My family and I recently went on a vacation. As with most vacations, there is a wealth of planning put into place. You have to have a destination. You have to prepare some means of transportation. Depending on the pathology of the individual, you may want a light itinerary or excessive one; I’ll leave you the reader to decide which one is appropriate. In short, vacations are generally the sum of proper preparation.
Our vacation began well enough. We had all of the kids in the van as we departed. We had all the luggage. I had even prepared the vehicle well enough. It was only 30 minutes into our journey until my van’s transmission catastrophically malfunctioned. There we were parked alongside the road in a disabled vehicle on a 90-degree afternoon wondering: “Dear Lord, what are you doing?”
Have you ever asked God that question? Have you ever looked out over situations of your life and wondered: “God, why me?” It’s remarkable how painful and difficult circumstances have the ability to reveal to ourselves and others the real substance of our heart.
In his book, “The Problem of Pain” C. S. Lewis once wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” I don’t mind God speaking to me, I just wish it wasn’t at the cost of my van. . . or so I thought.
When my family stood stranded on the side of the road and the initial panic of “What am I going to do?” settled in, God provided an unexpected moment of comfort. Our van had landed in front of the home of some of the sweetest strangers I’ve ever met. They checked to see if we were alright. That’s easy enough. But then they did something unexpected. They offered us help. They offered us food and water, which was helpful since we were on our way to grab lunch and we were there for some time. They provided toys for our little ones. They provided shade on a hot day. In short, these strangers welcomed us into their home with open arms. They very quickly became a tangible reflection of Christ for me and my family. This was not surprising because they shared that they were Christians.
I think back on the words of Christ, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me . . . Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:35, 40 ESV) For no reason other than the fact that they believe in Christ, they treated us like family.
I return to my initial question: “Dear Lord, what are you doing?” In those moments, it was as if He said: “I’m reminding you that you are not your own. I’m reminding you that everything you have is from me. I’m reminding you that your plans are not always best, and that I have many, many more people than you know and I’ve destined them to care for one another” God reminded me that He is a good Father. And like every good father, He takes the very best care of His kids.
Now that doesn’t mean things are always going to go along easily. But it does mean that even when things seemingly fall apart, such failures are not outside the plan of God. In fact, we sometimes can only learn God’s lesson for us by means of suffering and pain. Paul tells us, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV)
To use an example, every Christian holds Psalm 23 near and dear to their heart. But no sane person welcomes the idea of God opening a buffet for them and their family as they are surrounded by their enemies in the rough part of town. No one likes the idea that God’s path for us and our family may go through a destination called “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”; that’s one vacation spot I’m content to avoid.
Yet God routinely leads us in places we don’t want to be to remind us that we are far smaller than our egos would like to let out, and that He is far greater than our hearts believe. These are simultaneously liberating and purifying for us. They are reminders of our eternal significance, not because of our accolades but because of Christ’s.
Why did God care for me and my family? Because He loves us. Why did He allow my van to commit itself to ruin? Because He loves me, and He wanted to demonstrate that through this family. He was guiding us, even when life was uncomfortable. And there were many other uncomfortable moments in our trip which further demonstrated God’s faithful hand. And other wonderful Christian brothers and sisters demonstrated the love of Christ by providing for us whether it be in vehicles, lodging, or meals. Christ’s love always leads His people to action. Are you sharing Christ’s love today?