Coming Back… rest, tribulation, and the presence of God
For the last couple weeks Dawn, my wife, and I have been resting in the seclusion of Michigan’s upper peninsula. There is a lake there called Piatt. It sits three miles (as the crow flies) south of the shores of Lake Superior. It has no cell phone connectivity. It has no internet availability, and if we sneak in very quietly and very late under cover of darkness, even the mosquitoes take three days to find us.
We sleep until we are finished. We eat until we have to stop, and we make no plans. Some evenings, I throw a line or twelve out from my dock. Occasionally, a bluegill eats the worm, and we add fried fish tacos to the menu. We read and walk and pray and talk, but we do not work. We sequester, sabbath, and indulge in the quiet. It is our place of soul rest.
I know many people who regard our vacation plans as boredom. I believe I can honestly say that I cannot ever recall being bored. I don’t function like this. My mind drifts and rests and absorbs. We think of the days at Piatt as breathing in life.
Today was my second day back in the office, and I am committed to allow God to work into all the slow lulls. I am working to see the empty spaces as “God-ordained” along with the hectic, busy, and frenetic times.
One of the books Dawn and I read, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, introduced me to a thought, a nuance into which I think most believers fall. We tend to think that God’s main objective in our lives is somewhere over the top of the hill. We are getting where God eventually wants us to be, but right now I need to endeavor. I have many friends who regard the work that God wants to do in them as after the accomplishment. I need to finish the book, make the team, pass this test, or lose the next pound. It essentially moves God out of the equation for the moment I am in right now. God does not function like that.
So many of us have been waiting for the next thing to move us out of our current troubles. Maybe for you, it was a return to live, in-person services, an upgrade in your company’s internet capacity, a chance to see your grandchildren, or a return to the stadium in order to cheer on your team. For so many of us the principle of coming back is as much about what we have been waiting for God to do… hopefully, sometime soon. We may be missing something here. Don’t feel too bad. Elijah missed it, too. God has been here… with us… doing a new thing in us.
Here’s the twist. As I finished the last sentence, I went home to enjoy a quiet evening. The romantic commitment to peace and resting in Jesus was interrupted at 2:30 a.m. by a frantic daughter informing us of a bat in her bedroom. Solving the bat issue took a half an hour. I slumped back into bed only to be woken again at 4:30 by a storm that shook our home. Thursday early morning the power went out and stayed out for the next four days. Life was slammed with a new reality. Survival.
Our home gets its water from a well. No electricity, no water. Here’s the kicker. We have cows, cats, dogs, and chickens. Together they must drink somewhere around 35 gallons of water… each day. I spent hours trying to get our generator to fire and stay working. You see, our food supply for the entire year is stored in four large freezers. It is not about lights and air conditioning for those of us in the country. It is about eating. Finally, the generator sparked to life.
My daughter was scheduled to leave for Mobile, Alabama on Friday. Are you feeling the rising of the need to hurry? I was. But wait! It got better. We quickly booked a hotel room in Detroit by the airport. They had electricity despite the half a million customers who were without. As we happily travelled to our hotel room, complete with a shower, we felt the hurry subside. When we realized the hotel was booked for the next week, in the lobby, by the way, hurry was replaced with chaos! We desperately began to call friends we had in the Detroit area. Finally, after 20 minutes of panic we reached a friend who allowed us to stay in their home. We felt like Goldilocks since our friends were on vacation. We showered and crashed for the night. Rest returned.
Over the last 56 hours, rest has come and gone, largely on the heels of a sketchy generator. Finally, on Sunday morning, rest returned. It was the spirit of God helping me settle into a difficult but doable rhythm of survival. It was the voice of God, despite a throbbing arthritic neck, saying, “I am in this moment you know.”
I had forgotten. I have come to expect that God’s best moments are when the sun is shining.
My epiphany is simple.
God doesn’t have, “best moments.” He is always at his best. He is best. The moment I am in right now is the moment God waits to show me his best. Every moment is ordained. Every moment is His.
I realize that these last (few) days have not been THE Tribulation, but they certainly have been a tribulation of sorts. The truths regarding Christ’s appearing during tribulation have implications today. Read these words carefully.
Matthew 24: 26-30
“So if they tell you, ‘There He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days: ‘The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.’
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven,”
The next tough stretch, when you are tempted to believe that God is in the peace after the storm, remember Scripture promises Christ is putting His sign on the darkness. God is here, now, doing his best work because quiet or tribulation have no bearing on God being God.