I know this is a long post, and it’s still just a tiny bit on a hard topic. I’m posting it because I know many people are facing really hard battles. If you want to listen to the whole message, it’s here.
This past weekend I got to preach at our church. It is a privilege and a blast for me, but it is also very humbling when you’re preaching the weekend after the 4th of July to a handful of the faithful, and the old guy in the front row is asleep before you even start speaking. Too much celebrating with root beer floats?
Elisha’s servant is afraid and here’s what happens:
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
It’s a story about Elisha, his servant, and trying to see God in hard circumstances. I love this passage because it highlights the challenge of the with-God life: to pay attention and recognize His presence and power with us in the everyday situations and the dramatic moments.
Sunday I shared about the first vacation we took to Colorado with our daughters. Katy was about 6 and Maggie was about 5. Neither had ever seen the mountains. They were excited as we drove across the plains and the rugged purple line on the horizon got bigger and bigger. We ooohed and ahhhed at the beauty, approaching the front range with snow on the peaks. Katy joined in, but Maggie kept saying, “I. DO. NOT. SEE. IT!” over and over again. To her credit she didn’t know what to expect, and what was there was different than what she had imagined in her 5 year old brain.
Sometimes it’s not mountains, but God we’re looking for in hard times and we want to say with Maggie, “I DO NOT SEE HIM.” Or He shows up in ways different than we imagine.
What battle are you fighting where it’s hard to see God or angel armies?
Maybe you’re fighting a battle for the hearts and souls of your kids, or one against cancer or infertility, exhaustion, joblessness, or more month than money.
Or you feel surrounded by voices that say “not good enough.”
Almost all our friends are fighting a battle of overwhelming circumstances, and there have been many seasons when that’s been me too.
Our other daughter Katy, was in a situation like this 5 years ago where she felt overwhelmed, surrounded, and weary. She was a year out of college, had finished a fellowship at Bread for the World in D.C. and was out of work.
Those of you who know Katy know she is freakishly smart and incredibly hard-working.
She did all the “right things”. And usually, we expect that if we do the “right things” God should swoop in with His angel armies, and BAM! DONE! But even though the story of Elisha and the Angel armies does show us God’s character and power, it is a narrative. It’s what happened then, but not what will happen every time. It isn’t a promise or prescriptive. We can’t assume that God is going to show up in exactly the same way in our circumstances.
As my friend Heather Zempel writes in her book, Amazed and Confused, “God is not nice.”
God is love, but God is not always “nice” in the comfortable, predictable, get-my-own-way way that we’d like.
“God is love, but God’s love does not promise us safety from the agonies of Life; Instead He is a God who is sovereign over the agonies of life.”
For nine months Katy was out of work. Time after time she would be one of the final two candidates for a position and lose out.
There are three “helps” that Katy needed that I think all of us can benefit from too:
1. We need help to see the invisible. There’s a spiritual battle we can’t see. (2 Cor. 4:18, 10:3-5) Like soldiers at night – there is a battle and enemies they can’t see without night vision goggles.
Take a Look. On the left is what they see without help. On the left is what we see without help. On the right is what is REALLY THERE. You can watch the 40 second video of hikers being rescued here.
Scripture is like night-vision goggles that helps us see what’s really there that we may be missing.
2. We need help to see the big picture – we often don’t need more power, we need more perspective.
We only see our tiny piece of the puzzle. If it’s a black piece of the mountain, it can seem pretty grim. God is redeeming something that may seem dark at the time, but is part of a bigger, more beautiful picture than we can see (or even that we will see this side of heaven).
3. We need help flip the magnifier.
We tend to magnify our circumstances instead of magnifying God. We need to flip the lens. Instead of looking through the small end of binoculars and seeing circumstances as larger than God, we need to look through the large end and see God as bigger than our circumstances.
In the end, Katy got the very FIRST job she had applied for – nine months after she had interviewed and given up hope of ever hearing from this organization.
It was her dream job, as an analyst in international affairs, researching questions for Congress. It’s a job she technically wasn’t qualified for.
This is just one small story. We have other friends in hard situations where the “angel armies” have shown up in dramatic ways, and others whose stories look very different. No angel armies in evidence yet.
What would happen if Elisha’s prayer became ours: “Lord open our eyes so that we may see” Your presence in the midst of the battles we’re fighting.
What if we lived today as if…
- God’s good plan is not dependent on our circumstances.
- God’s love is sure even when we don’t understand.
- God is always present and active in our life, whether or not we see Him.
Coming to recognize and experience God’s presence is learned behavior and our task is to meet God in this moment.
What battles are you fighting? Where do you feel surrounded?