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Pastor's Notes

Does God Really Care?

Many of us can point to God’s love and intervention in our lives that brought about our conversion experience, but what about in the years before that? Even when you were a young child? I’m not focusing here on the fact that you might have had good parents or an influential grandparent that prayed for you. Good people that influenced one’s early life is certainly evidence of God’s care. However, what I’m asking is, can you recall personal evidence that God was in your life in your early and middle childhood, teen years, and so on?

This past Sabbath morning, I was up early to pray. The very first point in my prayers is usually to thank God for His love, compassion, blessings, mercy, and grace. For some reason, it was nearly 45 minutes before I went to the next point on my prayer list. During those 45 minutes I was remembering the little personal evidences from my growing up years that God was there, that he actually cared about me. As I share just a few short personal evidences (there were more), I hope it will trigger such memories for you. Yours are likely to be different than mine, maybe very much so.

The church that my family attended when I was a child was a small church in which over 90% of the members were in families with children. There were more kids than adults at our church. When 13th Sabbath School came around, each of the children’s divisions had ample time for singing and sharing our memory verses with the adult Sabbath School.

In my first recollection of participating up front I was likely 4 years old. I was to recite a short memory verse. I was terrified to speak in front of all the “grown-ups.” My stomach was in knots. I didn’t see any way out of it. As the children were corralled and came out all lined up on the stage, I felt doomed. This was the worst day of my life. I told a boy next to me that I couldn’t do this. He also looked scared, but said, “When your turn comes, just say it. You’ll be able to do it.” When my turn came, just as I opened my mouth a calm came over me, and I spoke with clarity and confidence that wasn’t really me. My parents made such a big deal about being proud of me that it was almost embarrassing. I felt that God had calmed me so that I was able to do well speaking up front. This pattern of great anxiety before speaking and calmness and freedom when speaking repeated itself countless times all through my childhood, teens, and young adult years.

Another time when I felt God’s care in my life in a pretty big way was when I was 11 years old. I had a truly great teacher in the 6th grade. She inspired us to study our Sabbath School lessons and have time for personal prayer. However, my family never had worship together. I don’t recall exactly if my mother suggested it first or if I did, but I was delighted when we began to have family worship. My dad would read from a devotional and then one person would pray. It was short, but it set a new tone for our family.

There were nine members in our family and my Dad didn’t have a great job so we were rather poor. The television stopped working, and my dad said that we couldn’t afford to buy a new one. We spent more time reading books, playing outdoors, and actually getting along better with each other. It was the best year of my childhood. All year I sensed God’s personal care for me and the whole family. Unfortunately, our family didn’t stay with it. And unfortunately, I also dropped my personal prayer and study time. I was quite distracted during my teen years, but never totally lost the sense that God cared for me.

When I was 16 years old attending Pioneer Valley Academy (a Seventh-day Adventist boarding high school in Massachusetts), I got into serious trouble for which they were going to send me home. Expulsions and suspensions were usually for drugs, smoking, drinking, and seriously inappropriate intimacies with the opposite gender. For me it was being excessively disrespectful and mouthy. I was angry and just wouldn’t let up. Finally, they said that with the attitude that I had, I couldn’t be a student there anymore. At that point, I didn’t really care. However, my parents were away on a trip and couldn’t be reached (before the days of cell phones) so the school couldn’t send me home that night. The Administration Committee would meet the next day to decide my case.

In my dorm room I lay awake in my bed thinking. I realized that I deserved to be expelled. I knew that I could go to another school so no big deal, right? But I realized that my anger, disrespect, and mouth would go with me. I knew that that was the real problem. Between midnight and 2:00 AM my thoughts became a discussion with God. The basic point was this: No matter where I went to school, I needed a new resolve to act right, to be respectful, to actually be a Christian, and to do my best in my classes. I knew that I hadn’t even tried to live up to my potential. I vowed to God that I would change and asked Him to help me. I remember feeling really good about it. The presence of God was in that room that night. God really cares about mouthy teen-agers.

The next morning the school administration was to meet. Before that, I had a meeting with the deans. They expected me to defend myself, to argue, to blame others, and to have every excuse imaginable. They expected a fairly lengthy encounter. I quietly and humbly admitted that I was way out of line; that I was totally in the wrong. They asked me what they should do with me. I simply and quietly said that I deserved to be expelled, but that I needed to change my attitude and behavior for my own good, and that whatever school that I went to I was going to be a different person. They hardly knew how to respond to me.

I never did hear one word from the administrative committee, the deans, or the principal. I just kept going to classes and to work. The head dean must have convinced the committee that I needed a chance to demonstrate that there was change of heart. A couple months later, I became a 4.0 student and was enjoying giving them ample evidence that they had made the right choice to give me a chance. My parents were never even told about it. So, I have personal evidence that God was looking out for me in those early years.

Think about your life. Where do you see the hand of God even in the little things?

Fred Dana, Associate Pastor


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