9.07.2008

Devastating

When bad stuff happens, there are a number of ways people tend to respond:

* Doubt God. "I wonder where God is in all this."

* Rage at God. "How could God have allowed this to happen?"

* Look on the bright side. "Well, it could've been worse."

* Insulate yourself from harm. "Yeah, I try not to think about that too much."

I have responded in all of these ways. None of them are truly
satisfying. We were made - literally - to respond in a different way,
a way that is consistent with who we are and who are Maker is:

* Pain is real. "I hurt."

* God is good. "I can trust Him even and especially in the wilderness."

* He is to be feared. "I am reminded that we are flawed and He is
not, that He is powerful and we are not."

* He hears us. "Let's come together and cry out for His mercy and help."

I give you the exhortation of the prophet Joel in the midst of a
devastation so great that he uses it to warn others about Judgment
Day:

"Gird yourselves with sackcloth and lament, O priests; wail, O
ministers of the altar! Come, spend the night in sackcloth, O
ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the drink offering are
withheld from the house of your God. Consecrate a fast, proclaim a
solemn assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for
the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and it will come as
destruction from the Almighty."

How many times have our congregations gathered like this, to pour
ourselves out before God for mercy and help? Besides 9/11 and
Hurricane Katrina, I would venture to say, "Never." And yet, there is
more than enough devastation in our world, our communities, and our
families to warrant such a response. Or perhaps we have not
sufficiently exhausted our doubt in and rage at God, or have preferred
to be cheery optimists or to use entertainment to distract ourselves
from hurt.

It is no coincidence that revivals in spirituality are preceded by
repentance. It is the only attitude that clears the way for God to be
as big as He can be in our midst. If devastation is what it takes to
get us there, that is unfortunate but better than not getting there.
And if even devastation doesn't drive us to consecration and gathering
and crying out, shame on us.

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