Thursday, September 19, 2013

Divine Reversals and Patterns

I liked the readings this morning in one of my devotional periodicals. This one had to do with “reversals,” reflecting upon Psalm 113:7, “He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” The writer noted that the Bible has many stories of reversals: women who wanted but could not have children became pregnant, an exiled people returned to their land, an executed man rose from the dead. We can think of others. We can also think of people who experienced reversals who weren’t even seeking them: Saul of Tarsus, the two downcast fellows walking to Emmaus, and others.

I always worry about how to communicate this message of God's faithfulness. What about all the times we pray for a reversal but things stay the same? What about problems about which we pray and then they become worse? It can be cruel to tell someone that God will answer prayer if only he/she has enough faith. The prayer may be answered with a difficult-to-understand “no,” or the prayer may be answered over a period of time, or in some surprising way.

On the other hand, I testify to the fact that God has never failed me. My faith has often been whiney and distressed during times when (in hindsight) God was working on some amazing thing. One life-changing opportunity came along during a time when I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. But still, I don't want to be insensitive when I talk to people about such promises, because people do struggle with situations and the surprising, hoped-for reversal doesn’t seem imminent---or likely.

The devotion writer talks about the grace of other people. God works through people both to steady us and, many times, God brings about reversals for us via those within and without our circle. That’s very true!

I also like to think of reversals as patterns, patterns of God’s love and grace. Sometimes we can point to specific help that God provided right away, but we can also point to patterns of God’s love and grace that we see drawn or woven in our lives, often in hindsight. So it’s very important that we try not to give up on God when we’re disappointed or distressed. You’d hate to miss the beautiful sight of amazing things God had accomplished over our lives' long haul.

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