|April 18, 2007
A Hopeful Future
by Jon Walker
«For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.» (Jeremiah 29:11 KJV)
Discipleship — When you hear about the sickening shootings at Virginia Tech, it’s only human to wonder if God is fully engaged in the events of this world.
Why, God, do you allow these things to happen?
Over the years, as I’ve shouted this question to God, grappling to understand the explosion of evil into the lives of good people, I’ve encountered what seemed to be an unsettling silence from God.
I know that his Word tells us evil exists in this world because of sin, and that the fists of the Evil One are indiscriminate, hammering on the innocent along with the guilty. God’s Word also teaches that the Evil One will take direct aim at us as we walk more closely with God.
But, still, why, God, do you allow these things to happen?
I say it seemed like unsettling silence from God until one day, in the Divine’s still, small voice, I sensed God asking me a question in return – you know, the way Jesus often said to the Pharisees, «I’ll answer your question after you answer mine.»
God’s question: «Jon, do you serve the One True God (Deut. 6:4), or do you serve the ‘god of understanding it all.'»
More questions followed: «Are you trying to be the god of understanding, believing that if you can just understand what is going on, then – and only then – you’ll be able to accept it, live with it, or live through it? Is your faith in me based on what you understand, or is it based on your faith in my hand?»
When we’re facing trouble, we often quote Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV): «For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.»
Listen carefully: God is telling us that we may misunderstand his plans for us, that we may wrongly perceive his plans as evil, but those plans are the very thing — the only thing — that will give us, literally, «a hopeful future.»
To echo Eugene Peterson, in the midst of our distress, we think that we’re being pushed to the very edge of our existence; but once there, we realize we’ve been pressed into the very center of God. The peace that God speaks of in Jeremiah is not an absence of conflict; it’s about wholeness ( shalom). It’s about becoming a people who are whole again because we are face to face with God, learning to think, not like mere men, but like God.
· Nasty now and now – The things we truly believe emerge in what Peter Lord calls the «nasty now and now.» Your faith is hammered out in the everyday, mundane experiences of your life, and when you face the fists of the Evil One. Faith is not resolved in heady discussions about the nature of evil.
· God is at work – Like a dormant tree in winter that appears to be dead until the buds of spring, God is always at work in our lives and throughout the world – even today on the campus of Virginia Tech. Don’t assume the tree is dead in winter; look expectantly toward the buds of spring.
· Seek God’s face – Seek God’s face, instead of seeking to understand. Trust that God will give you insight and understanding when the time is right. Until then, he’s developing your faith in him.
© 2007 Jon Walker. All rights reserved.