Today’s message is from Pastor Pam Sutherland of the St. Paul United Methodist Church & Fort Gibson United Methodist Church.
As a pastor, I am often confronted with “worst case scenarios’ in the lives of parishioners. The death of a loved one. A debilitating or terminal diagnosis. Drug addiction. Imprisonment. Financial distress or ruin. The list goes on. There is a sense of helplessness when you are someone who wants to fix a problem, change a situation, and give reassurance or guidance that will make a difference.
One of my favorite Old Testament prophets is Habakkuk. Habakkuk felt helpless as he learned that God would bring about a “worst case scenario” on Judah in order to turn the people back to Himself. As the prophet prays for God to intervene in the matter of the people’s rebellion and disregard for God’s laws, he learns that God will use the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to chasten the people, to turn them back to God. There was nothing Habakkuk could do to change the situation or make it better. He could only wait and watch.
Our “worst case scenarios” are not necessarily a chastening for sin and rebellion in our lives. More often they are the result of poor choices or simply a product of living in a sin-sick world. But God is not one to waste our suffering. He uses it to restore our relationship with Him and to deepen our faith in Him, if we let Him. I’ve faced many “worst case scenarios” in my life – death of a spouse, death of a mother and father, debilitating diagnosis, and financial distress, to name of few. No doubt you have faced similar “worst case scenarios” too. Those times cause us to cry out to the Father as did David in Psalm 142:
“I call out loudly to the Eternal One; I lift my voice to the Eternal begging for His favor. I let everything that’s going wrong spill out of my mouth; I spell out all my troubles to Him. When my spirit buckled under the burdens I bear, You knew my way. They conspired to trip me up and trap me on the path where I was walking. Take a look around and see—to the right, to the left— no one is there who cares for me. There’s no way out of here; no one cares about the state of my soul.You are the One I called to, O Eternal One. I said, ‘You’re the only safe place I know; You’re all I’ve got in this world. Oh, let me know that You hear my cry because I’m languishing and desperate; Rescue me from those who torment me because there’s no way I can stand up to them; they are much too strong for me. Lift my captive soul from this dark prison so I may render to You my gratitude; Then Your righteous people will gather around me because You will treat me with astounding goodness.’” (The Voice translation)
In the midst of one of his “worst case scenarios” David understood that when God brings him through, he will know that God has treated him with “astounding goodness”. Each time God brought me through a “worst case scenario” I have realized that despite my apparent lack of faith, my complaints, my fear that what I was facing was too much for me, God indeed treated me with astounding goodness! He did not abandon me. He knew the path that I walked, and He was my strength through it all. As I trusted Him, He did not allow me to slip and fall but enabled me (eventually) to leap with joy!
What about you? Can you see God’s astounding goodness to you in the midst of your trouble? Are you trusting that He knows the path you are walking and is right there with you ready and able to give you strength for the journey?
My prayer for you today is that God will fill you with the faith of Habakkuk so that regardless of your circumstance, you may rejoice in the God of your salvation!
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines. Though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food. Though the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls. Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)
Grace and peace,