Last week, I covered the first of three matters that one should rethink when life goes the wrong way. I would encourage you to read the article before this one, but the choice is yours. The first matter was rethinking our fears. Typically we do or obey who or what we fear the most. And we need to take a good long look at who or what we fear. But on top of rethinking our fears, let us rethink our faith. It is not enough to be in awe of God. We must also believe in Him and believe that He has our good in mind. Always! Verses like Romans 8.28 and Genesis 50.20 used to be comforting to us, but after hearing them a hundred times they often become trite. And when they become trite they become unbelievable.
Too many mishaps, too many failures, too many times being wrong, and too many hopes dashed have left us feeling that God has abandoned us, or worse, God enjoys watching us suffer. He has some type of vendetta against us. Could that have been what the people in Jerusalem believed? Maybe so. Their fears paralyzed them, and they blamed it on the timing, implying God’s not in the work. Maybe they thought that God didn’t care anymore.
After sixteen to eighteen years of not having done much to rebuild the temple, Haggai (by the word of the LORD) is telling the people to get going. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD,” (Hag 1.2, ESV). The foundation had been lying there for nearly two decades. The decree had been given by the king of the largest empire to that point in history and yet it wasn’t time. This is what the people said, but it wasn’t really what they meant. They had encountered opposition and were scared away. To confront the opposition would have been difficult. To continue in the rebuilding efforts would have been frustrating and perhaps, in their minds, dangerous. So they looked at God–who is all sovereign–and said what so many people say today: it must not be God’s will for us to do this quite yet. We’ll just wait for Him to direct us. Like the story goes of the man on his roof with flood waters rising who had a boat and a helicopter come to rescue him, he kept sending them away because God was going to save him, so Cyrus was prophesied about 200 years beforehand to send Israel back to rebuild and Israel was given permission, a royal decree, to rebuild the temple, but they said it wasn’t time yet. God was silent, or so it seemed; though nearly everything was pointing toward rebuilding, one hiccup made them forget God’s sovereignty and His care.
The story is told of how a Cherokee boy had to go through a rite of passage to be considered a man. His father takes him into the forest, blindfolds him and leaves him alone. He is required to sit on a stump the whole night and not remove the blindfold until the rays of the morning sun shine through it. He cannot cry out for help to anyone. Once he survives the night, he is a MAN.
He cannot tell the other boys of this experience because each lad must come into manhood on his own. The boy is naturally terrified. He can hear all kinds of noises. Wild beasts must surely be all around him. Maybe even some human might do him harm. The wind blew the grass and earth, and shook his stump, but he sat stoically, never removing the blindfold. It would be the only way he could become a man!
Finally, after a horrific night, the sun appeared and he removed his blindfold. It was then that he discovered his father sitting on the stump next to him. He had been at watch the entire night, protecting his son from harm.
It is not that God isn’t there; He is there, but often is silent so that you may grow into maturity. Haggai reminded the people of this: “Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, ‘I am with you, declares the LORD,” (Haggai 1.13, ESV).
In my Bible I wrote these next few verse references down, and I would encourage you to do the same: Gen 26.24, Gen 28.15, Ex 3.12, Josh 1.5, Jud 6.16, Isa 41.10, Matt 28.20. Each of these verses is God telling His people that He is with them or He will be with them. He tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. By saying that He is with us is to say that He is not only present but that He is supporting us (that is not to say that God supports our sin, but He does support His children; there is a difference). As Scott Sauls wrote, “He wants us to know that he is with us and for us in what’s broken about us and around us. He shares our situation.”
 Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines, (Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Publishing, 2015), p. 161.