“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Your holy people held possession for a little while; our adversaries have trampled down your sanctuary. We have become like those over whom you have never ruled, like those who are not called by your name. Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence— as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. You meet him who joyfully works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways. Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities. But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Be not so terribly angry, O Lord, and remember not iniquity forever. Behold, please look, we are all your people.” (Isaiah 63:15–64:9, ESV)
How often is it that we cry out against God in our suffering and our turmoil? We like to blame Him for our pain and act as if we are the righteous ones, as if we have been good and have always made just decisions. There are those that are shocked and troubled by the fact that now one-fifth of all adults in America consider themselves to have no faith affiliation yet we continue to see our population increase and yet the number of those that regularly attend church decreases. Large church organizations panic and try to redefine the faith that we call Christian to make it more tenable to the people that are not a part of it and have no interest in it, yet it does nothing to change the hearts of people. It is a rebellion of the spirit that finds the Holy Spirit to be offensive because it does not like the mirror which the Holy Spirit holds.
We like to blame God for the hardening of our hearts. We like to blame God for the consequences that occur from our own poor living. It is amazing how we try to define God into our god which is small and ineffective that approves of the things we like and will give us everything we want. The danger in this is that this God is very small and impotent and in the end we are left hurt and angry and disappointed. We have a God that created all things, including each of our intellects and rational minds, unfortunately we are a fallen creation because born within us was a rebellious nature that can say to God, “Thanks, but no thanks, I will do this my way.” It is our pride that keeps us from realizing our own weakness and not submitting ourselves to Him.
I remember as a youth the many times when something wouldn’t go as I wanted and I would cry out to God that famous word, “Why!?!” Usually, it was over little things that were difficult and painful, but there were times it came out in painful times like the time my vehicle broke down on my way to a funeral of a friend of mine who had been killed in a car accident. I was immature in myself and in my faith at that time and I see this same thing in so many that have spent their lives in the Church. We are called to be a submissive people and that is totally against our nature.
As a pastor, I continually learn this lesson since there are times that I desire to see things go a certain way and it doesn’t. I hear harsh words from another that cut me deep and the desire is to scream out, “Why!?!” In these moments I find that the comfort comes when I am still and can listen to the quiet. I realize the sin of worrying and the cost of internalizing all the harshness as it attacks my spirit. Then I can find comfort in the Holy Spirit. The answer isn’t a rebuke of my heart, but a renewal of my spirit. If I believe that I am right and good with God, I make a mistake because my nature is sinful and selfish. I want everyone to know God and be faithful in their lives, but I can not do it and, honestly, I am not always faithful either, in fact, I rarely am. That may surprise some, but not my wife or other family. I am prideful and impatient, but Christ renews me, redeems me, and refreshes me all the while humbling me. Did you know that you can even become prideful in things that are good? Well, in this I have also been humbled.
So, in the good and the bad be in awe of God! That is what I desire for all to know. I am not perfect and neither are you, but God is. He created all things and can do all things. In Him and Him alone do I find strength and that is what He desires of us. Our God desires for us to know that He is our Father that He loves us and that He saves those that are His and in that and for that reason desires our faithfulness. Faithfulness in prayer, faithfulness in worship, faithfulness in praising Him. When we humbly come to Him, He does not forget us nor does He forsake us, but He receives us.
As I write this I pray for the destruction of Oklahoma as the news reports the loss of over 50 and growing with no less then 20 of those being children. I can hear in my heart the cry of a father who has lost a son or a daughter or a child that has lost a mother or a father and I am praying for the embrace of our Lord to fall upon them. The truth is that God is there, God was there with those children, God was there with those caught up in the storm, and God is there with those parents, grandparents, first responders, teachers, and all that are doing the heart-breaking work and God will carry them through all of this struggle!
May the Christ who walks on wounded feet, walk with you to the end of your road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands, teach you to serve one another.
May the Christ who loves with a broken heart, be your love forever.
May you find the face of Christ in everyone you meet, and may everyone you meet find the face of Christ in you. Amen.