By Michael Houghton
I had words with God this morning.
Not the usual kind of words. These were blunt, direct words.
I was not happy with the way things were going, and finally, after several years, I had to ask God whether he had a plan in mind for me or not.
I was standing in the shower, well, actually in the bathtub under the showerhead. I was not feeling very well. I had been able to turn off the water without falling, but I was not sure I could step over the edge of the tub to the floor and still remain upright. Since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a few years back, I have fallen frequently, and it seems that I am always nursing a sore neck or bruised knee or shoulder.
I looked around at all the hard bathroom surfaces—sink, commode, counter, cupboards, floor. I knew I was probably going to fall again, and I knew it was going to hurt. The frustration of anyone living with a long-term degenerative illness welled up in me like Mount St. Helens, and I blew.
I didn't ask God why I was ill. Instead, I screamed, "What possible glory can there be for you in this?"
I waited, hoping someone would miss me and come to check on me.
Then I screamed again. "What in the world is your plan here?"
Almost instantly I thought of the promise Jesus made when he said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."
Without even thinking of how much more effective a bolt of lightning might be when the target was standing in water and soaking wet, I heard myself shout, "How can I even know you are there?"
It's pretty rare to see the Lord with your own eyes, unless maybe you're one of those guys on television. And how often does God show up and give you a few words of encouragement, or take your arm and help you out of the tub? And when was the last time Jesus came to your house with food on the day that you were just too tired to get up and spread peanut butter on a piece of bread? Or washed your clothes when you didn't have a ride to the laundromat or the strength to load a washer? Or read you some Scriptures as you drifted off to sleep?
How can we know if God is there? How can we know we're not alone in our trials?
Well, I made it out of the tub somehow, but the question continued to haunt me through dinner and into the evening. Suddenly, it began to occur to me that when Jesus fed the five thousand, disciples were there. When he raised Lazarus from the dead, disciples were there. When he healed the lepers and blessed the little children, disciples were there.
My musings were interrupted by my four-year-old granddaughter, who walked over to my rocking chair and laid her sticky cheek on the back of my hand and smiled up at me. When I felt the warmth of her sweet touch, I looked down and she said, "Poppy, I am sorry you are sick." Tears flowed from my eyes, because I realized that Jesus had just answered my question. That's how I know he is there.
He travels with his disciples. Wherever they go, there he is. The hand that sends the card is guided by the Lord. The hands that prepare a casserole and the ones who deliver it are guided by the Lord. The friend who shows up to sit with you and just listen while you vent; he or she is guided by Jesus, too. And when my granddaughter smiles, Jesus is bringing his love to me right along with hers.
He travels with you, too. Every time you reach out to those around you, Jesus is there with you, ministering to those who need him. And every time a helping hand reaches out to you, it's Jesus behind it.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." We are all Christ to each other when we meet each other in our need.
I still shout at God sometimes, and I know he doesn't mind. But no longer do I have to wonder if he's even there.