We know God promises to never leave us. We know God constantly tells His people not to be afraid because He is always there. And yet sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like it. When reading the Bible, it is easy to miss (or avoid) the struggles and hard parts. A great example of this is the book of Exodus.
Where does your mind immediately go when you think of that book? I know for me, I tend to downplay the time the Israelites were in slavery. The Bible doesn’t spend a ton of time talking about it in the first few chapters of Exodus, but they were in fact in slavery for hundreds of years! Imagine that. If you were an Israelite in this time, you would know about Abraham, and about the promise God made to Him. It would be knowledge that you had that you were a part of God’s chosen people, but during those years in slavery, would it have felt like that? Wouldn’t it be easy to wonder and question where God is? We have the benefit of knowing the end of the story, that God miraculously delivers the Israelites with the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, but they did not. All they knew is that they were in a miserable position. And some of them never made it out of that position. But God had a plan for His people. God had a plan that would show His glory. Would you have trusted God in the midst of those hundreds of years?
Let’s look at the life of Paul. We love to quote his letters from the New Testament and use him for inspiration, but do we apply them to our lives the way Paul truly intended? If you were to look at 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, you would see Paul write about how he was whipped 39 times on five different locations, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, three times shipwrecked, and was often cold, hungry, and in danger. This list does not even mention Paul’s 4 times in prison, his second shipwreck, the time he was bitten by a snake, or his execution. Some of this was persecution for his faith, but some of it, like the shipwrecks and the snake bite, were just bad situations in which he found himself. But these things did not shake Paul, they did not deter him from trusting in God’s plan. Paul knew that if he is alive, it is to preach Christ, and if he were to die, then he has gained eternal life with Christ (Philippians 1:21). Paul knew that no matter what the situation is, he can endure and make it through by the power of Christ who gives him strength (Philippians 4:13). How is he able to make these kind of statements in the midst of the persecution, the loss, and the pain?
I want to make one disclaimer before we continue: I do not know your pain. I do not know what you are going through. I imagine some reading this have gone through great loss and great pain. There may be some reading this who are going through the hardest tragedy in their life right now. It could be related to health, job, family, spouse, or any number of things. I would never pretend to know your pain. But I do know this: God has a plan. Look at the Israelites, enslaved for hundreds of years, some of whom died in slavery and never saw the 10 plagues. Look at Paul, who went through horrific problems and setbacks throughout his life. In both cases, God had a plan. In the midst of the trials and the pain, it is easy, and understandable, to wonder where God is. Life is so unbelievably messy. And yet, “God is at work in the mess. That’s the message of the Bible. That’s why the Bible is not pretty. That’s why it’s grimy. Because God is working in the mess. He’s working in the tears.” (Matt Chandler) God is at work. He has a plan. Everything in your life, no matter how great, or how awful, God is working for His glory.
God is at work. He has a plan. Everything in your life, no matter how great, or how awful, God is working for His glory.
We know that He works all things, yes all things, for the good of those who love Him, who He has called His people (Romans 8:28). If you have been saved by Christ, then rest assured that everything that happens is ultimately for your good. Rest in the fact that God is always there, that He will never leave you nor forsake you. This life is crazy, it is messy, and it is painful, but God is always at work, even when it doesn’t seem like it.
In the same way that we can read the story of the Israelites in Egypt and have hope because we know the ending, or read Paul’s life and know the ending of his impact on Christianity as a whole, we know the ending for our pain too. It may not end in the way we want in this life, but we get the best possible outcome no matter what happens here. Revelation 21:4 tells us that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Jesus gives us this ending. This is what was bought on the cross with His precious blood. One day, cancer will not take our loved ones, there will be no abuse, no layoffs, no abandonment, no pain, and no tears. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, take heart, persevere, and know that God is working. Do this by diving more deeply into Jesus. Make Jesus the priority of your life. Read the Bible every day, pray, meet with people regularly, engage in small group, volunteer, serve, come to church consistently, be discipled, disciple others. And as you do these things, remember these truths: God has a plan, He is always with you, and He will never leave you.