It has been a heckuva week at sea, as they say. I sit here wrapped up in blankets watching the snow fall out my window, wondering where spring has run off to, and staring at a little verse highlighted in my Bible:
“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…”Hebrews 4:2
Rest. The word pops right off the page at me right now, probably because I haven’t fully experienced it this past week. I am restless.
The week began with my own little rollercoaster of personal drama, which as we all know, can be disorienting and discouraging. Our lives demand a lot out of us, don’t they? Jobs, family, kids… it’s true and right that we focus on dealing with those things, but sometimes being isolated in our own worlds can lead down a path of…well… isolation.
Then the bubble burst, as it has a tendency to do. Our community fell victim to another school shooting, my kids’ schools went on lockdown, and we were all yanked out of our little isolated worlds and thrown back into the real one.
The overwhelming knowledge that we are part of something bigger than ourselves has been dominating my thoughts. Yes, my personal problems this past week were pretty brutal, but you know what makes them less overwhelming? Understanding that the world keeps spinning and there are folks out there who need Jesus. Something amazing happens when we take our eyes off ourselves. Jesus comes into focus.
Our pastor gave a service last night for the families of the Stem School affected by this tragedy. A couple of miles away, a public high school hosted an ‘interfaith night of healing’. Scores of people showed up to both. Our pastor spoke of God’s love in dark times and the fact that He is our hope and our rock. People were comforted and fed. Politicians showed up to the vigil at the high school and spoke platitudes about gun laws and policies. Students and parents walked out in protest, distraught and hurting.
Friends, it matters where we turn in times of difficulty and crisis. I stood at the foot of my kids bed last night and clumsily opened up the word and read Psalm 46. He had been looking up facts about the shooting on the internet. Nothing necessarily bad about that, but the internet doesn’t get the final say. We have to get out of our own heads and run to God’s word.
I came across this article the other day about a Bible professor who seemingly disagrees and I want to share an excerpt here, because it perfectly demonstrates my point:
I don’t read Scripture daily. I tell my students, “Gulp, don’t sip Scripture!” I tend to read entire books or major portions in a sitting. I re-read the same book several times (in the Hebrew or Greek if I’ve got the time and don’t want to make it very far). I will sometime go for a week without reading Scripture at all. I think this is important to practice time away from Scripture and return for deep reading/wrestling with what God is saying through His prophets.Dr. Dru Johnson, Pastor of Biblical Studies, Kings College
I also do not prescribe daily devotionals for my students, most of whom are not literate in the biblical literature. Outside of the “read the Torah and Gospels over three months” kind of plans, I’m not sure these daily “devos” help them. The idea of studying a single passage for 10 minutes every morning and then trying to wring meaning out of it seems absurd unless you already have a good working knowledge of how that passage fits into the whole scheme of Scripture.
Gulp, don’t sip. Take a week off. Only read if you’re perfectly literate in Hebrew and see exactly how that passage fits into the whole of Scripture.
Sorry, but no. I don’t mean to demean deep study of the Word, there are regular people and scholars alike who spend their lives doing that, and I say go for it. I also don’t think daily ten minute devotions are a prescription for a perfect spiritual walk. But time spent with Him truly looking into what He has to say is infinitely better than aimlessly ‘wrestling’ with my own thoughts. His word is to be our daily bread. We eat food daily because we need it to live. Not every day is fancy surf n turf or a huge buffet… but we still eat. It’s in studying and meditating on His word daily that we begin to understand the “whole scheme of Scripture” and how it applies to us here and now. It matters where we turn to and it matters how often we turn there.
The word, mixed with faith, brings rest. Jesus brings peace to our personal dramas and He brings peace to our big tragedies. We need more of Him. We need the stability He brings to it all. Take big gulps as needed, but keep sipping as well.
Our personal problems are very important to God. It’s also crucial that we don’t get so focused on ourselves and leave no room for being part of a bigger picture. Taking the spotlight off myself when I least wanted to was the best thing for me this past week.
The tale of the two vigils last night is an important reminder, it matters where we turn in times of difficulty. We owe it to ourselves and to the hurting world around us to be a steady, safe place. We don’t have all the answers. We still feel the crushing weight of tragedy. We just know where to turn when it hits. While the world spins, we enter into His rest. We invite others to do the same.
As we pray for our community, I especially pray for all the young hearts that are looking for solid ground. I pray that we as believers would be bold enough to speak the truth to them and loving enough to welcome them into the fold. All roads do not lead to the same place. Hold your lights high friends, there are so many people out there who need to see them right now.