Just a few days after making a decision that filled me with fresh hope and expectation, I found myself again bowed low with fear and anxiety. My mind was spinning (and still is) with a thousand to-dos and a million thoughts. But I found myself stopped in my tracks by a simple entry in a devotional that some ladies back home sent me for Christmas. It led me to spend a few days in a different prophetic book–Haggai–than the one I’m currently in (Isaiah).
The devo led me through the prophet’s invitation to “consider your ways” (1.5). Little did I know, this book had a lot more to say to me besides that.
The words spoke directly to the hearts of the exiles who had returned to build the Temple–the exiles who kept putting the task off, busied with their own homes instead of the Lord’s. Yet, their expectations were high as they returned–and these expectations were utterly unmet–
“You have sown much, but harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them in a bag full of holes…
“You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away…”
The two first lines of those verses sunk deep into my own heart. That’s exactly where I am–in the wake of dissatisfaction, disappointment, and distrust. “The time has not yet come,” they say, “to rebuild the Lord’s house.” But what they mean is, “We’re not ready to commit again to what crumbled before our very eyes. We thought your presence would protect us from the destruction that came. But even the Temple did not stand.”
Yes, it was sin that removed that divine protection from the people before the exile. Their stock had more been placed in the place over & against the person: the God of their fathers. And that, too, was sin. But now, they find themselves fearful to commit to anything but what they can build to protect themselves. And they know it doesn’t satisfy, but it takes their mind off of everything else. It keeps their God at arms’ length–this God who allowed this destruction that they’re daily reminded of, daily living in; this God who took them to exile.
And I find myself in their words (and I know I’m not alone)–I’m not ready to commit again to what crumbled before my eyes.
I’m living as an exile in a place I once dared to call home. Stressors are triggered on every side. Fears come up quick & overstay their welcome, like glances from strangers that stick to my fair skin like glue. Thoughts spin in my mind–keeping me awake at night and hazy during the day.
But God, in His mercy is drawing His returned exiles and myself, His exodus-ing daughter to one, singular focus: His good pleasure, His glory, His dwelling-among-you presence. This should always be our focus, our hope, our every expectation: Him, making His home with us wherever we go–And us being a part of making that happen!
But, then, life happens.
Soon, we’re overwhelmed, afraid, worrying all over again. Sometimes even moments after He speaks to us. Why? Because things haven’t turned out the way they should’ve. Or maybe in some ways they have, but our feelings and emotions just don’t seem to be in sync with them. We look to God and say, What is going on?
And He looks right back at us–“eyes filled with hope”–and says, I am with you.
But catch when His reassurance comes back in this prophet’s short book–after the obedience. after the fear [of the Lord] that overshadows everything else.
But remember: obedience is not pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps and merely marching on; it’s just doing what God has said. His commandments are not burdensome. If something is weighing on you, check its source. His yoke is fitted for your shoulders. It’s light. And the fear of the Lord is not cowering before Him. It’s not a shaky, anxious, pit-in-your-stomach feeling. It’s awe, it’s wonder, it’s knowing that He has much more in store for you–because He is so much larger than you can imagine. Fear of God is having the right perspective of who He is & what He does, as well the right perspective of who you are and are not & what you can and cannot do.
Which is why as obedience walks and obstructions are removed by awe and vision of Him–God then stirs up the spirits of His people. Why? Because we cannot do this on our own. We will fall right back into our own houses, our own busyness, our own presence and glory. But as He stirs up our spirits, the work of His house gets done. We can move forward. Excuses vanish and hope dawns for His glory to return and to satisfy and make us whole again.
I don’t want to live in the ruins anymore, rubble-testimonies of all that we’ve lost along the way. So we put one foot in front of the other–no matter how small the step–to clear the ruins and watch Him rebuild and restore our lives, even while using our own hands. Even as the “I’m not ready” still echoes off our lips, bounces in our worry-ridden thoughts, beats in our anxious, rapid, thumping hearts.