John Paton was a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. One night hostile natives surrounded the mission station, intent on burning out the Patons and killing them. Paton and his wife prayed during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them.
When daylight came they were amazed to see their attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ. Remembering what had happened, Paton asked the chief what had kept him from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men with you there?” Paton knew no men were present–but the chief said he was afraid to attack because he had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords circling the mission station.
Everyone has had those days, in one sense or another. From dawn to late at night, you feel like you’re under attack, as though all the forces of the universe have conspired against you. You find yourself with an overwhelming load of responsibilities, and one more major project gets added to the pile. You find yourself swirling in the midst of conflict, and one more person adds his or her dysfunction to the mix. You find yourself under relentless financial pressure, and another major expense pops up out of the blue. Or in one of life’s perfect storms, all of the above converge until you can’t stand the pressure any longer.
These are the times that try our faith. We know God is sufficient for all of our needs in the good times, or even in the mediocre or slightly uncomfortable times, but what about the insufferably overwhelming times?
Is Jesus really able to calm storms? Is His grace really greater than all our sins? Does God still part huge bodies of water? Does He still send a deliverer into our moments of greatest need? We know the right answers to these questions, of course. But if there’s any delay in experiencing those answers, we’re tempted to start doubting whether God really behaves the way He used to in the Bible or whether He cares about our current situation or even notices it. We start to feel pretty obscure in His plans.
God gives us reassurances even in those times when we feel most helpless and He seems farthest away. We have not been abandoned. He is not one of those invisible forces that seem to have conspired against us. We may not see the end of the crisis, but we know this: (1) His strength is available — in fact, He often brings us to a point of complete vulnerability so we’ll depend on that strength. And (2) He is protecting us — in fact, He often shows us the enemy’s hand just so we can see what His protection involves. You can count on the fact that He is faithful — even in the midst of your greatest storms.