Summer. A time for enjoying a break in our routines. For me, it also has been a time to revitalize my walk with God and have more consistent quiet times, without the time constraints that my usual routine forces on me. This year, we did some landscaping in our back yard and I now have a small “retreat” where I can sit and enjoy being still. The sound of the birds–even the crows!–only adds to the stillness.
We need to take times of peace and stillness in our lives to build ourselves up, because the storms will come. Lately, many people in my circle have experienced loss: loss of employment, loss of relationship, loss of health, loss of hope. Where’s the balance between God’s grace and love and the struggles we face? How can we possibly trust a God who allows us, and those we love, to mess up our lives with bad decisions? Where is God when it hurts so badly? I find that, apart from God, I have nothing to offer my friends. As a result, this forces me deeper into God’s word for answers that are more than simply Christian platitudes.
Not long ago, a friend shared with me her struggle with these questions. She had been raised in the church, even attended a Christian school, but during her university years and especially after travelling abroad, abandoned it all because she could not reconcile a hurting, sin-sick world with an all-powerful God who would not intervene and fix everything. She also struggled with her own personal failure in living the Christian life, and could not feel His presence or guidance. In the past few years, she did a lot of reading of both secular and Christian authors about who God is, and like Lee Strobel, in The Case for Christ, came to the conclusion that God indeed exists. The evidence in creation was too strong for her to discount. Then came the hard question: Can I trust this God with my life? Does He care for me? She wanted to believe, but the existence of suffering and God’s apparent apathy held her back.
Rather than walk away with no answers, she made the choice to be open to seeing God work, whether she could feel His love for her or not. She sought out godly people to help her work through the Big Questions of Life. She chose to be surrounded by Christ-followers because she knew the answers would be found there. Then one evening at a prayer meeting, the Spirit of God showed up. In her own words:
Looking around at the smiling faces singing songs of how much they loved God and He loved them, I was overwhelmed by a desperate desire for God and to feel loved…to really feel anything but suffocating emptiness. Fortunately I was at the back of the group so wasn’t really noticeable. Then suddenly my friend sat beside me and I really lost it and starting sobbing. Good thing the band was loud. Couple minutes of that and her hugging me tight, saying that she loved me so much and it was going to be ok. And for the first time, I FINALLY got it. People have all been telling me, but it didn’t click until that moment that I really DO have friends who really like me for who I am and THAT’S how God has been trying to show me His love. Brain wave. Eureka. It’s about time.
Then our other good friend came and sat down beside me and SHE was crying. She said she had been standing there singing when suddenly she heard a crystal clear audible voice say, “I LOVE YOUR FRIEND. I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE HER BECAUSE SHE CAN’T FEEL IT.” Then her whole body went electric from her head to her toes and she thought she was going to explode with the power and warmth of sensation. Then the Voice said “GO TELL HER.”
Because her friends were walking with God and had been cultivating a relationship with God, they were able to help my friend see that God indeed loves her. Because these women had taken the time to be still and to be open to hearing God’s voice, they were able to bring hope and healing to my friend.
I want to be that kind of friend. I want to be able to speak truth and life into those around me. I want to be the bearer of the good news that God indeed loves you–-YOU–-and calls you His beloved child. And I know that when I spend time alone with Him and deepen my relationship with Him through His word and prayer, I can be that person.
So I am thankful for the quiet of the summer when I can take extra time to build up my faith and strengthen my walk as a follower of Jesus. I will hear the sounds of children playing and thank Him for the hope of new life. I will hear the babbling brook and thank Him for His creation (and for the creative landscaper who brought it to my back yard!). I will smell the new-mown grass and thank Him for His provision for our every need. And I will sit with my friends, laugh with them at silly things and weep with them when they hurt, and believe that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20)
A prayer: Lord, I know you love me. Help me love you more by choosing to spend more time with you. Thank You that You are always available to give me strength in whatever life’s circumstances bring to me. And help me be Your messenger of hope to others when they can’t feel your love.
Scripture to Ponder:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
For Further Reading:
If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil by Randy Alcorn
Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey
Contributed by Joy Stalder