God created heaven, earth and all that is in them but He Himself is neither part of nor dependent in any way on His creation. We start looking for God when we are faced with severe sickness, financial losses or needs or to seek His Divine intervention for opening closed doors for us. But God appears to be selective in answering prayers of the believers also for many have perished in this pandemic while others have managed to sail through without any apparent reason. Despite God’s promise, why do we get left out of the blessedness of answered prayers and why does He seem so far in times of trouble?
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1). As Creator God must be distinct from His creation and He cannot be dependent on any of His creation for anything. Being Sovereign and Supreme, He is on a higher plane and different from everything that exists. God therefore cannot be fully known by His creation. We know Him only through His Word, His relationship to the universe or through His attributes of action. We also try and know Him through what He is not or cannot be. Since all beginning is in Him, for He is Creator of time also, but He Himself is not subject to or part of time. He can change anything in His creation without Himself getting affected by that change.
God as Creator also sustains or gives life to everything and nothing can exist unless God wills it (Nehemiah 9:6). ‘Truly, You are a God who hides Himself’ and this is despite His Omnipresence (Isaiah 45:15). He reviews all of creation and He cannot be seen because there is no place without Him and like awareness of air is when the wind blows, we become aware of God when He acts to reveal His presence. The same word ‘ruach’ means both wind and spirit. God has said, ‘Can anyone himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?…Do I not fill heaven and earth’ (Jeremiah 23:24). God knows man’s thoughts and intentions and nothing is hidden or far from Him. Scripture further says that, ‘God’s eyes are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good’ (Proverbs 15:3).
God revealed His name to Moses from the burning bush as ‘I AM WHO I AM (YHWH)’ (Exodus 3:14-15). He is outside of time and past and future are all known to Him and He declares thus, ‘I call the generations from the beginning. I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last I will be the same’ (Isaiah 41:4). Job was called by God ‘a blameless and upright man’ and he could ask his friends, ‘Can you search the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty?’ (Job 11:7). But we know God through His Word, our prayers and hopes and as revealed through His only Begotten Son who became Man.
‘All that God wishes He does, in heaven and in earth’ and all plagues may come on the earth not as per His will but He permits that (Psalm 135:6). In our tribulations also God is present with us but since our focus is more on the pain of the moment, we do not recognize His presence with and within us. The Psalmist has written from personal experience that, ‘God is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth’ (Psalm 145:18). Since we are not fully in truth, we tend to do not seek God as also make improper requests but God answers, with what is best for us. The Israelites prayed to God and sought to know Him that He ‘come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth’ (Hosea 6:3). But God’s answer is different ‘I will be like the dew to Israel’ (Hosea 14:5-6) for rain totally submerges everything but dew has a gentle and loving touch of moisturizing, enabling the produce to encouragement to grow.
Apostle Paul clarifies our aim of life, that God, the Father, ‘has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time begins’ (2 Timothy 1:9). God chose us to be His children in eternity past to be transformed into the likeness of His own Son. We call out to God to make us holy and His response is not to be like rain and saturate us with external stimulus but He comes like dew to encourage our own inner process of spiritual development. God wants us to act in His grace and use the reservoirs of immense spiritual strength given by His Spirit to rise to great heights.
How do we achieve this in real life so that we are never far from God? The process of change in us is Holy Spirit driven and the steps that we take are:
First, honor God for without this how can we expect Him to bless us with more grace in our weaknesses? Apostle Paul was given the mantra to overcome difficulties by God who told, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:10). We honor God by being dependent on Him in difficult situations.
Second, show love for God is love (1 John 4:8 & 19) and this love must be manifested in all our works. We are asked to love, for we are first filled by God in His love so that we can love others. How can we give something that we do not have.
Three, honor parents like the Son of God ‘became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom’ because at 12 years He discussed mysteries of Scripture in the Temple with the teachers (Luke 2:40 & 51). But obediently He went with His parents to Nazareth, ‘and was subject to them’.
Four, guide and serve others for ‘you are the salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13-14 &16) to guide others and help them preserve moral values. We set an example for others, so that on seeing ‘your good works’ those who do not know God may glorify your Father in heaven.
Five, surrender to God and ‘present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service’ (Romans 12:1). Our life on earth must be lived for the Lord, for His glory and His works and He will strengthen us for this.
The story of a saint with close relationship with God is about his seeing two sets of footprints every day, his and God’s. However during a period of great tribulation he could only see one set of footprints but continued to pray to God. After a while once the problem was almost over, he again saw two sets of footprints and complained to God for leaving him alone like all others in his trouble. God answered that the single set was My footprints for during that time of your trouble I was carrying you on My back.
