Recently I’ve been listening to Bible.io to practice my German. Having just finished Psalms, I was struck by how often a lament is raised and the question inevitably asked, “where are you” and “when will you” show up to deliver me and set everything right. That question made me think about the answer, which I found in a beautiful and familiar Old Testament passage 1 Kings 19:11 when God revealed himself to Elijah. I had never compared the contrasting descriptions of where God was and where he was not with where I was and where I was not.
A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks into pieces.
But the Lord was not in the wind
Do you sometimes feel like there is an incessant wind pushing on you from every direction? If you turn to the left or to the right there are voices clamoring, sometimes hostile, insensitive, and intolerant. The news and social media feeds overload us. Listening to these for too long can tear at your soul until you are left in pieces. Try to stand up in these winds and you’ll be knocked down. Try to shout, but you can’t hear the sound of your own voice over the defining winds. To avoid the danger you must find shelter. You must move to the cleft of the rock. The rock is a firm foundation that can shelter you. It will let you observe from a distance and see what is really going on.
After the wind an earthquake
But the Lord was not in the earthquake
Do you feel the ground moving beneath your feet? How long can you stand? As the thoughts and intents of the heart are made known, by friends and family in these trying times, do you feel the ground giving way? The peace that you had established has been torn down, the things you had put your trust in were turned over and shaken. The sands keep shifting. The institutions, and relations that you thought you knew betrayed you. Stay in the cleft of the rock, hold on to the sides of the rock for he alone is your fortress, a firm foundation.
After the earthquake a fire
But the Lord was not in the fire
Do you feel that sometimes there are waves of anxiety that build and build until they are too heavy for you to move? I remember feeling this way after I lost my job a few years ago. I didn’t know how to process the profound sense of loss and vulnerability. It took time to pull out the fiery lies of despair that all I had would be lost. My panic attacks died down as I reminded myself of God’s promises that I had a future and a hope. I still battle these blazes when I leave the rock and lose my perspective. Sometimes my temper flares, and I don’t have the grace to admit that I’m part of the problem (and sometimes all of it). My poor forest management is at fault. I need to deal with the fallen trees in my life and clear them out so that the dry tinder doesn’t accumulate and pose a danger for the next fire season. Always go back to the rock. Better yet, stay in the cleft of the rock. Only the rock can save. Only the rock can heal. Moses in anger struck the rock and water came forth, but he lost out on the promised land. The psalmist asks again and again where is the Lord?
After the fire a still small voice
The Lord was in the holy stillness, the eye of the storm, the quiet, reverent strength of the still small voice. Christ rebuked the storm and the winds and waves obeyed and died down until they were completely calm. Our master is the model of where we should not be. We are not to be in the raging fire, or the fierce earthquake, or the ravaging winds. Our voices do not need to be loud to be effective; they must echo his voice. At the core of who we are despite all the chaos that surrounds us, we should reverberate with one true note, which is his character.
My prayerful reflection:
compassionate and gracious,
In these times, it is easy to grow bitter; so let us prune resentment, jealousy, and pride so that we would be full of compassion like Christ who did not look on the sicknesses of others with judgment but with compassion. Jesus wept.
slow to anger,
Before the sun goes down, while there is still light, find a way to release your anger to God, speak the truth in love, yes, do not be silent, but to the degree it depends on you, seek reconciliation as quickly as you can.
abounding in love and faithfulness,
Like a young gazelle bouncing through the savanna, may our spirits be lifted with a new hope. As we look to him may we be lifted up. More than just standing firm, may we abound in our faith and the promise of what God can do through us and the church.
maintaining love to thousands,
Although we may not be able to love everyone, may our love be expansive, beyond what we can extend without him.
and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.
May we not be like Jonah wanting God’s judgment to fall on our enemies rather may we willingly work towards redemption and restoration of our enemies when there is a change of heart towards God.
Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
May we work to see justice in our time, but may we pursue it with the right intentions.
he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
The reforms we seek should heal our land and have lasting positive change for generations to come.
So where are you these days?