God confirms the call of Elisha in a remarkable way (Second Kings 2): Elijah is taken up into heaven, before Elisha’s very eyes, in a whirlwind of chariots of fire! Other than that, it was an ordinary day.
Following that, in the sixth chapter, those chariots of fire appear again – this time to confirm the Lord’s presence and protection when neither could be observed with human eyes. In specific answer to a desperate prayer, a young man is enabled to see clearly – and to know and understand as a result – that all is well.
When the Spirit of God moves among us in power, our situation can turn on a dime! I hope that you will let that reality encourage you today.
You and I don’t always get a vision of fiery horses and chariots, do we? Sometimes we desperately need to know that God is near – especially when we feel like we can’t even see enough to take one more step – but find ourselves in seemingly visionless territory. Maybe you can relate.
What are some things which we know to be true of our current situation? I will share a few in the hopes that you can latch on to at least one.
- God wants to display His sovereign glory in and through our pain.
After a lifetime of pain – everything from being emotionally abandoned by his father to chronic respiratory disease – C.S. Lewis finally had to bury his beloved wife, Joy. After only a short season of marriage, Joy had endured a fierce battle with cancer, but the disease finally prevailed. Lewis captured his own suffering in these words: “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” You and I become most vividly aware of God’s character in and through our suffering. Here’s how I think that works: chapter after chapter of suffering actually accomplishes something beautiful in us – it peels away us from us until we see just how weak we really are. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
- God wants us to seek Him with all our heart.
Let’s face the facts. There are seasons when God’s trusted and manifest presence is not our continual experience. Perhaps we’ve become negligent in our spiritual walk. Perhaps we’ve become too busy or distracted. Perhaps we’ve become consumed by idolatry. In any event, God desires to use what we perceive as “the distance between us” to motivate us to seek His holy presence again. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word for “face.” What I’m saying is that God wants us to seek His face. God wants us to claim the access which we have to him through Christ and to come boldly before Him in honesty and humility. He longs for our worship and praise. Like the expectant and faithful father of the prodigal son, God delights whenever you and I decide to come home.
- God wants to restore our broken dreams or to give us new ones.
The Lord calls us to believe that He can make the impossible possible. Sometimes that looks like restoring to order the brokenness of our shattered dreams (perhaps you prefer to think of them as plans). Sometimes that looks like His lifting our heads just long enough for us to be able to see something new which He has planned for us. (New to us, that is – never new to Him.) Think about it like this: were God never to disrupt us along the journey of life, would we ever open our hearts to new possibilities and opportunities? Were you and I never to hit a bump along the road, would we ever even think about the finiteness of our own abilities – or recognize the wonder that is ours to be able to hold Christ’s hand when the forest grows dark, and when He alone is our light and our salvation?
- God wants to mend our broken relationships.
Sometimes the way for us is rocky, and the visibility is low because God is getting our attention. He wants to repair a wound or to put back together a severed relationship. This often takes time. It always takes grace. First, God must secure our undivided attention, which we often don’t give Him when we perceive that things in our world are going swimmingly. We’ve already talked about the compassionate presence of God, and how much we need that. But what happens when our heart has been refilled? Well, God wants to use our joyful appreciation to make us who He wants us to be: selfless lovers of others for the Lord’s own glory! What I’m saying is that God wants the love of Christ to overflow from us – from our identity re-rooted in His grace – in such a way that forgiveness and hope prevail. Only God can do that.
- God wants us to see beyond earthly shadows into ultimate reality.
No matter how old we are – or how much we think we already know – God has more for us to learn. So go ahead and – just like a child – imagine yourself right smack dab in the middle of the Bible story – because that’s exactly where you are! After all, we’re talking about the one true and living God “whom no one has ever seen or can see” (First Timothy 6:16). When Moses reminds God’s people to keep God’s story alive, I think he’s telling them to make the Exodus their own story and to keep it fresh for the next generation – and the one after that. Friends, you may not be in a fiery furnace or a lion’s den – literally speaking – but make no mistake about it: every trial in your current experience is part of God’s unstoppable and sovereign plan to bless you and everyone who follows in your footsteps of faith. So you and I can hope, even in our struggle.
- God wants to refuel us for future service and mission.
Your present problems are not just about the present. God is molding you and shaping you for greater things. He is preparing you and fashioning you for a chapter of your life for which you must be prepared right now. He will not keep you on the bench forever. Soon you will be back in the game – here or in heaven – and you will understand that these tears were not the end of the story. You have been created for eternity! The lessons from this present tribulation are good ones. Necessary ones. Hopeful ones. God is so much more invested in turning your situation around than you could ever be – in fact, He’s promised to use “all these things” for your good and for His glory. So put on your armor, and stand! You will not be ultimately defeated. You have that on good authority: “It is finished.”
- God wants our complete trust, even in the dark.
With regularity, you and I need a course correction. No fun, I’ll readily admit, but needed. We have to remember what we often forget: God’s love includes God’s discipline. The people of Judah were in for a tough season of judgment and repentance, yet the prophet could wisely affirm (Habakkuk 3:17-19): Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. Even when you and I do not understand what is happening around us, we know who does. Worship Him! Worship the Light, even when darkness seems to be winning!
Sometimes, my friends, God’s very best can be embraced only through eyes of faith.