I was taken aback, not just by the question, but by who was asking. Paul was homeless. Yet, he was a regular at the weekly neighborhood Bible study. Tonight’s topic was When Your Life Falls Apart, and Paul had just been sharing in our small group about the hardships of the last several years – losing his job, not being able to find more work, getting kicked out of his apartment because he couldn’t pay the rent, and now having to live in a government shelter.
What did I know about Paul’s life? How could I possibly relate to him? But as he searched my face. It was as if he could sense something below the surface – that even though we were from vastly different situations, we both understood what it was to suffer loss.
“Yes, I have doubted God,” I responded. “There was a time when I was very angry at God.” Taking a deep breath, I was suddenly flooded with painful memories from that terrible night six years ago. The phone call at 3am. Jennifer’s trembling voice on the line, telling me that her sister, Libby, had been killed in a head-on car crash. The shock and disbelief. The angry questions – “Why God? Why did You let this happen???”
“I felt like everything in my life came crashing down that night,” I told Paul and the others in my small group. “I was grieving. I was angry. Nothing seemed to make sense. But in the end, the one thing I clung to was that God was still with me, and He still loved me. I had to trust Him, even when I didn’t understand.”
Paul nodded sympathetically, still looking at me intently. “I could tell something was bothering you tonight,” he said at last, concern in his voice. “I could see it in your eyes.”
Mumbling that I’d be right back, I escaped to the bathroom, locked the door behind me and cried, overwhelmed by what had just happened. I’d come to this meeting thinking I would minister to people like Paul. But tonight, just by listening and caring and understanding my pain, a homeless man in Germany had ministered to me.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4