Oswald Chambers is one of my favorite conversation partners. I don't always agree with his reflections on following Jesus, but he's always forceful and always makes me think.
There was a lot in this morning's reading from My Utmost for His Highest and I won't recap the whole thing. One of the many phrases that made me pause (and reread) was this:
Darkness comes by the sovereignty of God.
Think about that in the midst of this current pandemic. In the midst of social distancing. Quarantine.
What does it mean that darkness comes by the sovereignty of God?
Well, start with what it doesn't mean. It doesn't mean God is punishing you. It doesn't mean God is angry. Truth is, we tend to gravitate toward the most pleasant option rather than the most needful option. So we have to consider the possibility that God is allowing hardship (or at least challenge... few of us are really experiencing hardship) for a greater good.
What greater good might that be?
Let's start here: Begin with the assumption that God's agenda might not align with your current self-interest. Be honest. Self-interest is notoriously fickle and well, self-centered. I want a pony. I want a million dollars. I want to eat whatever I want and still be trim and fit. I want...
What if God's agenda is for you to have exactly what Jesus said: Life. Abundant life, not by your definition but by his. Then we need to ask the question, how does Jesus define abundant life? Here's the closest he gets in the gospels, and it's not a bad definition:
This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
(That's John 17:3, by the way.) Knowing God, and knowing him in his fullness through Jesus, is life. Notice that it doesn't say "leads to life." Jesus says knowing God IS life. A=B. The two are one and the same.
Let's be honest. Most of our Christian agenda is built around self-interest. We preach family values because we want to have strong families. We subconsciously (or consciously) craft our churches to fit what's most comfortable for us. Even our theological definition of the gospel (accept Jesus' death on the cross so you can go to heaven when you die) is based on self-interest.
What if life really means knowing God?
That would mean instead of viewing our circumstances through what's best (i.e. most comfortable) for me, I need to ask in each moment how I can know God better.
If we try this point of view on, we find the Bible pops open in a new way. Suddenly we start reading all over the place that this is exactly what God desires. God wants us to know him. God wants us to seek him, not our own salvation. In fact, we'd understand salvation better if we focused on knowing God.
So what's going on in your world today? Are you frustrated with quarantine? Are you anxious about an uncertain future? Are you freaked out by exponential rates of infection? Are you lonely? Bored?
What would it mean for you to turn to God and ask, "How can I know you better in this moment?"