“I was so thankful, when this happened, that God was not a stranger to me.”
I don’t remember when or where or from whom I heard this. I don’t recall the context or what the “this” was that happened. But this statement has stayed with me for decades.
In my early Christian life, when something negative happened, I’d be shaken. I wonder if this was happening because I’d done something wrong. I’d feel that God was far away. I knew He loved me, but I didn’t feel so loved. I’d ponder all the “what ifs,” which would shake me up even more.
After a few decades of walking with the Lord, I can’t say I’m not still shaken in a crisis. But I’ve wrestled through reasons God allows suffering. I’ve experienced His grace through trials. I know He has reasons for what He allows and He’ll be with me through it all. I may not like certain circumstances, and I may pray to get out of them as soon as possible. But my confidence in God isn’t shaken.
So I can echo and “amen” the unknown author of my beginning statement. God sometimes uses crises to bring people to Himself, or bring them back to Himself if their hearts are wandering. But it’s so much easier to go through a crisis with the God you know and can place your full confidence in. We can be like the psalmist, “not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7).
However, we don’t just need God in crises, do we? We need Him for everything. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We need His wisdom to know how to handle situations that come up. We need His love to show to others. We need His strength in our weakness, His grace when we fail, His encouragement when we’re low.
He conveys these things to us through a couple of means: His Word and His Holy Spirit. But have you ever noticed that the passage about letting God’s Word dwell in you richly in Colossians 3 and being filled with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5 are parallel? The same “results” are listed for each one. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God, so of course that’s what He would use to equip us. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture meets our need for the day as well as fortifying us for the future.
Sometimes that “equipping” comes through other people as they share God’s Word with us. But we need to dig into God’s Word for ourselves as well. Someone has said that God gives birds their food, but He doesn’t throw it into their nests (I’ve heard that attributed to Luther, Spurgeon, and Josiah Gilbert Holland). Though the saying was probably meant to show the need to work for a living, I think it has an application to learning God’s Word as well. God has given us such treasure in Scripture, but we need to read it and mine for it.
Anyone who has been married for several years can tell you that they thought they knew and loved their spouse on their wedding day, but that was nothing compared to ten or twenty or thirty years later. That’s true of long-term friendships as well. Shared conversations, experiences, good times and trials, have deepened the relationship as they got to know each other more thoroughly over the years.
The same is true in our relationship with God. Eternal life starts with coming to know God in repentance and faith: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). But we get to know Him better as we read the Bible, pray, exercise faith, and depend on Him through various circumstances.
The better we know Him, the less likely we are to fall apart in a crisis, to be deceived or led astray, to walk away from our faith. We’ll never be perfect til we get to heaven, but we grow in grace and knowledge of him.
If you don’t know God, I invite you to learn more here. And if you do, keep getting to know Him better and better.
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