“God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1 NIV
This morning the garden is still and the only sounds are those from water trickling over the rocks in the stream and chirping insects in the distance. This pre-dawn morning will give me some much needed time in the garden to process my fears and examine my reluctance to be obedient. I have been waiting for God to show up on a couple of major issues in my life. This morning my heart cries out, “Lord, when will you show up?” The light of dawn is silently cutting through the darkness. Breaking the silence of the night a titmouse begins to chirp, and now another bird joins in the musical conversation. Soon an entire chorus of cardinals, chickadees, sparrows, and finches will be singing. This daily concert is both predictable and beautiful. I am a witness as the world wakes up and soon all of the birds will be calling and responding back and forth to each other. I wonder if they recognize the voices of their mates and other feathered friends. What are they saying? Could they simply be joyfully praising and worshiping their Maker? Or are they just like me, anxiously waiting for their Creator to show up and meet their needs.
In the twinkling of my eye and much to my surprise, Jesus slips up beside me. I am so happy to see that he is finally here! Sheepishly I ask, “Where have you been Lord?” I go on to explain that I am in need of answers and I have been waiting quite a while for him to show up. Jesus now walks a short distance away from me. As he leans against the trunk of a strong and stately oak, Jesus simply says, “What do you mean my dear? Truth be told Paula, I’ve been waiting for you to show up. You see, I never slumber or sleep, I have always been in your life in the past, I am here with you today, and I will always be with you, even until the end of this earth. I am your refuge and your strength. I am ever-present in your life. I never leave you nor do I forsake you.”
This is a huge ah-ha moment for me as I begin to realize that I am the one who perceives that God is not with me. I am the one who has been absent. God has been waiting for me to show up and believe that he is with me. I am beginning to remember that God will never reveal himself to me unless I am seeking to know him. I am the one who must ask for his help and then I must trust that he will provide exactly what he knows I need. I must also remember that God is my partner and he will never send me somewhere that he has not already been. If my response to his request is one of obedience, then when I arrive at any new destination I will find that God not only walks by my side as I travel into the unknown future but he has already laid the framework and prepared the situation at hand well in advance of my arrival. This morning it is becoming increasingly clear to me that God is already on the job, but I am the one who has not been actively present! I am the one hanging back in the clouds of doubt.
One perfect example of our ever present God is found in the Bible when Jesus and the disciples are in a boat, peacefully sailing on the
Sea of Galilee. Jesus is taking a much needed nap in
the back of the boat while the disciples may have been doing a little fishing. Then,
out of nowhere a life threatening storm came up and tossed the boat and the helpless
disciples back and forth like ping-pong balls as the waves spilled into the
boat and the wind blew and hurled the sinking vessel. Neither the disciples nor
I know how Jesus was able to sleep through this storm. In between bailing water
and tying down gear, I’m sure they cast anxious glances in his direction as
they wondered if their sleeping Lord would ever wake up and help them. In fact, they
finally had to shake him awake and frantically ask him why he didn’t care that
they were about to perish. But the simple truth was revealed in three short
words spoken by the Master. “Peace, be still.”
You see, it was GOD who was in the boat with them. The Prince of Peace
spoke peace, be still. He did not need to show up, he was already there. The
disciples simply had to ASK and then TRUST God to take care of them.
On another occasion, after Jesus had returned to heaven, a man named Saul was persecuting the Christian church. The Bible tells us that Saul was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. Saul was on his way to
Damascus with letters from the high
priest to be read in the synagogues in
so that he could take those who believed in Jesus prisoners. On the way to Damascus , a light from
heaven flashed all around Saul. As a result he fell to the ground and became
blind. A voice from heaven spoke and said, “Saul,
Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice from heaven replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Acts 9:4-5 The Bible records that the
men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did
not see anyone. When they realized that Saul was blind they helped him up off
the ground and led him by the hand to Damascus .
