Mission Devotional - November 14, 2016

Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the grace and the strength to trust your heart, even when we can't see your hand. Amen.

Scripture: Luke 7:11-17

Journal: How are you like the widow of Nain? Where is God in the midst of the pain in your life? How do you think he feels about it? Tell him how you are feeling about your pain today, and then listen for his response.

Reflection: Where is God when we are in pain? It is an age-old question. One that, depending on how we answer it, can significantly impact our view of, and our relationship with, God. Because when we are in pain our tendency is to think that God either does not care, or that he is not good. Either he does not care enough to do anything about our suffering, or he can't do anything about it. Or, maybe even worse, he won't do anything about it. All of which leave us either angry and frustrated, or anxious and insecure.

Then along comes Jesus, the one who was sent to reveal to us the heart of the Father. Jesus, since he is God in the flesh, shows us exactly how God feels about our pain. And not only that, he also shows us how God longs to redeem that pain, in his own time and in his own way.

On this occasion Jesus comes across a woman who has just lost her only son, and that after she had already lost her husband. Can you imagine the grief and the sadness and the pain? Maybe you can. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you are there. Life has dealt her two crushing blows back-to-back, and she is left reeling. "Where in the world is God?" she must be asking in the midst of the chaos, "Doesn't he even care?"

Enter Jesus. And when Jesus sees her, immediately his heart goes out to her (NIV). He is heartbroken (The Message). His heart overflows with compassion (NLT). He is moved with love and compassion for her from the very depths of his being. That is how God feels about her pain. That is how God feels about your pain. He is brokenhearted. Her broken life is not at all the way he intended it to be. But, even still, in the midst of her grief, God is able to redeem her pain.

Jesus stops the procession, approaches the coffin, places his hand on it, and calls the young man back to life. The young man sits up and begins to speak. Then Jesus gives the young man back to his mother. God redeems her pain. God brings life out of death, just the way he always does. Tears turn to laughter, sadness to joy, mourning to dancing. And that is the way it will be for your pain as well. Maybe not today, but someday. Someday your pain will be redeemed. Someday your sorrow will be turned to joy. Someday Jesus will tenderly touch your face and wipe away every tear from your eyes. And sorrow and sadness will be no more.

And they were all filled with awe and praised God (NIV), the Scriptures tell us. "God has come to help his people," they said. In fact, he has turned his face towards his people (JBP). God is not distant. He is not disinterested. He is not uncaring. He is not far off. He is right here, right in the midst of our pain.

Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? The only honest answer to that question is that I have absolutely no idea. How does God feel about that pain and suffering, and where is he in the midst of it? The answer to those two questions are a little more clear, all because of Jesus. God is heartbroken over our pain. And he is right in the middle of it. That's why he came to earth in the first place; to both share our suffering and to bear our suffering, that one day it might all be redeemed.

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

Mostafa and Mona Sharkawy's main area of work is the U.K., serving among Arab Muslims. Their goals are to see Arabic churches arise from Muslim background believers, to see new generations of leaders from Muslim believers, and to teach and prepare them for future ministry. Pray today for the Sharkawys and their work with local Arab Muslims.

Cedar Springs adopted Lonsdale Elementary in 2003. Lonsdale, with more than 400 students PreK through 5th grade, only serves the Lonsdale area. Over the years, the racial make-up of the school, whose students are 100% free lunch qualified, has changed to primarily Hispanic and African-American children. Pray today for all of the children that attend Lonsdale Elementary and their teachers. We are grateful that their Safety Patrol students came to CSPC in October and helped to construct the Thanksgiving boxes!

Closing Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you have promised that one day you will turn my mourning into dancing. O how I long for that day! Amen.