This past Friday, I received one of those phone calls you dread taking. It was the call where you look down at your cell phone, see the Caller ID, and immediately know something is very wrong because that person doesn’t usually call, certainly at that time of day. I hesitantly hit accept, said hello, and sure enough, my dad was on the other end telling me that my mom was in the hospital, having suffered a possible stroke.
Many kids, when getting a call like that, would immediately jump in the car and race to visit. That’s certainly what I wanted to do, but I was a thousand miles away (my mom lives near St. Louis). All I could do was pray. So, I prayed, but if I am being honest, I was praying some rather raw prayers.
My mom is 70, which is young but not super young. She recently went through a round of battling cancer – with all the corresponding radiation and chemo – just last year. And now…..now this? I was praying for God not to let this be too much for her. To give her strength and peace.
But I was also asking, “God, where are you? Why this? Why now? This seems unfair. Did you somehow forget that my mom leads a Bible study and literally teaches people about you? Did you forget that in her downtime, she volunteers to clean her church, your house, each week? To me, at least, my mom is basically a saint, and this is what you let happen to her? Cancer and now a stroke?” Again, the prayers were pretty raw.
I’m not the first person to pray this way. Even some people in the Bible expressed similar thoughts. Psalm 13:1-2, Psalm 22:1-2, and Psalm 42:9-11 are a few examples.
Facing challenges is not just reserved just for me, my mom, and a few random people in the Bible. No, it’s for everyone, including people of faith. Odds are, you have had a hardship in your life. Maybe you are facing a difficulty right now. If you’re not, just wait a breath or two, and you likely will be soon.
The reality is: we all encounter challenges, struggles, and situations that leave us feeling unsure and afraid. Maybe, like me, it’s the health of a family member. Maybe it is your own health. Perhaps it is finances, work, or lack of work. It could be a kid or a spouse. Maybe you’re heartbroken, or your mind isn’t what it used to be. Possibly you really messed up and are facing the consequences of your own actions. Maybe something happened to you that is completely out of your control. Each of our lives are different, but life, for us all, comes with its fair share of tests and challenges.
In whatever we are going through, it is essential to remember we can trust in God’s faithfulness.
“Trust in God’s faithfulness.” That’s easy for me to write about; it’s fairly easy for most of us to say we will do; but sometimes, it’s a tough thing to live out. It’s difficult to trust God when it feels like life is trying to run us over.
Scripture, however, reminds us that we can trust Him even in the fiercest of storms. One passage that I go to in difficult moments is Psalm 46. Psalm 46 shows us that even in the wildest of storms, God’s faithfulness remains unshakable, unwavering, and everlasting.
Psalm 46 shares that God is ever-present – Verse 1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” We can feel like we are alone, but He is there. We sometimes feel like we are holding the ship together ourselves, but in reality, He is there on the deck, helping us keep on course even when we are getting blown all around. I couldn’t physically be there for my mom at the hospital this past week, but she was not alone. God was there with her. You see, storms do come in life, but God’s faithful presence remains constant through them all.
God’s Presence + God’s Strength
Psalm 46 also tells us that God’s presence brings His strength – Verses 2 and 3 continue by saying, “Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam.” “Therefore,” because God is an ever-present help (verse 1), we don’t have to be afraid. Why don’t we have to be afraid, even when the earth “gives way” and its “waters roar”? Because God isn’t just present, he isn’t just there on the sidelines cheering us on; no, he is with us in the fight. He is there with us, bringing all His strength to help us fight the battle. And because God is on our team, the battle is stacked in our favor. Having God on our team is like putting last year’s Major League home run leader, Aaron Judge, on my son Lucas’ little league team. That wouldn’t be fair. Each game would be a complete blowout. That is what it is like having God with us in the storm. We have the heaviest hitter there batting for us.
(Note: For those of you I just offended by my referring to a New York Yankee, I apologize. Feel free to pick your own favorite non-Yankee major league baseball player for the illustration. I simply chose him as he had the most home runs last year. For the record, I am a Redsox fan. Go, Sox!)
God’s Presence + God’s Strength = God’s Protection
And because God is strong, He can protect us. I’ve never had a bodyguard. But, if I ever needed to hire one, I would hire the biggest, strongest, most muscular, martial arts-trained bodyguard I could afford. God is the strongest bodyguard ever, and he is with us. Psalm 46, verses 7 and 11 both read, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” He is our fortress. A fortress is secure. Even if a large army comes against it, it is not easily destroyed. It is a shelter from the greatest of threats, and it shields us from every danger outside. God is with us, God is strong, and therefore, like a fortress, he can protect us no matter what comes our way.
My mom’s story ended well. After an overnight stay in the hospital and a barrage of tests, a full stroke was ruled out. There is still the chance that she had a small TIA (mini-stroke), and she’ll require more tests and follow-up, likely a change of medication, but presently there are no permanent effects of her episode. Speech, face, and mobility are all fine. God was with her in her storm.
Not all stories end like my mom’s. Sometimes the diagnosis isn’t good, and the effects are permanent. But, even when the storm lingers, even when it lasts a lifetime, God is still faithful. The apostle Paul spoke of an ailment he faced all his life (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), never to be cured despite praying repeatedly that he would be. Yet Paul knew that God was still present with him, that he was strong enough to sustain him, and that he would protect him. So, despite all the challenges Paul faced, and he faced quite a few, Paul could rest knowing that Christ’s “grace was sufficient” and that He would sustain him through all storms that would come his way.
Today, maybe you are facing a storm. Maybe your world is shaking. Whatever you are going through, you are not alone. God is with you; he is present. And with his presence, he brings his strength. That strength is a fortress for you to stay safely in so you can weather any storm that may come your way. My hope and prayer for us all is that although the storms may rage and the entire world may be shaken, that we will always hold on to the unshakeable faithfulness of God.