I was talking to my sister the other day. She has Post-Concussion Syndrome, which means she can hardly move, can’t look at screens, is constantly dizzy; essentially, she is stuck in bed doing almost nothing. Her world has been stripped away from her – she can’t do her job or look after her kids, or coach netball, or any of the things she used to delight in doing. It will be a very long time before she can find any normality again. And do you know what she said to me? She told me something amazing: “When everything has been stripped away, and there is nothing left, there is always God.”
There are quite a few stories in the Bible where the same sort of thing happens, when God is there while everything else is stripped away. The first one that comes to mind is rather obvious – Job. He lost everything, and I’m not kidding. Job makes my sister’s situation look like a cakewalk! We see him in the book of Job: sitting in the dust, covered in festering sores, listening to his friends offer all sorts of reasons why his trouble was his own fault. We see that he had nothing left, and all around him seemed dark. And then, in chapter 38, a new player entered the scene. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm.” Though the Lord never directly answered Job’s questions and accusations, He was there, talking to him, answering him in His own, immutable way. In the emptiness, in the nothingness, God was there with Job.
We see this happen again with Jacob, though not quite as dramatically! Jacob was a trickster, who essentially stole his brother’s birthright and rightful blessing. He should have been happy, and incredibly wealthy, after securing all of that for himself! Instead, in Genesis 28 we see him fleeing for his life, lying down to sleep at Bethel with a rock for his pillow. He lost his home and his family and was forced to go and beg his uncle for help. It’s easy for us to overlook just how much of a low point this was in Jacob’s life. And here we see the grace of God – at this ultimate low, after all of his scheming and trickery, God came and met Jacob and offered him a different birthright – the blessing of Abraham passed through Isaac was now being bestowed upon him. Not as the heir, nor as the swindler, but as the recipient of a free gift of God. When Jacob woke up in the morning, his physical circumstances had not changed, but his outlook had. God was there, in the nothingness, with Jacob.
Sometimes we need this stripping away. When we have what we need (or think we need!) it’s so easy to forget about relying on God, isn’t it? Imagine what Joseph’s story would have been like if he had not lost everything. When his brothers sold him into slavery, they stripped everything from him, but God was still there, still used that moment of evil to save not only Joseph but thousands of people from famine (Genesis 50:20). Though we can’t always see the good coming out of a given situation, we can be sure of one thing: God is there. He has promised that He will “never leave you nor forsake you (Deut. 31:6), a promise that Jesus reiterated (Matthew 28:20). That’s the beautiful thing about those moments of nothingness: we find that there is still God, and we find that that is enough.
Where do you put your hope? I know how easy it is to put it in the security we make for ourselves: possessions, family, financial stability and so on. Think about those things in your life that you are certain you can’t live without. Now (and here’s the hard part!) let them go. I don’t mean give up everything you have, but rather let go of the security that they give you. Hold them loosely. Because there is only one thing in life that you truly need, only one thing that you can be certain of. And when those moments come, when all the earthly things are stripped away and nothing is left, you will find Him there. All of the comfort and security you need is in the Lord; nothing but Him will ever be enough. Praise Him.
SONG: Empty and Beautiful by Matt Maher – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE5QdEgQw9Y