-to-the-heart-and-mind discusson of Realty? And in a Christian context! Go figure 🙂 Thank you. Thank you, brother. This is one reason I recommend RMM to others. Now…off to visit an “unbeleaving” friend in hospital who is dying of cancer, and to read your words–and breathe some oxygen.
      ~ C Michael Patton ~

    • Rick

      Thanks for this post, and to those who are leaving powerful comments.

      Situations such as Matt Chandler’s (as mentioned earlier), the Jollyblogger, and now IMonk quickly come to mind.

      Such situations, after some time, just make me tired. It is usually then I remember the One I need to lean on (and should have been all along).

    • jim

      Thanks Michael,

      A couple of years ago our church hired a young pastor, he had gone to a more fundamental Bible school than my oldest son who while not in the ministry was studying for his masters degree in Theology. To put it simple ‘ They clashed” our pastor exploded one sunday demanding a group of us stop talking to a unbeliever about faith, he seemed threatened by some of the theology is an easy way to put it…..

      I really loved this man in the Lord, but he just had it all figured out and didn’t like discussion about the Lord we serve. He is no longer with our church and our family has been through some tough theological discussions trying to see God’s plan in it all, and like your situation it seems like, at times, he is hiding from us…. Out of this I have matured as a Christian and simply now realize that the search for truth in Godly matters is never easy….but does bring resolve to the question “Whom do you believe”

      I rest as well in the historical Jesus Christ , who died for me, and his work on the cross. Whatever I struggle to believe in regards to doctrine does not alter his continuing grace for me. There are times when I want to move away and forget my responsibilites of home and church, to my wife and to my children…….but that’s not how Love works. The proof of that is in Christ himself..

      Keep up your good work, for Love is the Key to all of our struggles.

      God Bless,

    • Marianne Lordi

      This was a great post, Michael, and your honesty touched us all. It is so hard to keep trusting in the storm but I guess Scripture shows us that it is exactly there that our encounters with God are heightened. While my heart is with you on the pain you have gone through, I know without a doubt that God is allowing it for a greater reason and that he is about to take you higher than you have ever been! I will watch and know that you will come through all this refined and a greater power in the kingdom. Easy to say now but soon you shall see. God bless you.

    • Jay Saldana

      Michael,

      I wish I could go into all the reasons why your blog resonates with me. I could, but it would not give you any solace and that is what I want to do – or, at least, make a contribution to it and let God do the rest. A personal hero of mine is a man named Thomas Merton. I have read most of what he has written and met him in ’63 s as very young man in Seminary. I have something he wrote on Christmas Day 1966 that went out as one of those xeroxed letters we send out to many people. I would like to share a part of it with you:

      “….the heart of man can be full of so much pain, even when things are exteriorly “all right”. It becomes all the more difficult because today we are used to thinking that there are explanation for everything. But there is no explanation for most of what goes on in our own hearts, and we cannot account for it all. No use resorting to the kind of mental tranquilizers that even religious explanations sometime offer. Faith must be deeper than that, rooted in the unknown and in the abyss of darkness that is the ground of our being. No use teasing the darkness to try to make answers grow out of it. But if we learn how to have a deep inner patience things, God solves them or allows them to solve themselves: but do not expect to see how. Just learn to wait, and do what you can and help other people. Often in helping someone else we find the best way to bear with our own trouble.”
      Thomas Merton, Christmas Day 1966

      I had not thought of this in a long time but when I read your blog it came to mind suddenly. You and your ministry have made a terrific impact on my life and faith. Thank you for listening to the Holy Spirit’s leading. You are my friend and you and your family and staff are always in my prayers.

      Jay Saldana

    • Susan

      Michael, Here’s a talk by Chuck Swindoll called, 10 Ministry Lessons I’ve Learned…..as he reflects back on almost 50 years in ministry. I think you will be able to relate. Note especially what he says about leaving room for ‘the crushing’. Good stuff.

      http://www.catalystspace.com/content/read/catalyst_talk_summary_chuck_swindoll/

    • Dr Mike

      Sufferings in moments of time do not wound me nearly as much as the sorrows that seem to last a lifetime. I learn and grow through the suffering; I don’t know what comes of sorrow. Perhaps compassion for others? I really don’t know.

      Sorrows seem intimately related to regret, whether for things done or not done, or for a world that is incomprehensibly ravaged by sin. There is a powerful sense of loss associated with sorrows.

