Photo: Christian Murdock, The Gazette
Last year, we were there, just miles away - far enough to be safe, close enough to cough from the smoke of torched homes and consumed trees. This year we watch it on the news and via texts from family and friends.
I text a dear friend and she says they're evacuating. My heart races for them through the night and early morning hours. This fear that grips me, and I reach the recesses to remember:
Lord, what did You promise?
But what if we are burned? What if we do drown? What if our bones are broken and our homes are lost and our children are killed and precious daughters are raped and our sons do go hungry, and what if this doesn't feel like overcoming at all? What if ...When you cross deep rivers,
I will be with you,
and you won’t drown.
When you walk through fire,
you won’t be burned or scorched by the flames.I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
the God who saves you. - Isaiah 43:2-3a (NCV)
What then? Is He unfaithful? Not still trustworthy? No longer good?
I hate to entertain the thoughts, but maybe I should. It complicates things when what happens in our sight defies what He promised. Shakes us, and shakes our faith that's supposed to be so rock-solid. And if this isn't real trouble and trial, then I'd hate to see what is.
A mentor-from-afar once said this to hundreds of us from the stage as she bared vulnerable pain and struggle from her own soft chest,
"It may seem trite for us to keep telling you to 'Trust God and have faith,' but we want you to know - this is what we do too when it hurts. We preach the same thing to our own souls ... and we are renewed."
And she couldn't know how it changed me to hear those tender words. Really? She struggles too? Has to preach to her own soul the same words she preaches to us who toil and suffer? And no, this is nothing trite.
Trust God. Have Faith. He will overcome the world.
One of the guys who authored the Bible with the Spirit literally wrote the book(s) on suffering. The loose ends and broken pieces of my soul are coming together again this morning. These burnt ashes redeemed for His glory and my good as I read it. His name was Peter. The rock upon the Rock. He who betrayed the Lord, but then opened hands and received Grace to cover all. The guy who said "No" and was rebuked as Satan. Put his foot in his mouth more times than not, and yet also proclaimed the truth of His Messianic identity in bold risk. This is the one who wrote this about trouble [long after His Lord had ascended, holding onto the Holy Spirit]:
"For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you." - 1 Peter 2:19-20 (NLT)
And he's also the one who said this when confronted with trials before - when the Lord was still by his side and within his sight:
"Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God." - John 6:68-69 (Msg)
It's those words that are my lifeline today, even through the smoke and flames of trials I'd rather not face. And what if, what if, what if ...
Well, I don't really know. All I really know is - I know who He is. And I know that even when I can't see His hand, I know His heart, hear His voice, and I know better than to try anywhere else. Because when the "what-ifs" choke like blackest smoke all around, I have one gasp left -
Even if it doesn't seem right, I still have Him. My hope, my strength, my Rock. And even if it's not today or tomorrow - He will overcome. In fact, He already has, according to His timeless perspective.
I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order. - John 16:33 (VOICE)Choking back complications like smoke, I still reach for Simple. Trust God. Have faith. Hold on.
And it's anything but trite.