Yes, in my annual read through the Bible plan, I have once again landed in Ezekiel. Ezekiel ranks right up there as one of my least favorite books of the Bible. (so sorry if its your favorite)
Here I have just finished 5 months of great Old Testament books. Books of poetry, and lofty thoughts of God. Rather understandable books. Books that are colorful and interesting. Books that have nuggets of promises that have been clung to throughout the ages.
|Ezekiel by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel|
Ezekiel reminds me of Revelation. It starts out with a "John the Apostle" type revelation. Here Ezekiel is, minding his own business in the foreign land he was deported too. He is sitting by a river, when this tremendous scene unfolds before him. This scene of God.
And then he is given an impossible task. To bring God's message to a condemned people, who will refuse to hear the message.
On top of that, he gets to live out his message. He shaves (Ezekiel never experiences "no-shave November" on my time). He lives out in the elements, for over a year and a half, lying on his side, by a fake city-bearing the sin of his people. He is without his voice for months. But, the worse part comes when God tells him that He is going to take away the desire of his eyes. And he isn't allowed to cry and mourn over his loss.
And then yesterday the truth of Ezekiel struck me. When God puts His hand on us, for service and ministry (Ezekiel 1:3) it doesn't mean an easy path is going to follow. We're not tip-toeing through the tulips. When God is revealing to us deep truths about Himself, it is often through deep waters.
Trials and suffering come in to our lives for multitudes of reasons. Sometimes they are for our benefit and sifting. Sometimes they are for God's glory.
Sometimes trials come in to our lives because of what someone else needs to see or hear. What someone else needs to be taught.
Ezekiel's whole experience was an object lesson to the nation of Israel. He had a harsh message to convey. He had a message of repentance to declare. And it was through his words, and his experiences.
I think of this lovely family. The grandfather is dying of cancer. The grand daughter has health issues of her own. She has went through her own deep waters this fall. They are a sweet, godly family. As I follow the story of this family on Catherine's blog, I wonder why they are going through these heartbreaking trials. But, then I think of how my life, and so many others' lives have been touched through their story, and I trust God, that He sees the bigger picture. That He is working more out through this situation, than meets the eye. He is working in me, through them.
And while it doesn't necessarily make what they are going through any easier, it has made them a channel of God's blessing. To so many others.
What about Jim Elliott, Pete Fleming, Nate Saint, Ed and Roger? What about their deaths? Their families' loss? Tragic. Yet it was their example that encouraged many young men and women to go to the mission field in the 50s and 60s. It was through their deaths that a whole tribe in Ecuador was reached with the gospel.
This thought is a freeing thought to me. I find that when I hit troubled waters I often wonder is this how God is leading? Does He want me to give up this ministry? Does He want me to persevere? Is He is refining me?
But, to know that sometimes it isn't about me, is freeing and comforting. Can you see that?
God is concerned with each of us as individuals. He knows the number of our hairs. But, He also has a bigger plan He is working out. Conforming Christians to Christ's likeness, and working all things out for His glory. Sometimes we are brought through trials just so that we have the experience of comfort in order to comfort others. Sometimes people are learning through your verbal or non-verbal response to your situation.
Trials are hard, but they aren't ever the end of the story. The final chapters of Ezekiel cover the building of a future temple and city. It is a wonderful description of restoration for Israel. And the book closes with the words naming this new city, "The Lord is There." I will get there in a few more days.
Have you ever been through a really tough experience and seen God working in others' lives because of it? Would you share it with me in the comments, or send me an email? firstname.lastname@example.org