“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!””
–Genesis 28:16 (NLT)
If you’ve ever seen a mess of uncooked beaten eggs in a bowl, then you know what my life felt like many years ago. I was going through a period of deep darkness. I was out of the condo where I had lived for 20 years, and I hadn’t seen my family for most of that time.
I wound up in a homeless shelter, where they would kick us out after we took our showers each morning. For lunch, the shelter gave each of us a sandwich consisting of one piece of bologna between two slices of dry bread. I would put my poor excuse for a sandwich in a plastic grocery bag, and hope my friends at work would think it was my lunch from home.
Before all this happened, I lived in an intolerable situation which some friends helped me escape from. I didn’t own the condo where I had been living, so at least I was free and clear as far as that was concerned. But I had been blamed by a social worker for things that I had no control over, and that is where my helpful friends came in. They had only 24 hours to make the situation right, but they accomplished their rescue mission.
During those years, I often remember asking God what was going on. I knew He had called me into the ministry at one time, but after that I couldn’t figure out where He had gone. He suddenly seemed so distant, and I felt alone and confused.
I had not grown up in a Christian home, but I became a follower of Jesus when I was in my teens. Due to the fact that I can’t see, some people would treat me as though I were inferior when I was growing up. But I was raised to look at what I could do rather than what I couldn’t, and God had been my best friend ever since I first met Him. He accepted me when others wouldn’t, so I knew that I could face the challenge which confronted me now. However, I continued to be baffled by what seemed to be God’s silence.
Looking back now, I can see God’s hand as He prepared me for what lay ahead. Firstly, I had been able to keep my job while I was staying in the shelter. Eventually I got back on my feet, and because of that, I didn’t have to stay in that shelter for long.
Upon leaving that establishment, I rented a room at the YMCA. That was definitely no picnic, but it was a roof over my head. Then, I was able to get a little studio apartment, where I started to pick up the pieces.
Allow me to fast-forward a few years, so you can see how God has begun to turn the scrambled eggs and broken yolks my life had become, into an omelette par excellence.
God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams, but it has not always been in the way I thought. My wife and I are both healthcare chaplains now, and if it hadn’t been for the hard times I’ve described, I am certain I could not empathize with people who are going through pain.
I would like to share this thought with you. When I was in college, I got my first apartment. I had been living on my own for some time, but I’d never had my own place, so that was a big deal to me. I enjoyed the freedom of apartment ownership, but it was also painful in some respects.
My parents lived some miles away, and I had to learn to be more self-sufficient. If I really needed them, my folks were right there. Sometimes they would come over on the weekends to help me clean house, and do some of the chores I needed. Fortunately, they were kind enough to give me the space and alone time I wanted as well.
To this day, I am grateful that my parents let me stand on my own two feet, and that is exactly what our heavenly Father is like. In other words, whenever He seems the furthest away from you, He is really very close at hand, helping you learn to walk in His spirit.
Many times, God can’t use us fully until He breaks us completely. This means that we have to live through some very tough times before God can effectively in our lives.
Think about the great men like Moses, David and Paul. While God used them greatly, they all went through periods of suffering. If that thought isn’t enough for you, just look at the history books, and you will see that some of the greatest champions of the gospel have suffered greatly.
Like a good parent, God is molding us, rather than mollycoddling us. What we see as tragedy may be used by God to become a victorious milestone in our lives.
So let me ask you this, my friend: On a spiritual scale of 1 to 10, where are you today? More importantly, where is God in your life? Do you feel like He has forgotten you? He certainly hasn’t. If you don’t believe me, remember that Jesus said He had every hair on your head numbered. This means He cares about everything you’re going through, and He wants to walk through every sunny and stormy day with you.
Let God polish and mold you, helping you to stand tall for Him. Listen to the apostle Paul’s words: “The trials we face here aren’t worthy to be compared with what God has in store for those who love Him.” As the world becomes a darker place, let God use the sandpaper of trials to make you more like Him, and your light will shine brighter and brighter in His kingdom.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Tuesday night Bible study. These studies are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-432-6498. When prompted, press 1 for live chat rooms, and we’ll be waiting in room 31. You can press pound to bypass our friend Sharon’s intro message once you’ve entered room 31. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.