We are spiritually and emotionally vulnerable when we face changes in the routine of our lives. Vocational, housing, relationship, physical, or financial changes—all may reduce our stability to zero, to put a new slant on the fog report! In the Old Testament, Abraham faced unsettling uncertainty when God called him to leave his homeland and take his family to a new country.
He responded obediently, but I’m sure there was a king-size knot in his stomach when he packed his luggage. By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (Heb. 11:8). “Not knowing where he was going” is key to what he must have felt. Everything familiar would soon be set aside, and he would leap like a sky diver, into the unknown.
The focus is on Abraham because of the patriarchal emphasis in Bible times. But think about how his family must have felt. They would have to leave those familiar department stores and playgrounds, forfeit soccer-team membership, subscribe to a new cable television service.
• sad farewells
• financial uncertainty
• strange roads
This wasn’t going to be a picnic for Abraham’s family.
Change never is a picnic, but it happens. When it does, our world often crumbles. Sudden layoffs. Diving stocks. Rising gas prices. A doctor with a somber face, holding an alarming medical report in his hands.
What is it that makes our world come tumbling down like a planetary Humpty-Dumpty? There are several causes.
Look at Abraham’s life story: By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:9, 10).
Abraham was looking forward to the city.
So, where’s the city? All he saw was desert. No skyscrapers here, just dusty tent dwellings at the end of long travel days days looking at the backside of a camel.
This looked like it was mostly land and little promise. For the moment, milk and honey looked more like curds and “why?”
Delayed promises are world-crumbling situations. We gather together the hopes and pledges of the Bible like a pile of prescriptions from an immediate care clinic. We haul out our inheritance claims. We thumb through the Rolodex of advice from near and far. “Just a little while.” “Sunday’s coming.” “Somewhere over the rainbow . . .”
But we’re used to instant coffee and microwave popcorn. Delayed promises? We’ve been promised a celestial city, but we can’t see it for the storm clouds. The realization sets in and causes our hearts to break. We’re stuck in the now, like Abraham and his family, trying to eke out an existence in an unfurnished Promised-Land apartment.
Abraham also had to look for a promise beyond the horizon of personal setbacks. By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore (Heb. 11 :11, 121.
Wouldn’t it be awful to face life when you’ve already been declared “as good as dead”? Maybe you have!
The buzzards of age and infirmity had been in a holding pattern over Abraham’s life. God had made the promise: Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Abraham couldn’t see the stars because of the smudges on his trifocals. His family would become as numerous as the sands, but the sands of his own hourglass had settled quicker than an elephant in a lawn chair.
We’ve all been there. Personal difficulties swarm around us:
• grudges that poison us
• jealousy that gnaws at us
• Ioneliness that isolates us
• inadequacies that paralyze us
• finances that bind us
• sorrows that plague us
Abraham’s life would have been so much different if it weren’t for that day. He had been sailing along—working out the issues of a new home, bringing his family to a consensus, driving fresh-cut stakes into the promises of the new land. Then, the Scriptures say, God tested Abraham (Gen. 22:1). Abraham had that day!
A sudden trial arrived like a five-hundred-pound gorilla. God was applying a litmus test to Abraham. He wanted His protege to see that faith works when we face that day. God told Abraham to take his son to a remote place and prepare an altar of sacrifice—and then to sacrifice his son, his only son, back to God. Leaving his servants behind, Abraham took the materials for the altar, along with his only son, and began the longest journey of his life. The trip from Ur was a piece of cake compared to these few steps.
Even as they walked together, the questions began to fly: “Father, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham’s heart was pounding. He was committed to obey God’s command: to make his own son that sacrifice. Abraham replied, “God will provide.” But deep in his heart the doubts must have swirled like an oak leaf in a whirlpool.
That day—that sudden testing time in the life of the patriarch that would be unlike any other day. By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son (Heb.11:17). Abraham passed the test. He trusted God beyond what common sense or his own will would have led him to do. Then God instructed Abraham not to lay a hand on his son and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice. Perhaps you’ve had a day like that. Life was pretty uneventful, then suddenly everything changed. A sound of metal crushing metal. A telephone call. A knock on the door. An ambulance siren. We who are children of promise suddenly face a horrendous situation. Something is expected of us. Not one of us is exempt.
I’M HAVING A “WHOLE LIFE” CRISIS
Our reactions to world-crumbling events vary.
Sometimes we feel helpless. For the most part, we’re used to being in control of things. But when life is suddenly out of control, a sense of vulnerability sets in. Until now, we’ve been able to fix most everything else; we can’t fix this. It’s just out of reach, like that burned-out light bulb in the twenty-foot ceiling chandelier. We can see it, and we know that changing it would make a difference. But without some assistance, we’re powerless.
Sometimes we feel abandoned. Alone in the hospital room, waiting for loved ones. Alone at the table that once was also occupied by a spouse or parent. Alone in a courtroom hallway, waiting for the lawyer. Alone. Abandoned. “Why me, Lord?” we inquire. But often, heaven is silent—not because there isn’t any concern up there, but because we make such loud groaning noises down here that we cannot hear the still, small voice of assurance.
Sometimes we feel worthless. World-crumbling events have a way of sucking the self-esteem out of our lives. Our pride and dignity are temporarily gone. Our once-secure finances are tenuous. Our once-strong bodies are frail. Our once happy homes are in shambles. Our once-respectful children have rebelled. We feel about as significant as an eyelash on a mosquito.
Sometimes we feel ashamed. Sometimes we have made a personal contribution to
the world-crumbling situation. We’ve been players, not just bystanders. Sometimes we make wrong choices. We cross the line. The pain in the foot comes from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We stand in our self-made ruins and weep over what should have been, or what might have been, if only we had kept the law of God or if only we had let our conscience give the final answer.
One day, Jesus came across a man who was a poster child for world-crumbling events:
Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him Iying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir, ” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me. ”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk. ” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (John 5:1-9).
For 38 years of his life, this man had been carried, pulled, or pushed to the pool beside the sheep gate on the northern side of the Jerusalem temple. There the unnamed man, with so many unnamed others, waited to be healed.
The invalids believed that an angel of the Lord occasionally stirred the waters in the pool and the first person to step into the water would be healed.
This poor man had never made it. Though he had helpers to transport him and put him close to the edge of the pool, he had never been first in. This day was no exception. It was “miracle time,” and he was tardy.
Jesus saw and approached this man. He learned about the man’s plight, and the Lord healed him. And the fact is, when our world crumbles, Jesus never fails to see it, and He is never far away.