How do I respond when trouble comes my way? What is my response to conflict, sickness, fear, injustice, lack of provision?
I have been struck with a repeated refrain found in the book of Revelation when the trumpets are blown and the bowls of judgment are poured out on the earth: “they did not repent.” Note how scripture connects trouble with the God of the universe:
They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory. – Revelation 16:9
In the book of Amos this truth of God in charge of trouble is expressed more personally:
“I gave you cleanness of teeth [famine] in all your cities… yet you did not return to me…” – Amos 4:6
“I also withheld the rain from you… yet you did not return to me…” – Amos 4:7-8
“I struck you with blight and mildew… yet you did not return to me…” – Amos 4:9
“I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt… yet you did not return to me…” – Amos 4:10
“I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me…” – Amos 4:11
Note the repetition of the word “I”. The source of whatever calamity they were experiencing ultimately was not a downturned economy or bad government or global warming or foreign enemies. The God of the heavens is personally drawing a direct correlation between the things that happen in this world and himself.
This is an area the Enlightenment has not served us well. We think horizontally too much, blaming people and events around us, forgetting the vertical dimension, the God who rules over all people and events.
And when we erase the vertical dimension, we forget to pray. I am struck that it seems even God is surprised at that:
The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede… – Isaiah 59:15-16
Is it possible that God brings trouble into my life in part to draw me from this dying world to the far greater reality of himself? And if so, how am I responding?
May it be with increased prayer.
Father, may the fears, the needs, the conflicts I experience this day be springboards to drawing near to you, the one who stills fears, meets needs and addresses conflicts. May your everlasting love supersede and swallow all the present pain and suffering around me. And may I walk with a joy that can only be explained by an eternal God who has called me to be his own.