I love the delicate crinkle I hear when I turn a page in my Bible. With each turn I feel like I’m pulling back a little of the curtain and seeing more of who God is. I’m humbled, inspired, enthralled.
In the pages of my Bible, I’ve discovered that God is our comforter. God is our hope. God is our redeemer.
These knock-your-socks-off statements about God are absolutely true, but I’ve also realized that these qualities are often most clearly seen through the lens of pain.
The Bible tells us God is our comforter, and life has pain. God is our hope, and life is disappointing. God is our redeemer, and our world is broken. God is our savior, and we are sinners.
Ezra 3 tells the story of people who returned from exile with the mission to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. When the builders finished the foundation, the people came together to celebrate. Ezra 3:11 talks about their joy: “Then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD because the foundation of the LORD’s house had been laid.” The next verse reveals the disappointment: “But many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this temple” (Ezra 3:12).
The people weeping had seen the golden walls, smelled the cedar planks, and experienced the overwhelming grandeur of Solomon’s temple (1 Kg 6). Compared to it, this new one would have seemed like it was an off-brand temple, purchased as a discount store with a coupon.
The difference between “what could have been” and “what is” pierced their hearts with disappointment. I’ve felt that sting before, too.
We all experience the pain of living in a fallen world. Sometimes it’s just dealing with irritating facts of life: houses get messy, workdays drag, cars break, savings accounts shrink. Other times, it’s much bigger. It’s loss and pain that leave scars never fully healed until heaven. Babies die. Cancer spreads. Loneliness aches.
But if we follow the story of the people rebuilding the temple, we pull back more of the curtain to once again see God’s power and grace shining brightly. This is the Lord’s declaration over the new temple in Haggai 2:9: “‘The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,’ says the LORD of Armies. ‘I will provide peace in this place.’”
“I will provide peace…” What powerful words!
God invites us to bring our pain and disappointment into his presence. And then He declares a mighty statement over our broken places: He will make the glory of our future great, even if it looks different from what we expected or ever wanted. He will provide peace.