Oh great, yet another person talking about end-times.
If the above is your sentiment, I completely understand. I’m pretty sick of it myself. But if I didn’t address this one last thing, I wouldn’t sleep tonight. Oh, and I wrote this in an hour this morning with no coffee. I won’t be doing much proofreading. Sorry to all you anal-retentive English majors out there :)
There’s been a lot of weirdness in human history lately. Osama got whacked, the Jews and Pallys aren’t getting along, earthquakes, tsunamis, Oprah is ending her show…
Most recently we’ve had everyone’s new favorite nut-job Harold Camping still insisting that the world will end in October. And we’ve also had the worst tornado in modern US history devastate Joplin, MO. It’s tempting, and maybe even a little logically permissible to look at all this and think, “Wow, is all this a precursor to something else?”
And then there’s the belief that all this is the wrath of God, or his means of trying to get our attention. I would like to (hopefully in respect) address two different misconceptions that have popped up about all this. Here goes.
I was discussing the Joplin and Minneapolis tornadoes with a friend at work. He shook his head and said, “Wow. God’s trying to get our attention”. It stunned me a bit. Was God really trying to get our attention? Does God level homes and kill over 100 people just so we’ll stop and pay attention? Is he that wrathful – or that big and clumsy?
The answer, in which I’m unequivocally convinced, is no, no, no, nope, no way, no chance, not even close.
And if it is your opinion that all this destruction is God’s will, I understand and respect that. We’ve been taught a lot of things throughout our Christian history. We see a lot of crazy wrathful things in the Old Testament. And I have to admit, a lot of it makes me scratch my head and say, “God what were you thinking?!” But we don’t see this kind of thing after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We just don’t.
I believe this opinion is also a byproduct of people desperately wanting to hear from God. We are always hearing that God is speaking to us. And if you hear this long enough, but never experience God speaking, then your mind is going to go to other places. You’re going to start believing that death and destruction are the ways in which God communicates. Let me say this, and if there’s only one thing you take away from this article, let it be this: “GOD DOES NOT WORK THROUGH EVIL. BUT HE CAN WORK IN SPITE OF IT”.
Let me put it this way. It is not God’s will that a lot of people died in the Joplin tornado. It is not God’s will that your aunt has cancer or that your child tragically died. All the world’s suffering, the hate, the devastation – God has nothing to do with it. But there is one thing that he will do. In the midst of extreme suffering, he CAN work it out to bring some good. He’s just that awesome. BUT HE DOES NOT CAUSE THE SUFFERING IN ORDER TO MAKE GOOD. That’s putting God in a very small box.
And yes, God speaks to us if we let him. The problem is that we struggle with a very secular mindset and much of our thoughts and actions and plans revolve around working, making money, entertainment, and just being way too busy with projects and responsibilities. And it’s hard to fit God in our daily schedule – and more importantly – in our thoughts of every minute of every day. But the closer we get to having days where our thoughts are constantly on Him, that’s when he speaks to us. And it’s not destructive. When God speaks, it’s awe-inspiring, heart melting, soul shivering – and it changes our perspectives, worldviews and our life. And no tornadoes get created in the process.
The second misconception is that with all this recent activity, the world is coming to an end. The truth is, no one has the slightest clue of when, or even if, this will happen. In my own theological order (which has about 2 members) we’re amillenialists, which is just a very big word for believing that the end of days isn’t going to play out like it does in the “Left Behind” books. Now, I pay a lot of respect and consideration to the other side, because hey, I can admit that I could be wrong. But the point is, no one knows, and the Bible commands us not to freak out about it.
The reality is, every time period in throughout history has had weird events and devastation. This time period is no different from 10, 20,100, or 1000 years ago. Every decade in modern times has had events in to which people were absolutely convinced that the end was nigh. But the end never happened. And in this case, history will probably repeat itself.
But who cares what people believe right? What does it matter? It’s not hurting anyone!
I believe this misconception matters a ton. If you see the suffering going on around you and your thoughts do nothing but constantly dwell on this being evidence of the end-times, then you’re missing the point of the gospel. Jesus commanded a lot of things to do in the here and now. We’re commanded to feed his sheep and take care of the poor and love each other to the point of self submission and sacrifice. NOW. Not later. Caring too much about when the world is going to end distracts us from that.
So what should we do whenever the world experiences devastation? Two things. The first one is simple: help out. God calls us to play an active role in his redemption. Helping out is God’s will. Besides, it’s common sense.
If you find you don’t have the resources of time or money to help out, the other thing you can do is pray. If you’re looking for some cryptic, epic, mystical weirdness in your Christian faith, look no further than prayer. Prayer is so much more than giving lip service to God as he arbitrarily decides what to do. Don’t look towards the end-times if you want a little mystical drama in your faith. Read Daniel chapter 10, and then go pray with that in mind. It might change the way you do it.
But don’t…PLEASE don’t sit idly by and try to decipher God’s words or actions in the world’s sufferings while doing nothing to contribute. There’s little more that makes Christianity look ugly.