When spring rains loosened the hold of tons of earth on a hillside in Oso, Washington recently, chaos erupted. We’ve followed the news. We’ve seen the pictures of the mud-flooding devastation. The death toll continues to rise amid the sounds of rescue workers, excavators, and tracking dogs. The community has been ravaged.
Sadly, we all have times in our lives when despair overwhelms us. Life is not always easy. What do we do when our hearts have been broken, when chaos fills our lives with muddy debris? When the scaffolding that supports our day-to-day existence falls like matchsticks around us, where is God?
That’s a question God loves us to ask. The apostle Paul asked it, querying, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Rom.8:35) God has so anticipated us asking the question that He has answered it even before our chaos erupted. Listen:
“Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
“The LORD is near to all who call on him.” (Psalm 145:18)
“…behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5)
“But the LORD stands beside me…” (Jer. 20:11)
“The LORD watches over you –” (Psalm 121:5)
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” (Psalm 91:4)
Did you catch that? God is nearer to us than our own skin. He is beside us, behind and before us, above us, below us, with us and for us. And He wants to be within us, but for that to happen He waits for an invitation. But how do we sense His presence? How do we go from ‘I feel so alone’ to ‘I feel His presence’?
I am sure God is not limited to only one way of making His presence known. For some people, God’s presence is most palpable in nature; the glory of creation speaks most strongly to them of His nearness. For some it is through music; songs of praise and worship or great orchestral symphonies evoke His presence most clearly. Some people have had dreams and visions of Him. Some have heard an audible voice. Some hear His heart of compassion most distinctly through reading His Word. As we think back over our lives, over the times we have felt most keenly the need to know His presence, we can answer that question best for ourselves.
For me it has been through prayer. When I have felt brokenhearted, when I have been desperate for help, prayer has been the means of sensing God’s nearness to me. Through prayer I have been most vulnerable to Him and through prayer found most relief from my inner turmoil. In prayer I have grieved, expressed anger and frustration, despaired, pleaded for help, confessed, praised and thanked God, and submitted myself to His plans for me. That is when I have best known His presence around, about and within me.
If you are in a place of heartbreak and trouble, don’t be afraid to cry out to God that most pressing question: ‘Where are you God?’ But, also, be willing to open your ears and eyes and heart to His presence, His answer. Search out that place where you are least distracted by the world around you. Find that setting where your heart can best be touched by knowing His presence. It is a place of deep peace that lets that broken heart of yours rest for those moments you linger there. Then you and I will be able to say with confidence, “The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid…The LORD is with me; he is my helper.” (Psalm 118:6,7).
In this life, troubles mostly come and occasionally go; hearts and lives are wounded and rarely ever the same again. The only constant is the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Are we receptive to His presence? Then let’s ask the question: ‘Where is God?’ He’s here with the answer.
(Photo Credit: SPC Matthew Sissel; Wikimedia Commons)