She put her world on hold for my sake.
Four years ago, when I suddenly found myself in the hospital for ten scary and torturous days, my wife Luella never left my side. It wasn’t just that she was there during normal visiting hours to talk with doctors and to greet the visitors whom I was unable to greet. She slept next to me in an uncomfortable recliner every night.
“Our hope is not found in understanding why God brings hardship into our lives.”
When the spasms returned, the pain intensified, or the nurse awakened me for medication, Luella was with me. In the morning when I awoke to face a day I really didn’t want to face, Luella was right there with me. When tears came, she was there to comfort. When I got discouraged, she was quick to encourage.
She said many encouraging things to me in that hospital room in my moments of physical and spiritual suffering, but there were five words she repeated to me over and over again that I needed to hear most: “Paul, your Lord is near.”
More Than Words
I have thought many times since then that Luella’s faithful, attentive presence in the darkest of days and the weakest of moments is a beautiful picture of the faithful presence of another. God is the ultimate present one. He has invaded our life by his grace. He is with us, for us, and in us.
The hope we have is more than a theological system or some wisdom principles for everyday life. Our hope rests on the willing, faithful, powerful, and loving presence of God with us. It is the ultimate gift of gifts to everyone who walks the harsh and bumpy road between birth and eternity. God has given us no sweeter, more beautiful gift than the gift of himself. He is the gift that changes everything.
Our hope is not found in understanding why God brings hardship into our lives. Our hope is not found in the belief that somehow we will tough our way through. Our hope is not found in doctors, lawyers, pastors, family, or friends. Our hope is not found in our resilience or ingenuity. Our hope is not found in ideas or things. Though we may look to all those for temporary help, ultimately our hope rests in the faithful and gracious presence of the Lord with us.
Two Verses to Memorize Again
I’m certain that you have memorized these two verses countless times, but I want to direct your attention to them again. These two amazing promises about God’s presence provide true, lasting, and sturdy hope when things you have hoped in lie beaten, battered, and broken into pieces.
“Behold, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).
It is important to note that Jesus spoke these words to his disciples while they were being commissioned to give their lives as agents of his great redemptive mission. Jesus ended his commission with these words because he knew the world he was sending his disciples into, and he knew what they would face.
He knew that their way would be difficult and their job uncomfortable. He knew that they would face constant opposition, misunderstanding, accusation, and rejection. He knew that they would be chased and imprisoned, persecuted, and beaten, and that many of them would give their lives for his cause.
“God has given us no sweeter, more beautiful gift than the gift of himself. He is the gift that changes everything.”
But he would not let them suffer alone. He would not let them suffer in their own strength. He would not leave them to their own political standing. He would not let them rely on their own wisdom. He would give these loyal suffering ones the best assurance ever — that he would always be with them. He would not think of sending them into the cruelty of this fallen world without going with them. He knew what they were facing, and he would give them what they needed — and, more than anything else, what they needed was him.
“I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
This promise is given numerous times in Scripture. Every time one of God’s children or the whole community of God’s children faced something hard, new, difficult, or overwhelming, God greeted them with this promise. He never called them to a task, sent them to a destination, or led them into difficulty, and then abandoned them. No matter how hard the situation or inadequate their response, God was with them and for them. The declaration that he would never leave them is a significant reminder and protection for everyone who suffers.
Not a Distant Lord
In an indescribable act of unmerited grace, God has made you the place where he lives, and in the faithfulness of that grace he will never walk away from you.
In all the emotional and spiritual ups and downs, on the good days and the bad days, when you fight or succumb, one thing is for sure: Your Lord is with you, and there is no struggle without or war within that will ever drive him away from his children. And his presence guarantees that in your suffering you will have everything you need.
Below is a meditation in the form of verse that I wrote to encourage my soul when my Lord led me into unexpected and hard places. I pray that the truths of the gospel will stimulate a worship, rest, and celebration in you that the difficulties of life, this side of eternity, will not have the power to end.
You are not a distant Lord,
a detached Master
moving the pawns
on the board
in an impersonal act
does not separate
me from you
as a serf
would be separated
from a king. No, you accomplished
your sovereign plan
by invading my
dark and messy world
in the person
of your Son,
in radical grace
who saw no value
in your nearness.
You are Master,
but you are
You are Lord,
but you are
You are King,
but you are
You are Sovereign,
but you are
Your rule is not from
No, your rule brings you
I have hope today
because you are not
And I celebrate
rest and strength
to be found in the reality that
has brought you