When I was 5 or 6, I was at a neighbor’s house a few doors down when a bad storm blew in. My friend’s mother sent me right home. I made it down the path to the sidewalk when the wind started to blow hard against me pushing me down the hill and away from my house as if a bully was pushing on me with all his might. My hair whipping around and stinging my face, I called out, but I could barely hear my voice over the wind. I leaned in, pushed hard with my legs, and made slow progress.
Our house was maybe a hundred feet away and I could see light in the window. I imagined my mother inside ironing or vacuuming, unaware that her son was in trouble. I had never felt so frightened and alone, separated from everybody who loved me and could protect me. As I struggled against the storm wind, for the first time in my life I thought I might die.
The wind broke when I made it to the front path, and I ran all the way up to and through the door. When I came in, Mom was standing in the living room listening to a tornado warning bulletin on TV. She had heard the wind howling past the house and had just become concerned about me. I burst into tears and tried to explain what had happened as she collected me into her arms. We learned later that a tornado had briefly touched down nearby.
I can see now that I was not in mortal danger that day. The worst case was probably being knocked down and left to lie on the sidewalk until the storm passed – frightening, but survivable. But as an adult I’ve been in much worse situations, some of which I’ve created and some of which were random chance. I’ve reaped serious earned and unearned consequences from them. Each of us goes through our own version of this. For some of us, those consequences do include mortal danger.
There are a couple ways to come away from the suffering these consequences bring. One is to conclude that if there’s a God, he’s not there for us. The other is to realize that life is often bigger than we can handle, and that we need a power greater than ourselves to help us through it.
God is always a hundred feet away, a light burning in his window, waiting for us to come home to him. Unlike my mother many years ago, he knows exactly what trouble we face. It’s not God’s way to ride in on his white horse or wave his magic wand to make our troubles disappear. He aches over our suffering, but allows it because he wants us to learn that life on Earth is not his primary purpose for us – life with him is. Through that suffering, if we choose to begin looking for God we will find him, and we will begin to experience his love, comfort, and even his rescue.