Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why times are rough for Christians...

A number of things were running through my mind while I worshipped this morning. I kept going back and forth between the sweet times of worship to thoughts and feelings about life now and in the near future. And I think that God gave me a special revelation of His grace and mercy that answers some of my recent questions.

I was thinking about how almost every Christian that I know is going through a rough time right now, in one way or another. For a lot of us it’s financial, but with some of us, it’s other things. For my husband and I, it’s money and a loss of direction…on top of other things. But I keep being reminded that money isn’t really important. Neither is where you’re at in life, or perfect relationships with everyone you know. That’s not what brings people happiness, comfort, peace, or hope. At least not the lasting kind. We all know that…and if we dared to doubt it, all we have to do is look at rich Hollywood…at the princes and sheiks of the world…at the CEOs who bargain the wealth that they have to gain more, perhaps hoping that they’ll find what they’re seeking then. God is the only One that can give those things to us. We all know that.

The thing is…many times we forget that they’re there waiting for us in God’s arms and presence. We forget how to draw from what He’s given us…if we ever knew how, to begin with. Me…I draw from it through worship. When I pour out my heart in worship to God, He in turn fills me with His peace and joy. No matter how bleak the future looks, He fills me with hope that is everlasting, because it’s not based on earthly circumstances…it’s found and fulfilled in what He has done for me…inside me. And that can only get better and better, no matter what happens on this earth.

These are the things that I remember and find again when times are rough. I’ve known this for a while, but it was running through my mind again this morning.

Then I thought of the prophecies and naysayers who are predicting horrible things that will/might happen this year, or soon. I honestly have no idea if these prophecies of nuclear attack are from God and will happen or not. Those who say that the US is on its way to economic collapse are undoubtedly right, but I have no way of knowing if it will happen soon, or if we’ll find a way to avoid it. People have been saying for years that the End Times are coming soon if they’re not already here…and I don’t know about that either. I don’t know whether Jesus is coming pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib, let alone whether it will be this decade, my lifetime, or 200 years from now.

But I do know the thoughts that fill me when I think of these things. Part of me is tempted to want to run and hide…to avoid thoughts of it and cross my fingers that I won’t have to go through a nuclear attack, or a bird flu or AIDS pandemic, or economic collapse. But I know that I’m only asking for trouble if I do that…trouble in my spirit. The truth is that there’s an extremely good chance that we’ll have to live through something terrible. Almost every generation has had to live through world war or something equally difficult, and the world is too small now to think that any of us can separate ourselves from whatever ends up happening.

Then I fall to thinking about how to prepare for these things to make them easier to live through…maybe move away from the big cities that are more likely to get nuked…maybe get a good garden going and have plenty of bullets ready so we can go hunting for meat if that’s the only way to get it…maybe we have to get completely out of debt so we can’t loose our house…maybe if I eat as healthy as possible and strengthen my immune system as much as possible, I won’t be as susceptible to diseases…and so forth. But even that short list shows how impossible it really is to prepare for a future that I know nothing about.

And so I end up with God. He knows exactly everything that will happen in my lifetime…both to me and around me and every detail that will affect my life and the lives of my family. And that reminder brings me to one conclusion…

There is only ONE way to prepare for a future that is getting more uncertain every year…and that is to learn to follow the leading of the One who knows the future and who loves me more than anything. He hasn’t promised to protect me from nuclear attack or bird flu…but He’s making a place to take me to if He has chosen to allow those to take my life. He hasn’t promised to let me keep my house and car and the material things He’s given me that mean so much to me…but He’s given me spiritual things that mean even more, and He’s promised that I can never loose those.

Am I ready to loose everything I have and still rest in His peace and joy? Have I learned to truly abide in Him in the way that will be necessary if these things happen in my lifetime? Not completely, but I’m learning more right now as I go through the difficulties that I am currently facing.

And that’s when it hit me. Maybe this is why He’s allowing so many Christians to go through so many trials right now. In His infinite grace and mercy, He is gently allowing difficulties in our lives now, to give us a chance to learn to get what we need from Him alone. He is giving us a chance to learn to find joy and peace in the midst of difficulties. Maybe He’s not working on our finances too much because in a few years the whole nation will be so messed up that it won’t make a bit of difference either way whether we’re out of debt in 2007 or not. Maybe our difficulties aren't the enemy coming against us, OR God closing doors. Maybe it's much deeper than that!

Whenever the world does its end time ‘falling apart,’ there’s only going to be one delineation between people that really matters. There’s going to be those who not only are saved, but who have also learned to hold onto God…to really walk with Him in such a deep and personal way that they still have His peace and joy and hope and comfort…and there’s going to be those that haven’t. Where we’re at financially in March of 2007 won’t make a bit of difference.

And rather than plunge us all blindly into the rough waters of whatever disaster we’re destined to live through—and hope we happened to have already learned to swim—God is leading us into the troubled waters now…giving us a chance to learn to swim through them with Him…before the riptides form.

Maybe this is what the Bible verses about being prepared are really all about. It’s a simple matter to claim Jesus as our Lord and Savior and be prepared for Him to snatch me away. But being prepared to hold onto my faith no matter what might happen—well, that’s a completely different story…
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