Where Are You Headed?
In northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team decided to explore a cave together. After an hour they turned to go back, and found that the entrance to the cave was flooded. Rising water pushed them deeper into the cave, day after day, until they were finally trapped four kilometers inside. When they were heroically rescued two weeks later, many wondered how they had become so hopelessly trapped. Answer: one step at a time.
In Israel, Nathan confronted David for killing his loyal soldier, Uriah. How did the man “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) become guilty of murder? One step at a time. David did not go from zero to murder in one afternoon. He warmed up to it, over time, as one bad decision bled into other, worse decisions. It started with a second glance that turned into a lustful stare. He abused his kingly power by sending for Bathsheba, then tried to cover up her pregnancy by calling her husband home from the front. When Uriah refused to visit his wife while his comrades were at war, David decided he would have to die.
We may not be guilty of murder or trapped in a cave of our own making, but we are either moving toward Jesus or toward trouble. Big problems don’t develop overnight. They break upon us gradually, one step at a time. Where are you headed?
“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the 41st president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.
I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!
Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.
In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.
By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
When God Intervenes
In a poem titled This Child Is Beloved, Omawumi Efueye, known affectionately as Pastor O, writes about his parents’ attempts to end the pregnancy that would result in his birth. After several unusual events that prevented them from aborting him, they decided to welcome their child instead. Omawumi’s awareness of God’s intervention in preserving his life motivated him to give up a lucrative career in favor of full-time ministry. Today, he faithfully pastors a London church.
Like Pastor O, the Israelites experienced God’s intervention at a vulnerable time in their history. While traveling through the wilderness, they came within sight of King Balak of Moab. Terrified of their conquests and their vast population, Balak engaged a seer named Balaam to place a curse on the unsuspecting travelers (Numbers 22:2–6).
But something amazing happened. Whenever Balaam opened his mouth to curse, a blessing issued instead. “I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,” he declared. “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; . . . God brought them out of Egypt” (Numbers 23:20–22). God preserved the Israelites from a battle they didn’t even know was raging!
Whether we see it or not, God still watches over His people today. May we worship in gratitude and awe the One who calls us blessed.
Instead of Revenge
After Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by Huaorani tribesmen in 1956, no one expected what happened next. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, their young daughter, and another missionary’s sister willingly chose to make their home among the very people who killed their loved ones. They spent several years living in the Huaorani community, learning their language, and translating the Bible for them. These women’s testimony of forgiveness and kindness convinced the Huaorani of God’s love for them and many began to follow Jesus.
What Elisabeth and her friend did is an incredible example of not repaying evil with evil but with good (Romans 12:17). The apostle Paul encouraged the church in Rome to show through their actions the transformation that God had brought into their own lives. What did Paul have in mind? They were to go beyond the natural desire to take revenge; instead, they were to show love to their enemies by meeting their needs, such as providing food or water.
Why do this? Recalling a proverb from the Old Testament (Proverbs 25:21–22), Paul said that the kindness shown by believers to their enemies could win them over and light the fire of repentance in their hearts.
Abba, Father, it is difficult, even impossible, for us to love others in our own strength. Help us through Your Spirit to truly love our enemies, and use us to bring them to You.
“Chasing tornadoes,” says Warren Faidley, “is often like a giant game of 3D-chess played out over thousands of square miles.” The photojournalist and storm chaser adds: “Being in the right place at the right time is a symphony of forecasting and navigation while dodging everything from softball-sized hailstones to dust storms and slow-moving farm equipment.”
Faidley’s words make my palms sweat. While admiring the raw courage and scientific hunger storm chasers display, I balk at throwing myself into the middle of potentially fatal weather events.
In my experience, however, I don’t have to chase storms in life—they seem to be chasing me. That experience is mirrored by Psalm 107 as it describes sailors trapped in a storm. They were being chased by the consequences of their wrong choices but the psalmist says, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:28–29).
Whether the storms of life are of our own making or the result of living in a broken world, our Father is greater than the storm. When we are being chased by storms, He alone is able to calm them—or to calm the storm within us.