I once met a young woman who was going through some difficult times. Her marriage was crumbling, she lost her job, money was melting away with all the bills to be paid. She lamented for her children whom she called, “innocent victims in the middle of my mess.” I learned of all her difficulties when she asked to speak to me, desiring to share the pain that lived in her heart.
As I listened, she told me that Monday thru Friday was spent hitting the pavement, going from one business to another, hoping to be hired; any job would do. Saturdays were spent with her children, trying to make up for their own pain as they listened to their parents argue about their troubles. “Sometimes,” she told me, “I just make a plate of sandwiches and we go outside to have a backyard picnic.” My heart went out to this woman who obviously loved her children and her husband. She was in quicksand and could not dig her way out.
“What do you do on Sunday?” I asked her. She brightened as she told me, “Oh, I always send the children to Sunday School.” “You don’t go yourself?” I asked. “No, that’s the time I do things like wash all the clothes and get our house cleaned for the start of the week. I send the children because I want them to know about God,” she continued, “but deep in my heart, I’m not sure He really cares.”
As gently as I could, I began to talk to her about how much God loves us; He knows our needs, and He longs to provide all the strength and peace and wisdom that we need to get through the anguish of hard days. “Then why doesn’t He help me?” her searching eyes longed to know. “Have you remembered the if?” I asked her.
There are so many times in all of our lives when troubles come to us, and we wonder why God doesn’t help, but we have forgotten the “if.” Let’s look at Matthew 6: This is a beautiful chapter. Jesus tells us how to pray what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” He gives us many encouragements like, “Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.” He says, “If God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t He surely care for you?” Further down in this chapter we come to verses 32 and 33. Jesus says, “Your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and He will give you all you need from day to day…” That’s where we often stop reading. We concentrate on how God will take care for us. We like that part. Then, we are confused when troubles only mount higher and higher. Why? We forgot to pay attention to the rest of the verse. We forgot to read the “if.” Let’s read on: Jesus is telling His listeners that their Heavenly Father knows all their needs and will surely provide for them, “if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of heaven your primary concern.” The “if” in this sentence is vital.
It’s impossible to leave God out of our lives, and then expect Him to be our everything. God is a perfect gentleman. He will not force Himself into any situation. He must be invited in. The woman in our story above had forgotten the importance of “making the Kingdom of heaven her primary concern.” She was making her daily troubles her primary concern. She was on a wheel of no end, spinning faster and faster, out of control. There was no way off, until she stepped to the middle of the wheel, asking God to be the center of her life. As she began to lean on Him, and learn His ways, she began to sense the peace she had longed for. She began to have clarity of mind to recognize God’s own wisdom as He led her. She had a renewed courage that she had long ago forgotten she ever had. Life took on a joy, even in the midst of troubles, that she never thought possible.
Let’s not forget the “if.” It makes all the difference in the world.