I did something awful the other night: I watched a documentary. Generally they’re interesting, and benign to my heart. This one was different; so gut wrenching that I spent an hour sobbing and processing with Jim what I had witnessed.
It told of an innocent child that was murdered by his mentally unbalanced mother, while she was out on bail for having visciously murdered the baby’s father. (I really thought the whole movie was going to turn out differently! I should’ve turned it off sooner…)
And it wasn’t just the movie that upset me.
At church we’ve been studying the topic of abortion. I was distraught by the facts…there are 40 – 50 million innocent babies being murdered every year in the world.
There are so many innocents experiencing pain.
Pain isn’t a sufficient word.
There are just as many people who have made sinful choices who are enduring trials.
And it’s just as awful and agonizing.
I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer, but other people’s pain hurts my heart.
In the last couple of weeks I’ve talked with a woman who’s combatting destructive rumors, a mom who has to parent a potentially bi-polar son, a woman who’s testing to see if she has a life-altering illness, a dear friend who battles depression, a pastor who’s leaving the ministry to care for his disabled wife, a housefire in Sheboygan that killed 3 darling children, the list could go on and on.
I wonder in all of this,
Where is God?
What is He doing?
I recently taught Sunday school at church, and we covered a delightful (and by delightful I mean horrifying) story in Numbers 21.
The Israelites were complaing and grumbling, against God and Moses. God chose to send venoumous snakes among them; they bit the people and many died.
The people who were sick, but alive cried out in repentance to Moses to pray to God to remove the snakes. Moses did so, and God instructed him to make a bronze snake, put it on a pole, and anyone who had been bitten ought to look at the snake to be healed.
Just play this out in your mind for a moment:
Maybe you and your husband had been bitten after grumbling, and the man you laughed with, cried with, made babies with, loved…died at your feet. And in order for you to be healed, you had to walk through dying and dead faces familiar to you and look at a metal snake.
I would have been tempted to look down at the agony unfolding at my feet. How could I not hear the heart-breaking torment of a poisoned brother and sister in my community?
Yet the bitten Isrealites were called to look up at the promise attached to the bronze snake.
Look up to hope, not down to death.
To be honest, there are days I feel like a grumbling Israelite. They grumbled because they believed they were brought into the wilderness to die. They questioned God’s care for them. They may have had the same questions in their minds that I ask of God.
Where is God?
What is He doing?
And as a grumbling Israelite, I feel as though I’m trudging through a wretched, corpse filled land. My eyes are drawn down to other’s pain – the disease, the affairs, the housefires, the car accidents, fetal alcohol syndrome, diabetes, abortion, depression.
Dear Brandy, look up to hope, not down to death.
Jesus compared Himself to this hope-filled snake in John 3:14 – 15
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so also must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.
Jesus was lifted up on the cross as our forgiveness and salvation. Truly, if we look to Him, we will be saved. What an astounding God we have, One who consistently calls us to look outside of ourselves to be saved from ourselves.
Where is God?
He came into the muck and mire. He was on the cross. He rose from the dead and He’s walking with us in the muck and mire.
The challenge is to keep our focus on Jesus, not on the devastation of this world. I’m not saying to be ignorant of it. We are to be the hands and feet to the hurting….to sit and listen…to weep for the pained….
But if our hearts get tangled in the brokenness of this world, then we stop looking to God.
We stop seeing Hope.
We are blind to Love.
We miss Truth.
I want to see Jesus. I need to see Jesus as I walk through the death and darkness of this world. I don’t have the answers to what is God doing or why. But I do have the promise of a hope and future through Him.
To this I cling.