      And yet Christ was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. If he, being truly innocent, endured such sorrow, can I presume not to suffer the same?

      When I am tempted to ask “Why?” I respond instead by asking “Why not?” No matter what happens to me in this lifetime, I will never suffer what I really deserve. Christ did that for me. I forget that too often.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Dr. Mike, profound and thought-provoking. And yet we wonder why Paul says in conjunction with knowing Christ and power of his resurrection to also share in the fellowship of his sufferings. Our flesh, pride, and self-importance want none of it. But oh how we should allow the loss to draw us to him, with whom we gain. Yeah, somehow I think that’s the point.

    • steve martin

      The hidden God will not come out from behind the curtain in this life, other than in His Word and in His sacraments.

      That life (and our lives) are slowly grinding to an end is the way things truly are.

      But we do not look to this life only with our hope (St. Paul), but to a promised future.

      In the water, the bread and wine, in the absolution (your sin is forgiven) God peeks out from behind the curtain. It may not be very much, or very sexy…but it’s all we’re going to get. For we walk by faith and not by sight.

      _________________________________

      I pledge to send you a bit of money, Michael. (things are pretty tight so it won’t be very much – but a lot of little can add up)

    • Jeremy

      Michael,

      You have no idea how much you have affected my life over the past 3 years. I read the blog daily and took the first class TTP online with you. The fact that you are so open and transparent with your struggles really helps me as I’ve been going through many of the same things. I had a picture perfect life for nearly 32 years and then in 2007 it all fell apart leaving me to fall into depressions, question my faith and causing me to struggle to this very day. But again your posts really help and encourage me even though I’m over 1,000 miles away. I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers as always.

    • Richard

      Michael,

      Please keep in mind that more people than you could ever possibly (and perhaps unfortunately) imagine would express exactly the same heart-felt words that Jeremy just posted. Your authenticity is so very much appreciated. It is one of the gifts God gave you to give away to those of us fortunate enough to “know” you. You remind us to look at life–whatever that is–honestly: with regets and even shame, but also with wonder and hope, encouraged by the mercy and love with which God has touched us in the past. Many of us even build our lives on that. Faith–how troublesome and wonderful. Go figure. (And thanks to you, Jeremy)

    • Richard

      Michael,

      Sorry…just one more comment. I could not let it go: In one sentence you brought most of us both laughter and tears. In fact, if you listen closely, you can probably hear the applause and the “Amens”: You said, “Can’t I just learn it in Heaven?” I’m on my feet, brother! Thank you.

      All the best possible…

    • Demian Farnworth

      I love your honesty, Michael. And this line: “One thing that I have learned, believe, and teach with great conviction is that my circumstances do not have a vote in truth.”

      And I see I’m not the only one. As Niel Hess said, it’s very assuring. You are in my prayers.

    • Demian Farnworth

      By the way, I used to envy people like you who could survive on very little sleep [you just seem so darn productive], but I get the feeling it’s not a blessing…agree? Disagree? I admire you.

    • Mary

      ” I thank you that my faith is not resting in such things, but is grounded in the death, burial, and resurrection of your Son.”

      Consider, as well, the life of our Lord as He walked in the flesh. Not the picture of health, wealth, ease and prosperity is it, but rather of power, love and a sound mind through absolute surrender to the Father who, by the way, Scripture tells us is “greater” than He. The Father’s will remains supreme regardless of our view. How do we reconcile that it pleased the Father to bruise Him? (Isaiah 53:10) Jesus Christ loved and accomplished the Father’s will in the bleakest of circumstances. I am wondering if we have not been sold a bill of goods in post modern American Christianity, setting us up to incorrectly discern what the believer’s portion is in a land that is actually hostile to the Kingdom. The paradox is, we prepare here for over there by following Jesus….and then we rest.

      God bless you, Michael. Praying for you to know Him in the fellowship of His sufferings, realizing the servant is not greater than the Master.

    • I understand where you coming from. I graduated from seminary believing God was leading me into a pastoral ministry only to have my wife acquire chronic fatigue syndrome and all the doors close in my face. Even now many years later through many other obstacles I frequently wonder what God is doing in my life. I don’t have any easy answers but the one thing that has helped me most is to cling to the cross. It is there I know God loves me and was willing to send His Son to die for me and in the final analysis if that is all I’ve got (and sometimes it has felt like it was) it is enough.

