One of the crazy activities offered to teenagers these days is to go on a high ropes activity course in one of myriad outward bounds centres. Parents pay to view the entertainment and watch their darling ones get harnessed up to safety rope mechanisms; then to have a fun-filled or fear-filled hour suspended 30 feet above the ground, traversing thin tightropes, shaking bridges, moving stilts and all sorts of unstable walkways! One of the easiest ways of gaining confidence, apparently, is to fall off something, because then you realise the strength of the harness holding you when you really need it.
I think we are all traversing the shaking and unstable course of trying to live through a global pandemic. It is not a nice feeling to have to restrict lifestyle, change patterns of work and socialising, and cope with uncertain symptoms and even serious illness. This is not the only area of shaking in the world of course, and for some people, war, migration, environmental problems and poverty are bigger real time troubles they live with every day. For many of us, however, the viral pandemic is a kind of leveller, bringing us all to an awareness of our mortality, the uncertainty of life and the important things that really matter. How steady are we in the midst of this shaking?
I have been blogging about glory and shaking as a new paradigm for living on planet earth, the closer we move towards Jesus’ return. I want to offer a couple of ways the bible gives us to navigate times of shaking.
Firstly see God’s purposes in it. Romans 8v18-25 speaks of the groaning of creation as in childbirth. It is a groaning of frustration because of the effects of sin upon our world, yet it is also a groaning of longing in all of cosmic creation itself to be liberated and renewed. The key word in this passage is hope; there is a mirroring of our christian hope for redemption and our new bodies, alongside the hope of the created order to know an end to the suffering of the world. Yes there is sin but there are also labour pains that pick up on the hastening times – God’s End Time plan as Jesus return draws nearer.
All shaking is part of the groaning of creation, a wake up call as it were. So many people are stuck head down in the immanent possibilities of what we believe human civilisation can achieve in our strength. Christian hope is about transcendence, looking up and beyond what is our human experience, towards the kingdom life and new world that only God can inspire and bring about. God allows every experience of shaking, not to destroy us, but to shake us free of the smaller things so that we can latch onto the so much bigger things of his plans and loving purposes for all of his creation. Trusting God’s bigger purposes actually motivates us to action and to making a difference in the world; we are literally spurred on by hope.
Secondly find confidence in God despite it. Psalm 46 speaks of having tremendous confidence in the Lord despite troubles and turmoil around us. The psalmist reminds us that troubles are not the whole story of our world: that is the devil’s lie. The bigger story is that God is in our midst, always at work, refreshing his people, working for good, and overturning evil. As people of faith, we can find a refreshing river of God’s presence wherever we are, even if trusted mountains fall away. As prayerful individuals, we can always re-centre ourselves within the profound peace of his unshakeable kingdom, even if everything normal is shaking around us. And that refreshing and that peace is something we can offer people around us who at the current moment struggle to see God or what he is doing.
In the end, confidence in God and hope in his loving purposes becomes a strong harness on the high ropes course of shaky life. We cannot fall beyond his loving reach so we will be okay. We can put our weight on him to steady us when traversing a difficult section of life. We are all held daily by God in his care and grace anyway, it is simply those of Christian faith who realise it best of all.
God bless you.