Dr. Harold Sala
Guidelines For Living
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; and when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you, for I am the LORD, thy God, the Holy One of Israel.
When I was in Jerusalem years ago, our Jewish guide began to tell about his birth in Germany and the persecution that followed in the early days of World War 2. With growing emotional intensity, he told how his father was seized by the Gestapo and never heard from again. The family escaped to another country in Europe. With growing anger, the tempo of his conversation increased, and then almost as though he was venting some of his wrath, he said, “Where was God when the 6 million Jews were cremated?” It was an old question. Where is God in times of disaster? Where was God when 4 million Cambodians were slaughtered in 1975 and 1976? Where was God when men and women were slaughtered in the other conflicts?
Thousands of years ago some of my Jewish friends’ ancestors were facing a difficult period of trial. The Jewish people faced the prospect of captivity in Babylon. Families were being torn apart. Lives disrupted. And God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you; and when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you, for I am the LORD, thy God, the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 43:2‑3, KJV).
During another time of national disaster, the prophet Nahum said, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows them that trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7, KJV). Right here, we find a key that helps us understand God’s position in times of disaster. “He knows them that trust in Him.” What does that mean? Certainly, it does not imply that some are spared suffering while others who are less righteous are confronted with it. When a nation suffers, the righteous, or the good man, alongside the evil, suffers the same; but there is a difference. The man who trusts in the Lord finds a strength, a help, an answer that the unbeliever does not have. One man in simple faith casts himself on the mercy of God. He discovers that Nahum is right‑‑God is a stronghold in the day of trouble; the other man, not having anyone to turn to, curses the difficulty and dies in his despair.
Where is God in times of suffering? When my Jewish friend asked about God’s presence when 6 million Jews were cremated, I responded by saying, “He was in the same place He was when His Son was crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem.” There are some questions that will never be fully answered until we stand in the presence of God, but to turn from Him in the day of trouble leaves only bleak despair. Christ never promised deliverance from all difficulty, but He did promise His presence in the time of trouble. He said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we may say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5-6)
And how does this affect your life? Chances are you will never face the mental anguish of our Jewish friend, yet who knows? Nonetheless, you will face suffering, for it comes to all men. You will face times of distress. You will be confronted with pressure, and when these knock at your door you can either turn to Him, who will be a refuge, or face difficulty alone. Trust Him, for you will find the promises of His Word are sure. He will never leave nor forsake you.