God chose us not to leave us when we face troubles, but we have to live like the Son of God who lived His life on earth in total obedience to the Father. The more we seek and follow the Lord, the closer He is to us.
Why do some suffer more than others? God told Moses, ‘I will be gracious to whim I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Exodus 33:19). Only He decides the putting in or the timing of rescue from trouble or trials.King Hezekiah was sick and God sent Prophet Isaiah to tell him about his coming death (2 Kings 20:5-6). But Hezekiah prayed to the LORD God and received healing, extension of life by fifteen years and relief from the Assyrian army that was about to capture Jerusalem. God chose Abram and promised him great blessings that even ‘in you all families of the earth shall be blessed’ (Genesis 12:1-3). However nothing is mentioned about the reason for his being chosen by God. The Jewish sages give three possible reasons for this and we shall see one
In the Midrash, the ancient Jewish exegesis or interpretation of Scriptural text to find answers through study of the words, a reason is mentioned. When Abram was asked to leave his land and his people it can be compared to a traveler who saw a palace in flames. He wondered, ‘Is it possible that there is no owner of this palace?’ Then the owner of the palace looked out and said, ‘I am the owner of this palace’. Abraham then said, ‘Is it possible that the world lacks a ruler?’ Then LORD God looked out and said, ‘I am the ruler, the Sovereign of the universe’. Abraham wondered about this apparent inconsistency between the universe, the palace, the chaos in humanity and the flames. He wondered about the reason that God allows such a situation to arise, that His creation be spoilt to such an extent, since God is all powerful and yet appears to be totally powerless?
Apparently the palace owner’s call was about seeking help to put out the flames for he cannot abandon those in the palace and same is the call of God to mankind. God also cannot forsake His creation and leave them to destroy everything and themselves with it. Abraham was moved by the moral issue and that is the reason God chose him to be His representative to protest against the evil and fight it.
Evil exists for God gave man freedom or free will and bound Himself from interfering in the choice man makes. That is why the serpent or the devil could initiate chaos in the creation without any interference by God. Free will and its misuse are evident in Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and Noah’s generation. God allows this to help us learn from our mistakes through repentance and moving on. God needs our help in putting out the fires in the world and He has used the best He has, His own Son. Abraham did not accept the situation but fought the evil that is out to destroy God’s creation. It is now our turn to act in the same manner like Lord Jesus and pull others from the fire by doing just what we should, carry the message of the cross. We do this by our acts of justice and compassion as our Lord did.
Responsibility of a believer – ‘The reason the Son of God appeared, was to destroy the devil’s work’ (1 John 3:8). We are to be like Lord Jesus as His representatives and this is our task also. Devil’s sole aim is to divide communities, create strife and chaos to then establish his rule over them through their grief and pain, for he has no love for anyone but himself.Expression of God’s love towards His creation did not end once Adam and Eve rebelled and neither did He ever leave mankind nor will He. The prophets and then His Son were all sent with the only message, to repent, turn to God in love and to love others as yourself, comforting in grief and rejoicing always.
Scripture assures and commands us for such situations, God is ‘the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). God’s comforting is not about taking our troubles away but strengthening, encouragement and hope to deal with all troubles. A friend’s son in Canada has been suffering from lung cancer since a long time and yet continuing to live a life filled with hope. His latest message is, ‘Results from my scan are: it is full of tumors and a little fluid. I am sad but hopeful’. I believe the weight of our troubles is commensurate to our bearing capacity. Apostle Paul looks at God the Father as our ‘Paraclete’ comforter while Lord Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete (John 14:16;26) and the third member of the Holy Trinity, God the Son is also our Paraclete (1 John 2:1, Hebrews 2:18).
God in His very being, in every aspect is ready and full of strength, to comfort and help for us so that we may be able to comfort others. We often do not seek this comforting from others due to pride, for we do not express our need for comforting to others. Spiritual comforts, much like the gifts of the Holy Spirit are also for the benefit of the whole community of believers. Our trials are sent by God to train us for our ministry as a believer through practical experience of the doctrinal teaching. Mother Teresa had famously said, ‘I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much’. Do I think so about my troubles? I have learnt to count my blessings every morning, along with the greatest blessing of being part of God’s family, then all else appears too small to count.
Apostle Paul, in his second epistle to the Corinthian church, listed out the details of his sufferings and that he could bear all of that, for he never felt Lord Jesus being away from him. There is an Egyptian saying, ‘The more is the heat during the day, more is the soothing dew at night’. King David always counted the LORD as his strength, shield, salvation, rock and a hiding place to whom he could always turn to escape from the heat of his problems. LORD God can be our Rock only when we turn to Him and seek Him, otherwise despite a huge amount being in the bank account, we stay and live like paupers being unaware of the same!