Our garage door lurched, scraped, and jolted as it descended to the pavement. Less than a month ago, the door had completely run off its tracks and hung precariously over the entrance to our driveway. Repairmen responded to our call last month and we had hoped their work fixed the problem.
On Saturday, the garage door coughed and sputtered again as it lifted and pulled. Since John was leaving for a ministry trip, the timing of the garage door’s demise could not have come at a less opportune time. I would need to call the repairmen out to our house again; to fix what hadn’t been fixed before.
It took two days for the repair crew to arrive. And when they did, the foreman of the job tried to pass off the shoddy work on some one else saying that we must have had some one other than his company out to repair the door. When I countered his argument with payment documentation from his company, he then ordered his men to go to work on the door.
We need this door to work right.
The door is the only way we can drive in and out of our property. In addition, we call this door the first line of defense for our home security. Johannesburg crime levels are high. When we first moved here, Johannesburg claimed the title of murder capital of the world. Although it no longer holds this title today, hijackings, violent home invasions, rape, murder and other senseless crimes are just too horrendously common. Our suburb averages 10-16 crime events a week. Because of the environment in which we live, we have many who pray for our safety and protection every single day. We receive those prayers with humility and gratitude.
Our family and friends in Johannesburg must be aware and alert to the dangers around us 24/7. Our family refuses to live in fear. We choose instead to rely upon the security of our God; no matter what happens now or in the future.
One of the blessings of returning home on a Stateside furlough is that the oppressive weight of being so alert and defensive decreases significantly. A wave of relief encompasses our family when we step onto our homeland soil and are then enfolded into the homes of our family and our friends whom we love so much.
But just because we feel a sense of relief and sense of security in the States, doesn’t really mean we are free from danger. We aren’t.
The three most recent school shootings on the West Coast make that abundantly clear. These incidents are occurring too often. They are too near the ones I love and adore. The University of Alabama at Huntsville (2010), Seattle Pacific University last week, and then yesterday at Reynolds High School are all educational establishments where I have family and friends.
We’ve all said it. We’ve all thought it. Something is terribly wrong. It’s like our garage door that is supposed to work and just doesn’t. When the repairmen come, they deflect accountability and then apply a patch job that we aren’t sure is going to make any long term difference. Why don’t we just buy a new door? Well, it’s not our house. The decision to replace the door rests upon our landlord. However, a new door, no matter how strong and secure, ultimately does not prevent evil from growing in the hearts of men.
How do I know? Well, if you look at our house (see picture above) and all of its security, you’d think that we would be safe, right? Just to enter our house, we pass through four locked barriers. There is electric fencing that surrounds the exterior of our front and back garden. We have a security alarm system. Inside our home, there is a steel gate at the entrance of the hallway that leads to our bedrooms that we lock every single night. We also have armed guard response. And still, we have had intruders who have maneuvered past these obstacles to break into our home on two separate occasions.
Man-made defenses are not consistent enough or strong enough to protect against the will of harmful intent.
Inevitably the question arises that if we place our trust and security in a Sovereign God, then why do such terrible things happen? Why doesn’t He stop the bloodshed? Why doesn’t He avenge the deaths of the innocent? Why doesn’t He do something permanent to end this senseless loss of life?
Friends, we have no idea what our Sovereign God has done and is doing to protect us. We have no idea how many lives were saved and will be saved as He defends us. We have no idea what people were empowered and what factors were put in place by our God to prevent something even worse from happening. All we see and experience are the present tragedies that shock us, the inconsistent garage doors that fail us, the wounded hearts that tear and bleed us, and the unfulfilled dreams that dishearten and discourage us. We just don’t see the full picture.
That doesn’t stop us though, as we cry out, “Enough!”
We wail, “No more!”
We beg, “Stop the madness!”
And if we’re honest we pray words of self protection, “Not our friends, not our family, not us, Lord!” Because we just don’t know if we are ever going to be safe in this present, unpredictable, insecure, and raging world. The violence continues to affect us all.
Friends, as I read Scripture this morning, I found words that show that our God is not blind or deaf to the massively painful realities of these tragedies across the world or by the horrors that have been inflicted throughout time. It is written…
But your dead will live, Lord;
their bodies will rise—
let those who dwell in the dust
wake up and shout for joy—
your dew is like the dew of the morning;
the earth will give birth to her dead.
Go, my people, enter your rooms
and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until his wrath has passed by.
See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
the earth will conceal its slain no longer. Isaiah 26:19-21
I don’t know when, but one day, once and for all, our dead will rise with Jesus Christ and every garage door that was meant to protect will no longer be needed. Every security system will be discarded. Every broken heart will be mended. Every unfulfilled need will be met. Every concern and worry will be washed away. Our God will act and He will avenge the lives of the innocent.
In the meantime, though, what do we do?
We care and we share.
We encourage and bless.
We keep going and doing the best we can.
We hope and believe.
We look to our God to save us…even if in the saving, we are saved by death.
Our God is Present. He hears our cries. He hears our prayers. He hears our need. One day all of this significant and agonizing pain will be brought to an end and Hope will rise once and for all. May it be soon, Lord. Come Jesus Come.