I love it when a sermon confirms that I’m right. A pastor spilling bits of God’s truth to the congregation, I scoop up those precious morsels that I’ve uttered before, admiring the way they shine under the stage lights. There’s nothing better than to nod my head in agreement without feeling the twinge of conviction that can so often come in the lonely chairs of a church.
This past Sunday, pastor Jason Britt preached on God’s omnipresence, God’s ability to be everywhere at every moment. He challenged that if we really believed in God’s omnipresence, our daily lives would look different. We would speak to our loved ones differently, conduct business more honestly, allow our hearts to break for others’ suffering more openly. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as I thought of different moments when God was watching me from within the same room. God’s omnipresence meant conviction.
But then the pastor moved on to his next point, and I could breathe easier again. As he spoke that God’s omnipresence can also bring comfort, he made a distinction that caused me to lean forward in my seat: God’s presence in every situation does not mean that everything always works out. There is a difference between ‘everything is okay’ and ‘God is here.’ Yes! I scooped up the pastor’s last sentence. That was exactly the point I had tried to make a couple of years ago!
Two years ago I was overcome with worry. I was a stay-at-home mom facing the need to look for a job. The job for which my husband transferred and moved our family didn’t turn out to be the best fit, and he began the search down a new career path. To complicate matters, the house from which we moved had still not sold, and our renters vacated the premises. We had two mortgages and no jobs.
I remember praying and the situation not changing. I would convey my fears to others, but sometimes instead of feeling encouraged, I would feel frustrated. These well-meaning individuals would tell me, “God will provide,” implying that God was holding next month’s mortgage payments in His hands, just waiting to hand them over. One person asked, “Don’t you have faith?!”
I was angry. Yes, I had faith! But I also knew that God’s provision did not necessarily translate into money. God could provide peace or His Word or meet our basic needs through our extended family, but there was no guarantee that He was going to provide jobs so that our homes didn’t end in foreclosure.
Look in the Bible-Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. He ended up in prison for years! Paul had stones hurled at him on more than one occasion, and he was left for dead many times. I believed that God was there during all those moments, but those lives were definitely not okay.
This sermon was vindication for me and all those feelings I held two years ago. I had no guarantee that everything would be okay and knowing that fact did not make me a bad Christian. Obviously, I was an insightful Christian since the pastor was speaking what I already knew.
And as I listened to the rest of the sermon, God tapped on my shoulder.
In all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.
I knew the verse. I clung to Romans 8:28 many times during our mess, but it didn’t bring me comfort. I was focused on the years Joseph spent in prison, not the glory to God he brought as a result. I didn’t see that he saved Egypt from famine or was reunited with his family-only that he was 30 when it all happened after being sold into slavery as a boy. I was focused on the beatings Paul received, not the spread of the Gospel across the world. I didn’t see that he sang praises to God while sitting imprisoned-only that he had shackles around his wrists and ankles.
Two years ago, I was hung up on the balance between God’s will and freewill. I knew bad things happened to good people, and I couldn’t find comfort in God’s promises. But sitting in that seat in church, holding that nugget of truth that I knew so well, I saw something different as I looked it over. Everything isn’t always okay, but God is always there. And if God is always there, He is continually taking the broken pieces of our mess and, as the true master craftsman, making them part of something beautiful.
Two years ago, I was right. Everything isn’t okay, and it isn’t necessarily helpful to tell someone that it will be. However, two years ago, I was also wrong. I couldn’t find peace in the midst of turmoil knowing that God would use this heartache for His purpose.
As I sat in that church chair, I experienced God’s omnipresence as I felt His conviction and comfort simultaneously. And I was thankful for the hand of God who used a sermon to confirm how I had been wrong.
* Post edited at 9:36 am on 7/14. Anyone who read the post prior to this time, please know that the pastor used the term omnipresence and not omnipotence. The error was solely mine in editing and thus proof that I should not write early in the morning.