As Michael gave his message on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of a few of my own situations and life experiences in which I had initially resisted something, but in the end, it was beneficial and a valuable experience.
Immediately, I thought of my best friend from 8th grade, who I met at church camp. She and I both went to church camp on a Sunday afternoon, bitter enemies. At thirteen years old, we could not stand one another, and resisted even admitting to others that we knew each other, or that we went to the same church. I can’t recall a specific reason why we both “resisted” one another so much, but I do remember the surprised look on each of our parents faces when they came to pick us up from church camp the following Saturday. We had become the best of friends, and were just devastated that she had to go on family vacation that following week – it would be a whole TEN DAYS before we could see one another again! I vaguely remember crying as her family drove towards California, and as my family drove me home. But those memories of initially “resisting” her and crying as her family left on vacation are most certainly over-shadowed by the many memories I now share with my best friend of fourteen years. Our friendship has grown into something deep and quite powerful.
I cannot recall why exactly I resisted this relationship with her, or her with me. Was it simply because it was new and unknown? Or maybe it was uncomfortable?
Sometimes situations we initially resist may seem awkward and unpleasant, difficult or distressing. Sometimes they are just downright painful, and hurt for quite some time. More often than not, our first inclination is to ask, “why God, why?” Why would God allow me to be in such a distressing situation – something so uncomfortable? If God is all-powerful, why do I have to live through this painful experience? How can I possibly grow from this experience that I would benefit from such pain?
As the book of Ezekiel tells us, the Israelites asked similar questions while they were living in Exile. Why are we in exile? Is God unjust? Why could God not protect our land of promise? Why isn’t God doing anything about this situation?
Ezekiel’s message to the Israelites in response to such inquiries is one that provides us today with just as much answer and hope as it was meant to provide ancient readers. Ezekiel’s answer to such questions – an answer that came in the form of a vision of the Valley of Dry Bones – is not an answer that necessarily provided immediate comfort and hope. Rather the response Ezekiel gives on behalf of God is to provide an enduring hope, hope that will outlast any tough situation. And we receive that same hope today.
God provides us with that hope in Jesus Christ. For the answers we receive in Jesus Christ are not trite, quick wit answers that only provide fleeting hope. The answers given to us in Jesus Christ are answers which provide enduring hope, to provide us with practices of hope, that we might see more fully God’s ultimate will. We will still experience tough situations in life, and sometimes those situations bring pain, lack of understanding and anguish. But the grief will not last forever. The current and immediate sorrow will be replaced by everlasting comfort and life. The heartache and anguish will be transformed into strength, as we find wholeness in the Body of Christ, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May we continue to seek this hope and life in Jesus Christ, even in the midst of new, uncomfortable or down-right painful situations, for it is in God in Jesus that we find our hope, our comfort and new life.
In Hope…… Laura