For three days Saul remained blind. Damascus
The story does not end there. Here is the amazing part. The Lord also called a man named Ananias. Poor old Ananias! I would not have wanted to be in his shoes. In a vision the Lord told Ananias to go to the house of Judas on
Straight Street and
ask for a man from
named Saul. Ananias’ response was Lord…surly you jest! This guy has a bad
reputation. He persecutes Christians and I am a Christian. God, you have the
wrong guy for this job. But as always is the case, God was not asleep, he was
on the job, he did not have the wrong man, he had the right man and he had already prepared the way
for Ananias. All Ananias had to do was to TRUST God and OBEY God. It was Ananias
that had to show up. The Lord told Ananias, do not be afraid, I have already
prepared the heart of Saul. He is there praying and I have also given him a
vision. He has seen in his vision a man named Ananias coming to him and laying
hands on him so that his sight would be restored. Even though Ananias was
afraid and questioned his assignment, God said go. God told Ananias that Saul
was his chosen instrument to carry his name to the gentiles. The bottom line,
Ananias obeyed and Saul’s eyesight was restored and he got up and was baptized. Ananias
was afraid but still he obeyed and God’s work was accomplished. Saul’s name was
changed to Paul and he carried the name of Jesus to the gentiles. Remember, God
had already shown up. He had prepared Saul to receive Ananias. God was on the
job long before Ananias ever arrived on the scene. Tarsus
As I reflect on these two stories I am filled with awe. God IS a very present God. He knows exactly where I live and what is going on in my life. He calls me by name and he goes before me. He will be with me in good times and also in days of adversity. My Jesus is always in the garden of my heart waiting for me to show up and he will be with you too. Jesus will be with us in the doctor’s office, the hospital room, and he will be with us in times of grief and loss. Jesus is with our children and grandchildren. He travels the same roads they travel and sits in their midst be it good or bad circumstances. He is available to hear their first and last cry for help. Jesus is in the middle of all of our earthly challenges. God is never surprised by the events in our life. Nothing gets past him and because of this truth he is already with us and he has already shown up! He stands ready to walk with us on our journey when we cry out for his help. Our God is in our financial challenges, our sickness, our loneliness, our marriage, our job, and in our schools. God is in the hospital room, on the battlefield, in our government, in the courtrooms and in the prisons of our world. Our unstoppable God cannot and will not be shut out. I must never forget for a moment that my God has already shown up and I must continue to pray that others will look up and see his face as he stands lovingly ready to help us all in our time of need.
Man attempts to push and shut God out but still he remains! His love is forever faithful to those who love him and also to those who ignore him. He is a God who pursues all of mankind in so many ways. He also uses hard times and tragedy to call us to himself. Most of his efforts go unnoticed and unheeded in this sinful world. It is true that God does not force himself on any of us. The truth is that when we pray God honors our prayers. God is also faithful to stand by those we love and he continues to call each and every one no matter how far away they may have strayed. He is able to send an obedient Ananias to minister to those we love.
On a more personal note, I have always found that in my times of need God does not provide for me until the very second when I need him the most. God is after my trust and when God hears me call and sees that my trust is in place he then begins the process of revealing his will for my life. His provision is like manna, given fresh each day and not to be hoarded or stored up. All of my prayers are answered according to his will and in his perfect timing. Provision and grace never arrive before my need, but the moment I need it, it is there. My God is never early nor is he late.
When God asks us to go or do we must trust that he has already paved the way ahead of us and we must choose to go where he already is. Often the answer to our need is at the end of our obedience. Today it is so very clear, God has already shown up, the stage is set and he is positioning people in our life and in the lives of those we love to help us all. When we show up and call upon His name he will monitor the situation, send out for reinforcement, provide what is needed, and sometimes he will perform a miracle, but in all cases he will calm the storm of fear that is raging within us while we wait for his perfect will to be accomplished. He is Immanuel, God with us! His faithfulness endures forever.
- Have you ever felt like God was far away? Missing in action? Asleep in the boat?
- Has God ever given you an assignment that made you fear that he was not being responsible on your behalf because it seemed to you that he was placing you in danger?
- What was your response?
- Do you ever wonder if you have strayed so far away from God that he no longer cares?
- Are you the one who is missing in action because you are waiting for God to show up?
- What can you do to solidify your trust as you endeavor to believe that God has already shown up and is preparing for your future?
Forgive me when I feel that you have forgotten me. Forgive me when I feel like you are far away and unconcerned regarding what concerns me. Lord, forgive me for not including you in my life. Lord, remind me that you indeed have always been by my side. You have given your Word to encourage me and to solidify my faith. Lord, I know more time with you is required if I am going to live a victorious life of peace in the midst of the personal storms in my life. I am reminded that your Word is full of promises, but I cannot trust a promise that I do not know exists. I need to frequently read the stories of unshakable faith and bask in the promises that are found in your Word because they teach me that you are a very present God who always goes before me and that you also work in the lives of all those I love. I thank you Jesus that you have already shown up in my life. You are more than ready and willing to help me in my time of need. Help me Lord, to join you because I know that you have promised that if I knock you will open the door and if I call out to you, you will hear. Thank you God that you my refuge and strength, and my ever-present help in trouble. Today Lord, I come to you.
In your name I pray. Amen.