In the wake of Hurricane Michael—the Category 4 Storm that struck Florida on October 10—my community is a mess. It looks like a game of pick-up sticks was played on a cosmic scale, using 100-foot tall pine trees and concrete power poles. And we were the lucky ones! West of us, it’s not a matter of debris and inconvenience, there is widespread devastation.
Sometimes hard circumstances can make me feel distanced from God. As I work to bring supplies and a smile to my neighbors in need, I wonder why God let this happen to them. These are good people, living lives of kindness and generosity, and I know they’ve done nothing to deserve it.
I’m reminded of Job, a man who knew the meaning of “a hard time.”
At one point, Job says, “God has no right to treat me like this—it isn’t fair! If I knew where on earth to find him, I’d go straight to him. I’d lay my case before him face-to-face, give him all my arguments firsthand” (Job 23:1-4, MSG). But Job says he can’t find God: “I travel East looking for him—I find no one; then West, but not a trace; I go North, but he’s hidden his tracks; then South, but not even a glimpse” (Job 23:8‑9).
Have you ever felt like that? Like you wanted to scream into the wind, “God, are you there? DO YOU HEAR ME?”
What we find if we keep reading the book of Job is that God was listening to Job the whole time. By the end, with all of the loss and grief and pain, with the lousy friends, with everything that needs to be rebuilt, Job says something like, “I had heard of God, but through this trouble, I have seen God” (Job 42:5).
Job learned to praise God for who God is, not for what God does, or doesn’t do. Job also learned that his circumstances didn’t change the reality of God. Rough times made it hard for Job to sense God’s presence, and yet God was there.
It’s not only hard times that can do this, easy times can do it, too.
There is a story shared in the first three Gospels about a wealthy man who comes to Jesus and asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18‑30). He tells Jesus he’s always followed all of the commandments and Jesus tells him there’s just one thing left to do, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor…then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).
The man can’t do it. He “was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (Mark 10:22).
Mark 10, Verse 21 tells us that Jesus looked at the man, and loved him.
In fact, this man is the only person in the entire Gospel of Mark who is singled out as being loved by Jesus.
Think about that for a second. The only person in the Gospel singled out as someone Jesus loves is the one who ends up walking away disheartened and sorrowful.
God was literally standing in front of the man, pouring out love for him, but the man couldn’t receive it. Kind of like how Job thought God wasn’t listening and didn’t care, but God was there the whole time.
I know my circumstances don’t change God, but like both the wealthy man and Job, my circumstances can impair my ability to sense God’s presence and receive God’s love.
The Apostle Paul offers a solution. He says that we should boast of our circumstances, even when we are going through a hard time:
We boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (Romans 5:2-5, CEB).
How about that? “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” I find it comforting to think that, right now, God is pouring love into my heart. I’ll have what I need to get through this time of storm recovery because my heart is being constantly refilled.
Whatever storm you’re going through, I hope that brings you comfort, too.
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