    • David Dougherty

      Dear Michel

      I belong to a mission namd Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF for short) but you may remember us better as the old China Inland Mission, founded in 1865 by J. Hudson Taylor.

      Taylor is famous for saying, “God’s work, done God’s way, never lacks God’s supply.” So in our organizaton when there is a shortage we have three questions to ask:

      1. Are we sure that what we are doing is what God has clearly called us to do?

      2. Are we conducting the ministry in God’s way, consistent with biblical principles? (For Taylor this meant a policy of non-indebtedness, except for appreciating assets.)

      3. Have we mis-applied, mis-used, or failed to appropriate the resources God has provided?

      As someone who has been part of a “faith ministry” for over 20 years I can identify with much of what you have written. (Before joining OMF, I was a pastor for over 17 years.) I know that ministry funds ebb and flow. It’s amazing to me how much correspondence there seems to be between ministry funding and the economic situation at any point in time.

      What’s even more amazing is the seemingly inverse proportional relationship between the economy and missions recruiting. When the economy is good, jobs are plentiful and recruiting goes down, but when the economy is bad, recruiting skyrocets!

      I don’t know if this represents God’s way of leading people into (and out of) ministry, or if it’s just coincidence.

      I’ve appreciated RTM’s ministry. I don’t know how much marketing study you did before moving to your current location. I do know that news of your move caused me to ask, I wonder why they are moving to an “out-of-the-way” location to do “in house” apologetic training? Did anyone on your board raise these questions? I also noted that you are adding staff. I assume new staff comes with full support, but are you in a position to handle the increased overhead (equipment, utilities and other costs)?

      Warmly

      David Dougherty

      • C Michael Patton

        Thanks David.

        I moved to Okla because it is my hometown and I came to help take care of my mother.

        Tim was brought on, but we replaced another employee. It was very hard because both are so important. Hard decisions we have to make.

        Thanks for reading.

    • Ron

      Michael,
      Thank you, for the encouraging peek at your “day” in the dark.
      “Why, why, and why,” could come from the lips of most in the faith. Why was Peter rescued, and Jame beheaded. And why were the saints mentioned at the end of Heb. 11 allowed to be treated so harshly.

      “…and women received back their dead raised to life. But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life. And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth. And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. ”
      (Heb 11:35-39)

      Even the saints that are mentioned in the earlier part of the chapter who had great faith to do all kinds of monumental tasks, they also didn’t have a “cake walk.” Just realize that your dark “yom” is being recorded and will be part of that demonstration of His grace in the coming ages spoken of in Eph. 2.

      Ron

    • Zion

      A nice hymn comes to mind: “It is Well With My Soul” by Horatio Spafford. Another is “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart” by Rufus McDaniel. They sound so uplifting but both were written after the authors lost children. Perhaps the key is hope.

    • Kenny Johnson

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I had tears and almost broke down to crying while reading this to my wife. We’ve had our share of struggles these past several years… First when she lost her job in 2006 and we had to live on credit cards to support ourselves. Then in 2007 shortly after our son was born, my wife’s father became sick — he died when my son was 6 weeks old. We never did get a picture of them two together. His death also happened just days before my sister-in-law (his other daughter) was getting married. The people who came to town for her wedding, had an unexpected funeral they also attended. My wife suffered with breast infections (hospitalized twice) and pretty bad depression. By mid 2007, we were in the one of the worst places in our life… Depression, grief, severe financial problems, stress, etc. I felt like the whole world was crashing in on me and found no relief from God.

      Things have certainly improved for us… but we still struggle. My wife’s depression just returned and she’s also dealing with chronic pain (since August!). Her hours were recently cut at her work and so our plans to get out of debt have slowed.

      Your words were a comfort to us. Why? I don’t know… Misery loves company? 🙂 We’re encouraged and love your openness and honesty. Despite not knowing why God lets us suffer and grieve, we stand strong as His faithful servants.

    • […] Patton confessed he felt God first went AWOL when his sister […]

    • david gibbs

      Hi Michael,

      What is your view on the claim by many evangelicals that given the increase in natural disaters, wars and social/moral decay we are therefore living in the “last days” and Jesus is going to return very, very shortly. This is sound christian theology?

    • C Michael Patton

      David, I don’t know. People have been saying that in every generation. I am always a bit skeptical. Problem is that one day it is going to be true!

    • […] Patton confessed he felt God first went AWOL when his sister […]

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