Can You Return to Joy When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

by | Jul 27, 2017 | Trusting God | 9 comments

Can You Return to Joy when God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers?

My world was rocked four years ago when my husband, Gary, was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma, a rare eye cancer that has no known cure and typically metastasizes to the liver. After consulting several well-known specialists, he chose to have his right eye removed and went through a clinical trial at a reputable cancer center. We breathed a sigh of relief with each clear liver scan in the following years and our “scanziety” was finally diminished. Friends and family all over the world had been fervently praying for us, so clearly God was answering our prayers for a miraculous healing…or so we thought. My breath was taken away when Gary’s oncologist gave us the news that his latest scan revealed a suspicious spot on his liver.

After an MRI and biopsy, our greatest fear was confirmed. Gary’s cancer had traveled through his blood and metastasized to his liver. Knowing that statistically this meant that he only had a 10% chance of survival in the following year, we wept in each other’s arms. My heart was broken as I wondered how I would be able to survive without the love of my life (who is a bigger than life man). Gary was deeply troubled because he longs to care for his family, minister to his flock and be with us in the good and bad times to come. We’d spent our lives sharing the joy of the Lord with countless people all over the world. But with this news, we wondered if we would ever be able to experience that joy again.

In my book, Return to Joy, I state:

“The strongest force in the first two years of a child’s life is the desire to experience joy in loving relationships. Finding comfort from a nurturing caregiver in the midst of pain brings restoration to a child’s emotional balance, and the child is able to get down and play as if nothing painful ever happened. Psychologists call this returning to joy.”

After several years of counseling and working through painful memories from my childhood, I had found healing from traumatic physical, emotional and sexual abuse. During that journey, there were times when my pain was so excruciating that I felt like I would die. But as I worked through the baggage from my past, my hardened heart slowly softened as God replaced the lies from the evil one with His truth. As I drew near to His heart in worship I began to nestle into His embrace and find comfort that I’d never known before…and like a small child who finds comfort from her loving caregiver, I was able to return to joy.

But that was healing from past hurts, what about my present situation? Had God’s character changed overnight? Was He still the loving Father that I’d finally learned to trust?

After the initial shock of Gary’s metastasis, I considered my fear and asked myself a hard question:

What attribute of God am I doubting?

Was I doubting that God was sovereign and that this incident happened without His knowledge? Or was I fearful because I didn’t think He was big enough to carry us through whatever the future might hold?

In desperation, I fell on my face before the Holy One and thought about how He had been faithful to me in the past. I remembered that He was with me and would never abandon me and slowly my fears were relieved. And miraculously, I found comfort in my heavenly Father’s embrace and was able to return to joy… even though He didn’t answer my prayer for my husband’s healing.

But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness in You. May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, ‘The Lord is great!’ (Psalm 40:16)

Like the Psalmist, when we seek the Holy One in worship our hearts are strengthened as we use our spiritual eyes to see the Lord in all His power and holiness. And when we’re in this place of refuge our joy doesn’t depend on whether God answers our prayers the way we want Him to.

In God’s glorious presence our joy is based on who our heavenly Father is.

So when, not if, your prayers aren’t answered the way you desire, will you choose to doubt God’s attributes and become fearful and downhearted…or will you go into His presence and worship Him? You will find divine comfort in His embrace and be able to return to joy, no matter your circumstances.



  1. Judy Franks Taylor

    Oh, how I see the Lord being gloried through this very difficult time in your lives! So many times we expect, if we love the Lord, that he will shield us from pain and hurts. I saw my precious father, J. Floyd Franks, a choice servant of God, have liver disease and ultimately liver cancer. He continued, throughout his illness, to serve and love his Lord and He was glorified. I have seen how you and your family continue to cling to your one Hope during this whole process. We will continue to love and pray for you and your family. Our hearts hurt with you.

    • Bev DeSalvo

      We live in a very fallen and broken world. Our faith in God is what gets us through hard times. Thanks so much for your prayers.

    • Teresa Baker

      Judy, your Dad was a model for all of us his entire life but especially towards the end. He was a daddy and example to many of us.
      What witnesses most, to me, about the DeSalvos is their honesty about their journey and their human feelings. So many seem to believe that have to say the “spiritual, holy ” thing when inside that isn’t how they really feel. Thank you, Bev, for modeling how our Father meets us in our true feelings and brings us to His Spirit of peace, and return to joy.

      • Bev DeSalvo

        Thanks Teresa. You have walked through hard times and come through strong by God’s grace. Thanks for being there for us.

  2. Debbie Hiles

    God has walked with me every step of the way since Johnny’s death almost 20 months ago. Johnny was my world here on earth. I never felt that I could go on without him. God has been my strength, and because of this I am strong. Is it hard many of days? Yes. No really, everyday is hard. But God has been good as He always is. In him I have true not.
    I thank God every day for you and Pastor Gary and the example you set for us.

    • Bev DeSalvo

      I pray that you will feel the manifested presence of the Holy One who is always with you. Blessings to you.

  3. Lisa Harris

    As God continues to work in my life to Return to the Joy, I also long for so dearly, I enjoy your post and your encouragement to continue on with our lives no matter what the struggle may be. I ask for you to please pray for me as I continue reading your wonderful book and continue to Return to The Joy God gives me. Love you and never would have guessed you went through the horrible things I endured as a child. I look up to your strength and want that joyfullness as well.

    • Bev DeSalvo

      I’m praying for you, dear Lisa as you fight for joy. We live be in a very broken world but thankfully this isn’t our home. We can find joy, in the midst of harsh circumstances, when we keep our eyes on our Beloved.

  4. Joanna Roland

    Thank you and Gary for being real with the Lord. He takes us down paths we would not have chosen but gives us strength and comfort to withstand the challenges. My hope is in Him!


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