September 26, 2017 • Life for Leaders
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
The prophecies of Isaiah testify to the treacherous “waters” and scorching “fires” of Israel’s experience. Because Israel persistently rejected him, the Lord disciplined the nation through the domination of foreign rulers.
Yet, even in those hard times, God did not abandon his people. He promised to be with them, protecting them from ultimate devastation. Their lives would be tough, to be sure. They would face rivers of difficulty and fires of oppression. But the Lord would continue to be present with his people, sharing in their suffering and pain.
We all face plenty of hard times in our own lives. For example, I have many friends in the Houston area, a region of the country recently hammered by Hurricane Harvey. Some made it through the recent flooding without great damage. But others found their homes ruined by literal waters. They might surely wonder where God was when their homes were filling up.
Similarly, we might feel abandoned by God when our children make choices we don’t support. Or when we hear our doctor say the dreaded word cancer. Or when we worry that we might lose our job. Or… you can fill in the blank with the difficulties of your own life. I expect you have them. (And if you don’t now, you will in time.)
God does not promise to give us easy lives. He doesn’t say “no waters” and “no fires.” Until the new creation comes, we will struggle and suffer. Yet the Lord does promise to be with us in our hard times: protecting us, comforting us, strengthening us, giving us wisdom. This is good news we need today.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
When have you gone through “rivers of difficulty”?
Did you sense God’s presence at the time?
In retrospect, do you see God’s hand upon your life in those hard times?
How does God make his presence known to us when we struggle and suffer?
Gracious God, how I thank you for the fact of your presence in my life, especially in times of difficulty. There have been so many times when I have hung onto the promise of your presence, trusting you for patience, strength, and courage. How grateful I am for your help… and even more, for your presence.
Lord, you know that sometimes it’s hard for me to sense your presence, especially when I am in pain or distress. You can seem a million miles away. So help me, I pray, to be aware of you. Open my heart to know you even in the midst of difficulties. May I be attentive to the still, small voice of your Spirit, even and especially when I need you most. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Grace Transforms Suffering in Our Life in Christ (Romans 5:1–11)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.