I've been reading the book of Job lately. Poor old Job. There were only really three phases in Job's life. Pre-boil, boil and post-boil. At one point he looks back nostalgically to the good old pre-boil days, and remembers addressing the people. He says, "When I smiled at them they could scarcely believe it." One of the things that struck me as I talked to people after a series of meetings one weekend was that lots of them seemed to think that - far from smiling at them - God is somehow out to get them.
We used to know a lad whose mum was ferociously house-proud. She made the family get deckchairs out and sit on them in the living-room so they wouldn't crease the three piece suite. The sort of person who runs around the garden in the autumn trying to catch the leaves before they mess the lawn up. She was a fanatic. Steve liked our house - probably because we - well - tended towards the other end of the spectrum.
One day we bought four very old chairs - all our stuff was third or fourth hand in those days. Local people used to come in and say, "Oh, there's my wardrobe!" or “You’ve got my table!”
Anyway, these four chairs were only about five pence each, and old Steve sat on one. It collapsed beyond repair, and I can still see that lad lying among the wreckage, waiting for Armageddon. In his house you got half-killed for sitting on a chair. He'd destroyed one. We watched his face move from pallid terror through amazement as he realised that we were falling about laughing, to profound relief. He could scarcely believe we were smiling at him. Please - if you're lying amid the wreckage of your life (note the smooth transition to a serious point) sorry to mess about - it is a serious point - don't assume that God's going to put the boot in. You may be amazed to discover that he's smiling at you.