Some Reflections on an Unusual Week (and an Even More Unusual Year)

August 14, 2020

This week the steeple of College Church—the church that I pastor—was blown down by a tornado. I wrote about this on the day it happened and posted my thoughts on Facebook. You can read that here. The event itself made national news, which was something of a surprise to us all. And, the news media got various parts of the story wrong (no, we are not part of Wheaton College).

But all this has me thinking—especially in the context of what is globally the most unusual year, at least since I have been alive. What is our theology of difficulties, troubles, trials and tribulations? For many, there is an unspoken theology that governs their response: when bad things happen, it must have been because they did something bad. However, that equation of responsibility is a simplistic legalism that the Bible rejects. Job, righteous Job, suffered. The Bible teaches us that while suffering is a result of the fallen, broken, and, yes, sinful world in which we all live and of which we are all complicit, there is not a one-to-one correlation between bad stuff happening and bad people being to blame. Instead, each part of this brokenness—our bodies, our economies, our societies, even our churches at times—is intended to be a witness to our need for salvation and to call us to hunger and thirst for God himself and a new world still to come.

So perhaps rather than use up the lion’s share of our energy bemoaning the situation we are in, we should focus our limited resources of attention, intelligence and emotion somewhere else. Instead of drowning in information overload about politics and (if you are in the USA) the disturbing election that is forthcoming; instead of stressing over the variegated opinions concerning the virus and the best way to manage and treat it; instead of focusing on the huge hassle that those of us who are leaders of schools or organizations or churches have to wade through to figure out appropriate responses to each new wave of crisis that hits us; instead of all this stuff being the focus of our energies—and spiraling gradually into a low-hanging energy drain that is (frankly) exhausting, if not downright depressing—instead of all that, maybe we should focus our energies somewhere else.

Where? How about if we used this suffering—difficulty, hassle, trouble, crisis, whatever you want to call it—to cause us to focus where God intends suffering to cause us to focus: on the shortness of this life. On the temporary nature of human achievements. On the preciousness of family and friendship. On the beauty of nature and God’s creation. On the wonder of simply being alive with all the possibilities that each day brings. And most of all, above all, and through all, on what God wants from us all: that is, to focus on him.

When we still our minds and our beating hearts; when we look longingly and quietly and patiently into the face of God in Christ; when we wait; when we listen; when we come to the Bible with a slow dependence waiting for God to speak to us, to show us what he wants from us, to open our eyes that we might behold him; when our energies are focused there (on him), then it may be that we are following the breadcrumbs of suffering out of the maze of depression to the dawning of a bright new light in the face of God.


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