It was one of those days. Besides being in the midst of the COVID pandemic, everything I touched seemed to go bad. I was tired, and I was more than a little bit grumpy. The kicker, however, was when I got to the checkout counter at the local grocery store, mask and gloves intact, with two heaping carts, and… No credit card! Please understand that in those days, I only went to the store when I absolutely had to, I spent as little time as possible there, and then I would return home to wash my clothing, take a shower and disinfected the seats of my car. Now I was going to have to make a double trip in my “COVID” clothing; I was going to have to go into the house “dirty”, find a credit card, and then re-enter that “dirty” zone of the grocery store to pay for my goods. Oh God, where are You?
That’s when a license plate parked on the side of the road caught my attention: PADRE4U. Wait. Padre. That’s Spanish for “Father”…God was using that license plate to speak to me, to remind me that He was right there, always for me, always with me!
I’ve heard so many stories like this. It makes you wonder, doesn’t it? How often does God make Himself known to us? The Bible tells us that He never leaves us or forsakes us: “For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6b NLT); yet when we are in the midst of “stuff”, this promise is hard to remember.
Had I not looked up at just the right moment, however, I would have missed that license plate. How often when I’m feeling low does God reveal Himself to me, but I miss it? What about the beautiful sunrise this morning? God’s artistic handiwork was all over that one; but I was so focused on how tired I was and how much I didn’t want to go out for groceries that I didn’t recognize God’s hand. Then there was the nickel on the pavement just beside my car, perfectly visible when I opened my car door. Weren’t the words, “In God we trust” staring right up at me? Did I even take the time to realize God was trying to get my attention? To remind me that He was there amidst my “stuff”?
Genesis 28:10-22 records a beautiful story. After participating in a vicious scheme of deceit to steal his brother’s blessing, Jacob is fleeing for his life. How low he must have felt! Yet despite Jacob’s sin, God looked down from Heaven and love Jacob enough to send him a dream: “As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants.’” (Genesis 28:12-13 NLT). Jacob took great comfort from this dream. He was so touched that the next morning, he “…got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named that place Bethel (which means ‘house of God’), although it was previously called Luz.” (Vs. 18-19 NLT).
Fast forward 20+ years. Jacob has returned to Canaan a rich man, with flocks and herds and wives and sons; nonetheless, it is a low time in his life for his sons have just completely annihilated an entire city (see Gen. 34). God appears to Jacob another time: “Then God said to Jacob, ‘Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.’” (Genesis 35:1 NLT).
Why did God want Jacob to return to Bethel of all places? Because He wanted Jacob to remember… He wanted him to remember how He reaches out to us when we are in our lowest moments. He wanted Jacob to remember how He loves us despite our sin. Jacob’s response? Once again, he “… set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.” (Genesis 35:14 NLT)
The next time you are caught up in a bunch of “stuff”, problems that keep you from seeing God around you, I challenge each one of you today to do two things:
1. Keep on the watch for these little signs of God’s love for you. They are NOT there by accident. They are placed there by a loving Heavenly Father Who wants to remind you that He is there, that you can put your trust in Him.
2. Record these incidences in some way. Then, the next time you are feeling down, reread the signs of God’s love. Revisit the place where He reached out to you. Be like Jacob and return to your “Bethel”.
God loves you, friends! “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (John 3:1a NLT). And He loves you enough to want you to find Him in the midst of your difficulties. Watch for Him today.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll see a license plate that reads PAPA4U!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two adult boys, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, The Illustrator, a four-times-a-week internet newsletter, and the Sermon Illustrator website, all with Answers2Prayer Ministries.