I encounter people who seem to have the notion that once they become a Christian, all will be “well with their soul” as the hymn declares.
Life presents us with difficult challenges and tough decisions. But Disneyland? God never promised this to me! What do we do when the scorching heat of the barren desert experiences comes vaulting into our life? It might be the loss of a job. A sudden lingering illness. The loss of a loved one. Where is God when it hurts so much, I can not make it through another minute? The rescue helicopter is in the distance, but it just flew over once again. They never saw the shouting and furious hand waving. Did God abandon me in the desert to die alone and frightened? There seems to be, no hope. And yet even in the darkest of times, God provides just enough shade for us to make through the next moment.
1 Kings 19 is a natural backdrop. Let’s back up for a moment. In the previous chapter, the prophet Elijah had just called down fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice. In chapter 19, we find the prophet alone in the desert, running from those that would kill him. He was ready to die. Did you notice something? God does NOT scold Elijah for being depressed. God simply asked: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God did NOT remove him from the desert. Instead Elijah found a broom tree (chapter 19:4) and sat under it. God provided just enough shade for the prophet to make it through the next moment.
In the desert experiences, faith is refined and proven. God did NOT remove Elijah to an oasis. God does NOT bring us to Disneyland in the midst of a trial. God provided a broom tree, just barely enough shade, to be out of the scorching heat for the moment. Too often we want to escape the seemingly never ending desert experiences. Remember God is with us, even in the desert. Chuck Swindoll said: “Remember past victories. They will sustain us when the negative tide of emotion enters our life from time to time.”
All of us have to come to grips with “the problem of pain” as C.S. Lewis so aptly stated. Does suffering have value? Life is not always a joy. It isn’t always wonderful. It is often times painful.
As Larry O. Richard said: “This may be one of the most important values of suffering. If life on earth were a constant joy, why would we fix our hope fully on the grace to be brought to us at Jesus’ return? If life on earth were without difficulty, how would we remain sensitive to our need for God? If life on earth were without trials or persecution how would we be forced to choose between commitment to Christ, and comfort or ease? As Peter said, suffering does have value. It reveals the genuineness of our faith, and brings praise to the Lord.”
We are called to be a broom tree and provide shade to a weary world.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches in our soul.
and sings the tune without words,
and never stops at all.”
– Emily Dickinson