Several months ago, my mom sent me the book 15 Steps Out by Bob Mumford. The book has a 1969 copyright. I was born in 1968, but the book is still relevant. It’s a reflection on Psalms 120-134, which are known as the Psalms of Ascent. I read the first one and it really spoke to me. I’ve gone back and read over the Psalm and Bob Mumford’s reflection on it a couple of times since my first reading. It just keeps coming back to me.
The first two verses of Psalm 120 are a cry of distress. How many of us can relate to this? Have you ever cried out in distress? Mumford speaks of a time in the life of a Christian when he / she goes through a period of distress because God does not act in an expected manner. On page 9 he says:
They are in distress because God is not doing everything that somebody told them He would do. When they snapped their fingers He did not come.
The challenge is to still see God in your present circumstances even when things don’t make sense. It’s easy to look to our past and say, “Wow! There was the hand of God!” And it’s easy to look to the future, “Everything’s going to be great!” But what about the present? Can you see God there?
You say, “But you just don’t understand how bad things are.” I do understand. You are in distress, and I say, “Hallelujah!” How long do you want to be a baby? God creates distress to get you moving.”
So what is our response to be when there is incurable illness, financial hardship, relational failure, false accusations, betrayal, or some other distress, and God doesn’t jump to our snapping fingers? What if his answer is no? What if there is no miracle cure until heaven? What if the house is lost? What if the relationship crumbles to nothing? Is God still there? The answer is yes! A resounding yes! If we have faith to believe God’s word, we will know that Christ is there. Romans 8:35-39 tells us that nothing will separate us from the love of Christ.
So, where is God when the answer is no? As I reflect on my own personal life, I do see God. My husband has chronic health issues that keep him from working, keep him discouraged, and keep him physically down on many days. Because my requests that God heal my husband were not met, I went through a dark period of real anger at God, and finally got so tired of being angry all the time that I decided to get some help. I spent a couple of years in counseling seeking a way to live in peace even if my husband is never cured of his illnesses.
My husband has been ill for nearly 15 years. The circumstances have not changed much. He’s still sick. I have two choices with all of this. I can do as Job’s wife said, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Or I can do as Job did and say, “Shall I not accept both good and bad from God?” (Job 2:10). So I choose to see God in the present. When I really look, his grace abounds for me. He has blessed me with two beautiful daughters and a husband who loves God. He has provided me with a job and insurance benefits. He has blessed me with a strong, Bible-believing church where I can worship, grow, and minister. He has given me friendships to sustain me. He has given me parents that love and serve him. He has given me strength to endure. All of this is God in the present.
I don’t claim to have mastered this seeing God in the present, seeing him in my hardship. I am getting better at it, but it is not yet automatic. I am still a work in progress. What about you? Can you see God in the here-and-now?