these things

Mark and I are reading Spiritual Rhythm by Mark Buchanan, one of our favorite authors. I am always amazed at God’s timing on things… how he brings together a conversation, a book, something out of the Word that applies directly to what is going on around me and inside of me. I am not sure if the excerpt from the book will speak to you, but I wanted to place it in this space as a reminder to myself. If it speaks to you and encourages you… well that’s icing on the cake. Praise God.

All hell breaks loose before all heaven does. According to Revelation and other Scripture (Mark 13, for example), that’s the shape of history. It’s prelude to the second coming. Before it gets spectacularly good, it’s going to get spectacularly bad.

This reality often works on a smaller and more intimate scale as well. I’m told by people who work in health care that unhealthy people who pursue health – eating better, more exercise, reduced stress – often go through a violent adjustment. Their bodies at first revolt. For a season, they are healthier being sick than getting well. There’s even a word for this: homeostasis. All living entities – bodies, businesses, cities, countries – find their balance. Any correction to this, even if it’s in the direction of greater health, knocks the thing off-balance. It tries violently to recover.

I’ve seen that up close. I’ve seen it with crack addicts. I’ve seen it with messed-up families, dysfunctional committees, limping churches. Any move toward healing is a reeling blow. It’s like trying to walk after spending a week on a whirligig: the world seems to spin precisely because you stopped spinning.

And so I often see a lot of quitting midway. I often see them climb back on the whirligig. I can no longer count the number of addicts I know who started their recovery and then bailed. I have almost lost count of the number of marriages I’ve seen that began a renewal and aborted.

It just gets too tough. The work, the sweat, the hassle, the heartbreak – it doesn’t seem worth it. Egypt looks good when the desert gets hot and the menu hasn’t changed in awhile.

Yet Jesus said summer is preceded by all manner of disruptions, disappointments, violent adjustments – “these things,” he calls them. He’s saying, in effect, all hell breaks loose before all heaven does. In the years I’ve been a pastor, every season of flourishing in the church has been preceded by conflict, crisis, and lots of people unhappy.

What are “these things” for you? What are the violent adjustments or deep disappointments or hard knocks or tedious stretches that you might have to endure this side of summertime? I’m convinced I’ve forfeited more than one summer by an early exit. I’m convinced that some people never get to summer because they’ve developed the habit of an early exit – they leave their jobs, their churches, their friendships, their marriages when “these things” get too difficult.

Are you experiencing “these things” now? (One way to test whether it’s one of “these things” is that your overwhelming reaction is to look for an exit.) Is it possible that the other side of “these things” is not disaster but summer?

Ask God for discernment. And if you believe you’re in the midst of “these things,” then ask him for strength to see it through.

And at some point, you’ll also want to buy some pool toys.

{Spiritual Rhythm, being with Jesus every season of your soul, by Mark Buchanan, page 144-145}

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