God, where are you in THIS?

I recently spent a week in Las Vegas for a conference I was attending. This was my third time in Vegas. The first time was in 2008 for a marathon. I said that I would never go back. We went back in 2010 for another marathon (long story but it had something to do with my severe OCD).

Once again, I said that I would never go back.

Well, I went back.

And I experienced faithfulness. I experienced truth.

The first morning I woke up early to go for a run before the conference. However, I wanted to wait until the sun started to come up before I left my hotel. As I waited for the sun to peak over the mountains from the 25th floor of my hotel, I thought about which direction I would run. My hotel was on the north end of the strip so I decided to run south down Las Vegas Boulevard to the very south end of the strip to Mandalay Bay. I needed 7 miles and Mandalay Bay was about 3 ½ miles from where I was at.

[ View from the 25th floor at the Encore ]

[View from the 25th floor at the Encore]

I left my hotel and began running. I was listening to Aaron Shust's album, Morning Rises, on this particular run. I have 1,773 songs on my iPod. You would think with that many songs, I would never have problems finding something to listen to. However, I spend hours running each week so often times I scroll through my music and think to myself, "I don't want to listen to that, I just listened to that".

Was there a reason why I picked this album this morning? Yes, Aaron begins with an "A" and he is the first one listed when I go to "Artists" in my library. I didn’t feel like scrolling through all of my music.

About 32 seconds into my run and after the instrumental intro, I get this overwhelming feeling of why I picked this specific album today.

"God Of Brilliant Lights" begins playing. I am running in a city full of lights. Have you ever seen Las Vegas lit up at night? I would suggest that brilliant could be used to describe the experience.

[ brilliant lights ]

[brilliant lights]

So here I am running and this song comes on and I begin feeling all warm and fuzzy that God had me pick this song at this exact moment for me to experience. It was almost as if He was smiling down on me that morning. This is what the chorus says.

The God of brilliant lights is shining down over us. Breaking through the darkness, covering all the earth.

This feeling wouldn't last long. 3 minutes and 40 seconds to be exact. As soon as the song was over, the warm and fuzzy feeling turned to sorrow and anger.

As I would cross each street, my feet would step on advertisements from the night before promoting an escort service or a strip club. On a normal street corner anywhere else in the United States, there would be newspaper boxes with today’s paper. In Vegas, the newspaper boxes are filled with pornography.

I was overwhelmed by sadness. So I began to pray.

I prayed for the men and women that handed out the cards the night before. I prayed that they could find a job so that they wouldn't have to stand on a street corner handing out information that promoted pornography. I prayed for the men and women working in the strip clubs and the escort services.

A few minutes later, I passed a man in his 60's with a young woman that couldn't have been more than 25 years old hanging on his arm. Her outfit gave me the impression that she was working and the man was her client. They did not look like they belonged together. It was not his wife. It was not his daughter. It was 6:15 in the morning.

I was overwhelmed by sadness. So I began to pray.

I prayed for this man. What’s his story? What life did he escape at home to be in Vegas with an escort? I prayed for this young woman. Is she trapped in this profession?

A few blocks later, I passed three young women walking on the sidewalk. They barely had enough skirt to cover things that needed to be covered. As I passed them I could only wonder if they were out working all night. They looked out of place. It was 6:15 in the morning.

I was overwhelmed by sadness. So I began to pray.

I prayed that the women would realize that they have value. I prayed for an encounter with Jesus to release them from the sexual bondage they are trapped in.

I prayed for the man wandering back to his hotel after a night of drinking and gambling.

I prayed for the people playing the slot machines at 6:15 in the morning.

I was overwhelmed by sadness and said out loud, “God, where are you in THIS?” My sadness turned to anger. Why is sin celebrated in this city?

God, where are you in THIS?

While I was running, I thought that my GPS watch was not tracking my progress correctly. I reached Mandalay Bay at about the time it would normally take me to run 3 ½ miles. I figured I would turn around and head back to my hotel even though my watch was acting up. Right before I turned around, I looked up ahead and saw the famous “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign. I had already seen it during my previous trips so I really had no desire to see it again.

I had ALREADY turned around to head back to my hotel when I heard God whisper in my ear to TURN back around and go run to the sign. So I did.

I turned around.

See, one of the silly quirks that one of my running partners and I share is “slapping the sign”. Anytime we run together, we find a sign to slap. I’m not sure how it started; it just did. So I turned around because God told me to and I was going to slap the famous sign.

[ the iconic Las Vegas sign ]

[the iconic Las Vegas sign]

As I approached the sign, I took a few steps back to get a good look at it.

I was stunned by what I saw when I looked up.

I noticed something within the word “WELCOME”. It looked like graffiti. But I looked closer.

It wasn’t graffiti. Each letter of the word, “WELCOME”, was designed to look like a silver dollar. I looked even closer. On each letter, I could make out the words…

[ A silver dollar within each letter ]

[A silver dollar within each letter]

In God We Trust.

God reached down and spoke truth to my soul. Not five minutes earlier, I was verbally asking, “God where are you in THIS?”

I smiled. God had me turn around to tell me this.

“Bryan, I have been here the whole time. Why did you doubt me? I AM here.”

You might be reading this and you are currently in the same state of mind that I was in during my run.

God, where are you in THIS?

Your marriage is nearly over. God, where are you in THIS?

You keep looking at that website that you know you shouldn’t be looking at. God, where are you in THIS?

You continue to take the pain medication to cover the hurt and pain. God, where are you in THIS?

Your job is in jeopardy and you have 2 young kids at home, a mortgage to worry about, and bills that are stacking up. God, where are you in THIS?

You are thinking that there has to be more to life than how you are currently living. God, where are you in THIS?

With the strip providing a backdrop to the sign, I realized that God was here before sin was here. God is here during the sin. God will be here after the sin. God is here during our brokenness. God is here during our hurt.

The war has already been won. Sin and death were defeated when Jesus rose from the grave.

I merely needed to look up to see that God was there the whole time. This might be where you find yourself as you read this. God is there. He loves you. He wants you to trust in Him.

You need to turn around and go where you might not want to go and look up.

He will give you strength when you cannot go another day. He will give you peace when the anxiety keeps you up at night. He will give you hope when you feel that all hope is lost.

During a 7 mile run in Las Vegas, I experienced faithfulness and truth. My prayer for you as I write this is that you will allow yourself to experience the same.

In God We Trust.

There is hope,

Bryan #anguishedhearts