The memory of the night I had to tell a father, over the phone, that his daughter had been murdered only hours before, is embedded deeply in my mind. Nothing prepares us for having to say such words. It is both the privilege and the burden of being invited into the joys and crises of each others’ lives (Galatians 6:2). No one comes away from such an encounter unchanged.
Over the following days I asked all the classic questions: Why? Where were you, God? Where are you God? How can we move on? I can’t say that I came to any new revelations or eureka moments, but God did remind me of an image that was a place of comfort. In the dark moments of my life I often wonder with the Israelites, “Did you bring me all this way to allow me to die?” (Exodus 14:11) In those moments when I can’t tell what is up or down, whether the next step is off a cliff or leading me into a glorious new day, God seems to whisper, “Remember the cloud.”
You remember the cloud that led the people of Israel by day, right? (Exodus 13:21-22)
I recall that cloud, and it strikes me that God still leads. The image of a cloud is fitting during our more difficult days. In times of darkness and despair (when God is near to the broken ones [Psalm 34:18]), I find comfort in the image of the cloud. For when our Maker and Molder is so near and is leading us, our experience is being in the midst of the fog and vapor of God’s presence.
While God is close and at work, we can encounter it as blinding and disorienting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This image of being in the cloud, once I understand it, can kindle my faith. Despite my lack of understanding or ability to know what comes next, I can choose to trust that God’s nearness has enveloped and consumed me in the overwhelming presence and comfort of the cloud that leads us.
To my friends who are struggling these days and to anyone who is reading this simple post, remember, God has not brought you this far to kill you but to keep you. He keeps you close during these difficult days in the shelter and embrace of his presence. A cloud to lead you to the place that is best for you. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
[Photo credit: schristia]