According to an old African proverb, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Oh, how we wish that were not the case!
As a people, we love smooth seas and sunny days. If we had our way, there would be no storms, no clouds, no sorrows, and no losses. Unfortunately, we don’t have our way, which is why we are so often disappointed, discouraged, and distressed.
Just as bad, the “weather” in our lives changes quickly. Without warning we can encounter devastating circumstances—including the loss of our homes, of those dear to us, of money and possessions, of health, of employment, and even of our faith and hope.
The men and women profiled in the Bible understood this reality. Just ask Job! He was living his life with an abundance of blessings: a wonderful family, wealth to last for generations, and a deep and personal connection to Almighty God. Then, in the blink of an eye, it all came crashing down. You could also ask Hannah, who endured years of frustration and despair because her longing for a child was unfulfilled. Or ask Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet,” who witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and was so filled with grief that he wrote a book called Lamentations. Or ask Paul, who not only carried the burden of his past persecution of God’s people but was also afflicted with all manner of attacks and attempts on his life throughout his ministry on behalf of the Gospel.
You could also ask Jesus, who—even before He was betrayed by His disciples and crucified on a Roman cross—offered this warning: “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).
I don’t know the particulars of your life, but whatever your circumstance, I’m confident you understand these realities as well. We’re living in a world that can change rapidly. One terrorist act, one natural disaster, one health pandemic, one economic collapse, one nuclear weapon—one example of any number of potential crises, and our lives will change overnight.
Our individual lives are just as fragile. The roof over our head may be gone tomorrow. The money in our savings account might disappear. Those dear to us in our immediate family circle may be absent in the near future. The fragility of life alone generates uncertainty and fear in some people.
Perhaps worst of all is the feeling of being abandoned in the midst of all this uncertainty. It’s one thing to endure hardship as part of a group—to navigate difficult waters under the discerning gaze of a competent captain who is able to bring you through any storm and land you at a place of safety. It’s entirely something else to endure that storm on your own. To feel as if no one else sees and no one else cares.
In short, difficult circumstances will always be difficult. But their effect is multiplied tenfold when we feel like God has forgotten us.
So, we need to look honestly at that question: Does God forget about us? Does He lose sight of us? Does He stop caring about the circumstances of our lives and what we are being forced to endure?
Let’s answer that question by looking back at Jesus’ warning in John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation.” In my Bible, there isn’t a period after the word tribulation. There’s a semicolon: “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Praise God for that semicolon! It tells us that all of our losses are temporary and all of our blessings are permanent. We need not cower in fear of the future or worry about the present. Instead, we have a heavenly Captain who has overcome the world and knows the way to lead us through any storm.
David Jeremiah, God Has Not Forgotten You: He Is with You, Even in Uncertain Times (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2021).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the book of Esther. It is based on Max Lucado’s new book, Made for this Moment
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and David Jeremiah.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.
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