Note: If you haven't listened to a podcast, this would be a good day to 'give it a go'-- you will need to sign up for itunes, which is free, and then you will be able click on the icon and play each day's podcast. Today's podcast includes a moving, inspirational song.
GOD’S PRESENCE IN OUR PAIN
So, if “Immanuel,” (meaning “God with us”), was one of the names given Jesus, and Scripture promises believers he will never leave us or forsake us. . . well then, how do we come to know his presence? Be desirous, ask him to reveal himself to you, make room by giving him some silence to make his presence known and speak to you, and simply, look for him! We talked about how certain conditions of our heart seem to quiet the Spirit’s presence, such as holding on to sin, resentment, bitterness, and being too consumed with self. One question still comes to mind:
where is God in the midst of pain and suffering?
May I submit to you that he is right in the middle of it, bringing aid, comfort, and peace to those who suffer . . . if they’ll let him. Some of my friends reading these words have had their worlds rocked by spouses who pulled the rug out from underneath them—how do you find God in the middle of that?
One of the best explanations I have read on the subject is from Gordon MacDonald, a great Christian thinker of our day, who spent time at the World Trade Center site, immediately following Nine-Eleven. Included in his journal are these thoughts: And more than once I asked myself—as everyone asks—is God here? And I
decided that he is closer to this place than any other place I’ve ever visited. The strange irony is that, amidst this absolute catastrophe of unspeakable proportions, there is a beauty in the way human beings are acting that defies the imagination. Everyone—underscore, everyone—is everyone else’s brother or sister. There are no strangers among the thousands at the work site. Everyone talks; everyone cooperates; everyone does the next thing that has to be done. No job is too small, too humble, or, on the other hand, too large.
Tears ran freely, affection was exchanged openly, exhaustion was defied. We all stopped caring about ourselves. The words “it’s not about me” were never more true.
No church service; no church sanctuary no religiously inspiring service has spoken so deeply into my soul and witnessed to the presence of God as those hours last night at the crash site.
In all my years of Christian ministry, I never felt more alive than I felt last night . . . as much as I love preaching the Bible and all the other things that I have been privileged to do over the years, being on that street, giving cold water to workmen, praying and weeping with them, listening to their stories was the closest I have ever felt to God. Even though it sounds melodramatic, I kept finding myself saying, “This is the place where Jesus most wants to be.”1
Have you been at a place of extreme tragedy, sadness or death? There is a hush of holiness nearby . . . as the fragility of our mortality is realized. I have often sat alongside a dying individual, sometimes with their family members nearby ministering to their needs – and it is true, there is reverence, and an awareness of how loving and compassionate is our God.
God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience,
but shouts in our pains.
It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. C.S. Lewis
I have recently picked up some of Lee Strobel’s writing; the man has a way of writing that gets my attention. “God didn’t let Job suffer because he lacked loved, but because he did love, in order to bring Job to the point of encountering God face to face, which is humanity’s supreme happiness. Job’s suffering hollowed out a big space in him so that God and joy could fill it.”2
I have been so moved by this song, “What Faith Can Do” by Kutless:
Oh, please do listen to it!
So, if you know someone who is hurting—especially when we are supposed to feel joyful—be a life-giver to them. The psalmist wrote, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”4 Maybe you could share these thoughts with those who hurt. . . but by all means, let them know they are not alone! The brother of our Lord wrote, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”5
Oh yes, God is near . . . in fact, he is much closer than you think.
He loves you completely.
1 Finding God in Unexpected Places, Philip Yancey
2 Making Sense Out of Suffering, Peter Kreeft, as quoted by Strobel in
The Case for Faith
3 Psalm 34.18
4 Psalm 147.3
5 James 4.8