When things are not going right in our lives, we often say we are not in a good place. Not just a tough time, but something that is so overwhelming it feels like a place. Everywhere you turn is another challenge and difficulty. This is when we feel most alone.
This is the story of Jacob. He was on the run from his brother who he had cheated twice. He alone for first time in his life, away from the mother who protected him.
The only thing he knows is where he is leaving, not where he is going. He has no plan, no home, and no friends. Jacob is in a very bad place.
At night in the wilderness he dreams of a stairway reaching to heaven, with God at the head.
God tells Jacob, no matter where you are in life, I will be there for you, and I will be there for your descendants. Your descendants will be a blessing for the whole world. The whole world, not just people of Israel.
Jacob wakes up and says something strange. He says, “God was in this place, but I did not know it.” I don’t think this refers to geographic location. I think it means that Jacob did not think that God could find him when he was in such a bad place. He thought he had cut himself off from everyone and everything, which is why everything felt so dark.
God is saying to Jacob that the purpose of life is to help everyone realize that no one needs to be alone. God is always there with us. This does not mean God does everything we want. It does mean that God always cares about us, and wants to know how we are doing.
Your worst time in life, when you say you are not in a good place, can still feel like a house of God. You can find meaning when things do not go your way, because there is not a moment of your life that God is not available.
In the Book of Psalms it says, “For God, the darkness is not dark.”
The light is always there, but our sadness and anxiety often blocks it out.
This is why the verse, “God was in this place, but I did not know it.” is on the ark of Adat Shalom Synagogue.
Our congregation is a place to be when you are in a bad or dark place, not just when we are ready to praise or thank God. It is a good place to be when you feel loneliness and anxiety and frustration.
Even when we are just by ourselves, we never have to feel alone, or that we are in a bad place we cannot get out of.
When we come together, no matter what, and when we turn our hearts upward out of the darkness into the light that is always there and when we realize that God is found even in the darkness, we learn that it is always possible to be in a good place in our lives.