This week huge catastrophes have hit the world, again.
Jobless reports came out this week, and officials are no longer sure that we are ‘coming out of it’ quite as fast as previously reported.
There is an article in the NY Times – Preoccupations – In Hard Times, Fear Can Impair Decision Making. Hard times cause us all to hold onto what we have – it is a natural fear response.
Hard times tend to strip us to our basic selves. They show us who we are.
There are some people that fascinate me in the Bible. Elijah stood up against a nation, and then ran to the mountain of the Lord because he thought he was alone. 1 Kings 19:4 tells us that he wanted to die. He reached the point of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional exhaustion, and the only thing left to do was to let God refresh him. What would have happened if he had just curled up in a hut somewhere instead of running to the mountain of the Lord? He gave everything he had, and God replenished him.
Next, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo – these guys amaze me. They stood before the most powerful ruler in the world of their time. They weren’t rude or belligerent. They just stood in their beliefs, as respectfully as possible, and chose to honor God. They expected God to do the rest. They didn’t get their miracle until after they had passed through the mouth of the furnace.
Then, you have the woman, caught in adultery, thrown to the ground at Jesus’ feet. How did she find the ability to straighten up enough to look around her and see that her accusers had left? From what deep part of herself did she reach to find her voice to respond to Jesus’ question? Where did she go afterwards? Who gave her a cup of tea and helped her clean up? Did anyone talk to her?
When we see devastation so far away, part of us wants to withdraw – so that we won’t get hurt, so that (our superstition tells us) we won’t be damaged by whatever wrath has been poured out on them. Yet I saw tsunami warnings hitting the US west coast. We aren’t so far away. Devastation is here, it is us.
What brings destruction? For Elijah, it was giving his all to God. For Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo, it was serving God in an impossible situation, for the woman caught in adultery, it was sin – hers and someone else’s. We need to face our fears and put them aside. We are all humans, on planet earth, facing our own type of destruction – some much more cataclysmic than others.
It isn’t safe to stay away, it is the equivalent of curling up in a hut. Out of these times of destruction come new perspectives and new opportunities. We can be a part of it, if we are willing to lend a hand, to be there and walk alongside.
Do you want to be the one to give a cup of tea and help put lives back together? Do you want to be at the dinner with Shadrack, Meshack and Abednigo and hear about their time in the furnace and how they saw the face of the Son of Man? Do you want to walk with Elijah and see his new, fresh take on life and ministry? As people emerge from disasters, they bring stories of God’s deliverance and fresh perspectives on life and ministry – they see life differently because of what they have been through.
We learn not just from our own past, but from the stories of others. We have much to learn from those who have faced these disasters and lived.