My weather app says our local temperature will hit 100 degrees today. This comes after a long stretch without rain and several consecutive days in the upper nineties.
Did I mention? Exactly one week ago our air-conditioning unit quit.
Holy 100 degrees. Jesus, come quickly. I’m home with three pre-teen children in a house that feels like a sauna. Moods are heating up, not the least of which is mine. We’re a hot mess.
For the last several days we have lived without oven, stove, and lights, doing whatever we can to keep from increasing the inside temperature, even if it means eating and working in the semi-dark. Blinds and curtains are pulled over all the windows, and fans are running on high in every room. When the heat becomes unbearable, we flee to the basement, which is a whole three degrees cooler.
I might die.
Also? I’m considering sleeping in the unfinished crawl space with all the critters.
In the midst of all my first-world whining, however, I’ve developed a fresh awareness of and compassion for those who live without my many modern-day comforts. Far too many of our brothers and sisters live without air-conditioning in summer and heat in winter, let alone a home to call their own. As hot as I am inside my house, a quick walk to the mailbox reminds me that at least I have an “inside” to retreat to. If I were to spend more than fifteen minutes without shade, I’d end up dehydrated, blistered, and burned.
Even a too-hot house still provides shelter from the sun.
I may sweat through every item of clothing I own over the next week, but I will not die. And eventually a new AC will be installed.
I have far more than I need. I am rich, and I know it.
My wealth extends far beyond my material possessions and everyday comforts, but too often I forget — especially when life gets hard and the intensity of daily living starts to rise. When my health declines and my children melt down, when my responsibilities outweigh my rest, and when my relationships feel cold. And, worst of all, when the many unknowns about my future make me sweat with worry and fear.
I forget I have a covering, a shelter of shade even in the middle of scorching heat:
I may sweat, but I will not burn.
Then the LORD will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.
Isaiah 4:5-6 (NIV)
God is our shelter, our shade in the heat and covering in the storm. But did you notice? Nowhere are we promised we’ll escape the heat and rain. God’s presence with us doesn’t mean He’ll spare us every inconvenience and struggle, every pain and discomfort. Instead, His nearness means we have somewhere to retreat and rest and hide, even when the worst of life comes.
We need nearness even more than deliverance.
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time lately studying God’s presence throughout the Bible. The reason is simple: when life gets hard, when the struggle of every day life increases, I don’t always “feel” God with me. And when the feelings fade, I start to doubt He’s with me, and I fear He’s left me.
But I’m (slowly) learning a very important lesson:
The presence of pain doesn’t mean the absence of God.
Like a mountain that cannot be moved, God’s presence is steadfast. This means you and I have a twenty-four-seven haven when things heat up. We may weep over what we’ve lost, struggle through our impossibilities. But — and this is important — we won’t be alone in it. God is with us, always. And that means you and I can either set our focus on the temperature gauge or learn to lean into the One who offers His shade.
By the way, I just checked the weather. Turns out it’s going to be even hotter tomorrow, likely to break every record in Denver’s history.
But tomorrow is too far away to make worry worth the effort. Today has enough to handle. And besides, God’s presence is my shelter, His glory is my canopy. In spite of the heat, I’ll be okay. He is with me. Whether I’m a hot sweaty mess or not.
You too, friend. You, too.