The last few years of my life have proven to be excruciatingly painful, not because all the sudden one particular thing happened, but more so because I had to face all the awful things that had been going on for a really long time. God, in His overwhelming grace, brought me to a place where I could no longer cover up and hide. His light finally shone on my darkest and most shame-filled places. He has given me a church family that, despite all my fears, has reflected to me Jesus’ love and grace. I am thankful to God every day, but it has also meant letting go of long held hopes and trusting God’s goodness in the midst of a very uncertain future. I have been a Christian since I was a little girl, but God has asked me to trust Him in this season in ways that have often made me wonder if I am equipped for the task ahead.
One thing that strikes me in the Bible, is God’s nearness to His people in their suffering. Psalm 34:18 says,
“God is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”
I want to read that verse like when we are hurting God swoops in to save the day and makes my life all of a sudden better. Sometimes He does, and for that I am grateful. More often than not, when I sit down to read my Bible, I am struck by God’s nearness in our suffering.
In Genesis 39 the Bible says the Lord was with Joseph. It even says God showed him steadfast love and favor. That sounds great, who wouldn’t want that. Then I look at Joseph’s life. He was sold by his brothers into slavery, falsely accused and put in prison. It was around twenty years before he was able to see what God was going to do through him. It was years and years of seemingly unanswered prayers and trusting God where he could not see. Yet in the midst of what seemed like the worst situations, God was with him.
Another picture of God’s nearness comes in Daniel chapter 3 when king Nebuchadnezzar declared all who didn’t bow down and worship him would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abenego refused to bow down before anyone but God. These men stood before what appeared to be their certain deaths and said some of the most profoundly faithful and trusting words.
“…our God that we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (vs 17-19)
They stood before their seemingly impossible situation and said even if God does not deliver, we will trust Him. I want the Bible to say God saves them right there, but at those words, they were cast into the furnace. God did not save them from the fire, but was with them in the midst of the furnace. He saved them from being burned by being present with them to show His glory and that He was the only true God.
Walking through some of the hardest times of my life, I have also experienced God’s nearness to me in more tangible ways than I ever have before. He has shown me His goodness and love for me. In my crying out to God asking why He had let such horrible things happen to me. Why He had seemingly been absent in the midst of such evil. God gave me an image of Him weeping next to me. That His heart was broken over the sin that had been done to me. That He was with me, near to my broken heart and hurting soul.
Even when He had seemed most painfully silent, He heard my cries, was answering my prayers in His timing and in ways I could not understand at the time. I know He is faithful to use my suffering for His glory, my ultimate good and the good of others.
He is with us and that is more than enough to carry us through whatever we have to face. We still have to walk through our suffering, which can feel some days more painful than we think we can bear. I praise God that on my darkest days I never walk alone. That I don’t worship a God who sits atop His lofty throne unfeelingly looking down on his children’s afflictions. I worship a God who comes close, pursues and loves. I worship a God who is with us.