God's Presence When Troubles Come
Life, no matter how we choose to look at it, is a constant battle. It is the beginning of a struggle that continues until we breathe our last breath.
It is important then that we understand from the outset that one of the first realities we must face in life if we are to survive this pilgrimage of faith is that troubles are a given. We have to fight daily just trying to live in this rapidly changing world. Sometimes the burdens can be so heavy, the criticism so severe, the opposition so great, that we wonder if it is even worth the effort. We know that troubles never take a respite; problems never take a rest; negative challenges never sleep and difficulties never take a vacation. Trials and tribulations tease us by visiting, leaving for a while and then returning once again.
Well, when life takes a turn in the negative direction; when sun filled days turn into stormy nights; when "all is well" turns into "all is hell"; when the inexplicable occurs, we often find ourselves thrown into a state of utter disarray. And even though God is still revealing Himself to each of us in the midst of our suffering and chaos, we have a hard time realizing and recognizing His presence. We do not feel that He is around or that He cares or that He really knows what He is doing. We may begin to question His existence and our relationship to Him.
After all, when we are attacked by crisis, it is difficult to relate to God as all-loving, all knowing, and in full control. If He is all this, then why is He allowing us to suffer. This, I believe, is why so many of us lose faith, at least for a time. When the seemingly unrelenting storms of life beat down heavily upon us with no end in sight, we look to God who seems remote and unwilling to intervene on our behalf. When we survey the reality of what has happened to us, we do not see ourselves transformed by God's grace and we cannot accept the knowledge that even then, even in the midst of crises, the Spirit of God continues to minister to us and seek more intimate communion with us. It is difficult to feel God's presence when we are tightly clothed in the armor of troubles.
Yet, deep inside of us is the nagging persistent suspicion that there is more to life than what has happened to us. All the meaning which existed prior to the troubles cannot be ignored. We recollect the hours and days when God came especially near to us and how deeply He moved our spirit. Gradually, by God's grace, we recall how God brought us this far. We know that God is not an absent God. He does not just drop in on us every now and then, but He is with us all the time.
It is then that we begin to open ourselves up to the reality of the presence of God. We begin to allow His Spirit to strengthen and empower us against the chilly winds of adversity. God is always with us.
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: A Grief Healing Workbook, will be available soon.
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