Trouble

Theology
God meets us where we are—in the human condition.
“For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14 NKJV).

“As the weights of the clock, or the ballast in the vessel, are necessary for their right ordering, so is trouble in the soul-life.” ~FB Meyer

God allowed trouble in the life of Job—on purpose. He allowed Satan to molest him. Even God admitted that this was unfair: “You move Me against him without cause” (Job 2:3), showing that an overriding Providence not only governs the affairs of life but takes responsibility for them.

God allowed trouble in the life of Joseph—on purpose. Joseph, through no fault of his own, wound up in prison. Long after the ordeal was over, Joseph told those who had wronged him, “You thought evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), showing that Providence can hide behind the seeming nastiness of man.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like trouble. But sometimes that is the way God chooses to reveal Himself. If it were not for trouble, how would we know Him?

One spring day, many years ago, my husband and I had taken off work early, and gotten the children out of school, to make a day trip into the outback. It was a pretty, sunny day. The sky was blue, with only a hint of a cloud. The air had just the right amount of nip to make breathing refreshing. And it felt good to be sailing down the interstate in our comfortable car.

Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, the world lurched. The car engine stalled at high speed, and everything under the hood stopped working.

We had no idea what had happened, but the car was immobile, stranded in the right lane of the interstate. My husband manhandled it to the shoulder, then looked for a place to go for help. He climbed a fence, went to a farmhouse, and called for a wrecker. When the fellow came, he told us: “There are a lot of shysters in this area. You’re lucky. You got the best man around here.”

He took us to a gas station that was closed. The place was clean, with a big pavement area. His crew had left for the day. He’d have to call them back in for overtime. He also ordered himself a dinner. “You folk had any dinner?” he asked. We shook our heads. He ordered us each a meal too. “Gonna be awhile,” he said.

I didn’t wait for the crew or the assessment. I immediately phoned for backup—a relative, some miles down the road, who could come pick me up, avail me of her car, and so complete my journey. The family may have been with me, but this was no pleasure trip. I was delivering some promotional materials to a pastor. With a little help I could still make my seven o’clock appointment.

My relative, Dede*, and her husband came. It was decided that her husband would stay with my husband and our car, while she and I went on ahead in her car. If our car was fixed before we women returned, the men would wait for us at the station.

Dede and I had not been gone long before the weather changed. Sunny skies gave way to light rain, then twilight. I was fine until we left the interstate. Then, there was no route sign anywhere. Having no idea where we were or which way to go, I began to panic. Two women (moms with children) alone in the middle of nowhere. What was I thinking?

“We’re not alone,” Dede said confidently. “God is with us.”

I drove into the driveway of a casual house and honked the horn. They could come out to us. “Do you know where …?” Three redlights that way, then so many blocks this way, then that way … Anybody writing this down? How am I supposed to remember all that?

I happened on a flashing amber. Do flashing ambers count? I was lost again. Still no route sign anywhere. Evidently the state never expected anyone but locals to chance this area.

Frustrated, I said to Dede, “Do you see that car? I don’t care where that driver is headed, I’m following him.”

When he went straight, I went straight. When he turned right, I turned right. When he turned left, I turned left.

Finally, he turned into a carport, and I bore down on his taillights. He turned off his car and stepped out, wearing a suit and a hat and carrying a Bible in his hand. “May I help you?” I told him we were lost and asked about our route. Smiling, he pointed to a road within sight of his house. “It’s right there.”

I was shaken. When I said, “I don’t care where that driver is headed, I’m following him,” did God ordain what came out of my mouth? Or was that an angel?

The farther west we went, the more the weather changed. Now it was snowing. Then it let up, and we could see the road again. Then I remembered something I should’ve known all along, but had forgotten. We had crossed into a new time zone. It meant I had another hour. Grace.

Finally, I reached the rendezvous point: the only fast food restaurant at the foot of a mountain. I went in for coffee, but my contact was nowhere in sight. I’d missed him. I was so ragged I was almost to cry, when someone drove up in a pickup. He was apologetic. “It was so foggy on the mountain,” he said, “I thought I’d missed you. I’m so glad you’re still here.”

I’m glad you came. On a night like this.

I went through the spill and gave him the promotional materials. In his part of the world, the fog was lifting, which would make his return easier; but Dede and I still had miles of interstate. The air was now cold and wintry, laced with fog. I couldn’t get over the various weather we’d encountered: sun, rain, drizzle, snow, fog ….

When we reached the gas station, the sweaty, exhausted crew was still not finished. They’d been working on our car for hours. What could possibly have taken that long?

The problem was a plastic timing gear buried inside a metal engine. Who had ever dreamed up that? The replacement part was metal.

Because it was so late, now about midnight, I told Dede and her husband to go on home, that we’d wait for our car. While we were waiting, my son told me the crew had pulled the engine, spread it on the pavement, gotten inside of it, performed car surgery, and were now reassembling it. My husband was standing guard, watching everything.

Finally, about two o’clock the next morning, we paid the relatively inexpensive tab with a credit card and left. Not many miles down the road, the car died again. The hood was belching steam. “Oh, no!” my husband cried in despair. “They didn’t tighten the hoses. All the water has leaked out of the radiator.”

From a nearby waterfall my husband was attempting to replenish the water when a trucker stopped to help. “Vapor lock,” he told us. Then, while he tightened the hoses, he explained how to coax water back into the radiator.

Finally we were on the road still yet again. What a relief when we finally saw the lights of the city set against the dark hills, the interstate winding up and over Far Ridge! “Hey, the heater’s working!” More relief to be home again, even if it was four o’clock in the morning. I had a couple hours sleep before staggering into work the next day.

I worked for a Christian organization. That morning at chapel a familiar soloist stepped to the podium, and what came out of her mouth was a song I’d never heard her sing: “God Walks the Dark Hills.” I smiled at the Southern Gospel. This woman was usually more sophisticated than this.

God walks the dark hills
The highways, the by-ways
He walks on the bellows
Of life’s troubled sea
He walks in the cold, dark
Shadows at midnight
God walks the dark hills
To guide you and me.

Refrain
God walks the dark hills
To guide my footsteps
He walks everywhere
By night and by day
He walks in silence
On down life’s highway
God walks the dark hills
To show me the way.

And God walks in the storm
The rain, the sunshine
He walks in the shadows
Or through glimmering lights
Helps us up mountains
Cross rivers and valleys
God walks the dark hills
To guide you and me
. ~Audra Czarnikow (1969)

Then I began to weep. It was the gamut of weather that struck me. And Dede’s words, “We’re not alone. God is with us.” I had been in those dark hills last night, and God had been there. It was a direct message. For me.

Later my husband and I talked with our regular mechanic, whom we knew personally. “I couldn’t have done that job for less than $300, at regular pace, no overtime, no rush job.” We’d paid $169, including our dinner. God had gotten us the best.

“Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them.” ~Charles H Spurgeon

* Not the real name

Copyright © 2013 Alexandra Lee

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