The winner of Most Repeated Comment I’ve Heard the past two weeks is, “What’s going on? It feels like the world has gone mad!”
Colorado’s Waldo Canyon wildfire swallowed up 27 square miles of woodland and 347 homes–one of more than 50 areas around the country where wildfires raged.
In one week alone, more than 2,000 high temperature records were broken in the U.S. as an historic heat wave left hundreds of thousands without power and took the lives of at least 60 people.
Tropical storm Debby–the fourth major tropical storm of 2012–dropped 20″ of rain on Florida and spawned 21 tornadoes, even though hurricane season didn’t officially start until July 1st.
Citizens in Egypt and Mexico elected new Presidents in response to escalating drug wars and genocide. In the Middle East, a brokered peace initiative offered a glimmer of hope that Syria’s bloodbath may soon end.
Those are just the most top-of-mind headlines. Our world seems to be convulsing with pain and destruction.
Some argue the world has always been full of pain and destruction; the Internet simply dumps it all into our inbox in real-time massive doses. Others say we’ve made terrible individual and collective choices and the natural laws of the universe are playing out the consequences. Still others insist God has allowed some of these things to happen to get our attention, which raises a whole different batch of uncomfortable questions.
Answers to the big why questions are above my pay grade, but if you read the Bible, if you know anything about history, and if you pay attention to what’s going on in the world, some things are obvious:
* We’re not in control of the Big Picture. Have you been slapped around enough yet by life to figure that out? There is only one Master of the Universe and it’s not us.
* God has plans for times like this. It’s his chance to come alongside, when we feel most vulnerable, and re-establish his pre-eminence and influence in our lives. We tend to pay more attention when times are tough.
* When nothing makes sense and we can’t figure out what comes next, it’s a good time to review whether our relationship with God needs a tune-up. Do you see him as the Divine Wus, who benignly pats children on the head and spouts platitudes? Or do you see him as God, the disciplinarian and great Cosmic Thumb, only interested in spoiling your fun? Is he God, the aloof and scary deity, who performs miracles when he feels like it…but never gets around to you?
God wants you to know he is also the passionate, lovesick Creator who’s been eternally obsessed with making possible an intimate relationship with him, even when you weren’t interested. Wilderness seasons, when nothing makes sense, give him the chance to draw you close and remind you that you are his Beloved and always will be.
Remember when God freed the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery and promised them a new home, a Promised Land, that would flow with milk honey? They were pumped. Bring it, God!
Years later, when they were still wandering in the wilderness, with the Promised Land nowhere in sight, the true nature of their relationship with God was exposed. They had reduced God to a combination Superman/Santa Claus, who existed to rescue them, feed them, get them to the Promised Land…but not meddle in their lives. When the going got tough, they grumbled and whined and even begged to go back to slavery. It was at least something they knew! They didn’t understand anything out there in the wilderness.
They were missing the point. God was in love with them. They didn’t have to understand everything as long we they were with him. He would get them where they needed to be…and right on time. But, first, there would be a detour to straighten out a few things.
When they reached Mt. Sinai (the “mountain of God”), the furthest point from the Promised Land, God met Moses face-to-face to renew his covenant relationship with his people and remind them they, too, had responsibilities, if they were to honor and nurture the intimate relationship he offered. (Click here to read Hosea 2:14-20 in The Message, another time in history when God wooed his people all over again.)
No one enjoys the wilderness. It feels like we’ve lost a lot of ground and a lot of time. What we want is the Promised Land! But God can use the wilderness to expose the ways our relationship with him may have gotten off track, to remind us of his love for us, and to show us what’s our part in keeping that love relationship alive.
What happens in the wilderness can change everything.