John A. Braun
We were at a restaurant for breakfast with family after church. As we talked and waited for our food, I noticed two women in a booth nearby. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but their conversation appeared intense. From their gestures, low voices, and facial expressions, I concluded that they were discussing some problem, family conflict, or heartache.
Of course, I may have misread the entire situation, and they might have been sharing some secret, but joyful, personal news. They were too far away, and I was too busy with family to be sure.
But I thought of them afterward. It’s not unusual to sense the personal problems and personal joys of others. They surround us. They are behind the awkward smiles of the strangers we meet or in the conversations that are just out of earshot.
Remembering the two women, I thought more of the woes we all carry than the joys. Perhaps that’s because I sense we all carry woes behind the everyday facade. But I also wondered if these women had been in church that morning to hear of God’s love. Then I wondered how that love could make a difference if their conversation was about personal unhappiness, loneliness, or pain.
People are quick to complain about God when they carry heavy burdens. He’s powerless to help, they conclude. And he doesn’t seem to care because they hurt so much. “Where is God when you need him?” is a question asked so often that it’s no surprise to hear it even from Christians.
So, where is God when hushed conversations reveal pain and misery? He’s there as a quiet listener, just as he promised. He’s there also as a powerful ally to give strength, comfort, healing, and solutions that will serve for our good.
But to some that seems to be only so much wishful thinking. We often cannot make the problems disappear, and God doesn’t always make the problems disappear either. Whether we are Christian or not, we all have private conversations about the troubles we bear. That’s what life here is. The days of our lives—no matter how short or long—are trouble and sorrow and then we fly away (cf. Psalm 90:10).
Well, if that’s your answer, they say, then what good is God? I have an answer. God saw and still sees all the pain and misery of all people here. He knows the evil, the heartache, the loneliness, and the tears. He’s known it long before any conversation in a restaurant booth. He did not want things to be that way, and he took steps to change it all.
He planned our rescue. He sent his Son to earth to change our future. The people Jesus knew while he was here faced problems, woes, and pain just as we do—but without smartphones and television. He healed some and had compassion on all. He showed himself to be God, come to earth to do what none of us could do. He gives eternal life—but not an eternal life filled with the same kind of troubles we face every day. Instead, we have the hope of a life free of all that.
That has practical everyday benefits. Because of Jesus we have peace with God—a peace that transforms us and gives us hope. The pledge that God cares for us is assured by the blood he shed to change our futures. If he so loved us, whatever woes we experience are not devastating dead ends. His love gives us the strength and hope to rise from our hushed and painful conversations to endure and grow (Romans 5:1-5).
Author: John A. Braun
Volume 106, Number 2
Issue: February 2019