By Becca Christensen
Growing up I had a book, “Where is God When…” It was designed to point you to the right scripture for any situation. The book covered topics like “Why do bad things happen to good people.” Topics that Christians tend to struggle to answer for the unbelieving or barely believing (or even for themselves). What occurred to me this week is that my emotions have been all over the place this year. I’ve been through a pretty full range of feelings and it has taught me a great deal about the character and nature of God.
I am in a strange season of life in which I’ve bounced around from emotion to emotion. I’ve been excited about recent birth of my first niece. I’ve experienced financial blessing as I’ve given over that part of my life and been faithful to follow what I feel the Lord has called me too. Gratefulness has overwhelmed me as I approach the end of my second year as a homeowner and have just finished my second year at a job I love. The Lord is doing so many wonderful things in my life and it’s been easy to feel joy and to have a grateful heart in these.
But. (Doesn’t there always seem to be a “but?”) Despite the Lord’s presence in all the good in my life, I’m learning to experience it in the hard things as well. I recently visited with my grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. As I spent a few precious moments with her, reliving the memories she has of me which seem to be fewer and farther between with each visit, my heart ached with questions for the Lord. Where is God when we watch our loved ones lives slip away piece by precious piece?
After a long season of success in our family, we have experienced a new phase this year…loss. I have cautiously watched to see how this would affect each of my family members and how we would handle these new challenges. Where is God when we experience failure?
And after 20 years of almost perfect health, this year has rocked my world. I have never experienced being chronically ill until now. It took nearly a year of doctors and testing and trials, that always ended in errors, to finally be diagnosed with ‘IBS’. For those of you unfamiliar, this is a treatable but incurable problem that leaves me frequently sick and in hours of pain. So you may wonder, as I have, where is God when we’re sick of being sick?
It’s easy to identify God with the good stuff. The God who blesses my finances. The God who’s given me a healthy niece. The God who has given me the desire of my heart, a home of my own. This God I know well. This God I love easily.
What the last year has taught me, however, is that God is very much in tune and involved with my hardships. The same God I spoke of in the good times, He is the God who hears my cries as I pour out my sorrow to Him. He is listening and comforting me as I pray in my brokenness that my grandmother can’t remember that I live in Florida or that I graduated college, four years ago. He is absolutely the God who has held my family through the hard times every bit as much as he did in the easy. He has given peace. He has sustained us. He has continued to provide for every need, emotionally, as he always has before. He is the God who created this body that has given me so much trouble, but has also shown strength. He knit this incredible body together and he knows how it works and when it isn’t working quite right. He has been teaching me and growing me in ways I couldn’t have imagined to the point where I am grateful for the trials of this year.
It’s easy to love God in the easy times but as believers we’re called not just to love but to praise God in the hard times as well. Whenever I get the desire to throw myself a little pity party I find myself heading to Job. I love Job. Job is my Bible hero. I look at all he went through and I marvel at his faith. At his unwillingness to sin despite circumstances that would break many, maybe even most of us.
In Job 2, his wife challenges his beliefs in the Lord and he responds with, “Shall we accept good from the Lord and not evil?” This verse comes to me regularly as I feel frustrated by circumstances. I want the good, but sometimes I think, “I could do without the bad, Lord.” But truth be told I have seen as much of the Lord’s goodness in the bad as in the good this year and I am thankful. If you need a hero of hardship, Job is your guy but if you need encouragement, turn to the Psalms.
Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, LORD, preserve both people and animals.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
– Psalm 36: 5-9