When one looks at a full moon in the distant sky, it looks like a white round ball with a smooth surface. It is only upon closer inspection that the surface proves not to be smooth at all but full of mountains and craters. Similarly, a mountain in the distance seems to have smooth slopes, but the one who climbs it notes its rugged face with ridges and crevices that produce difficulty. The sea from a distance appears smooth, but closer examination reveals that the surface of the water has swells and waves and ripples everywhere. The powerful microscopes of today have revealed that even a smooth table top is not actually smooth on a microscopic level. As the song says, "From a distance there is harmony." But on a smaller, closer level there is chaosan unpredictable pattern that varies in random ways.
What is true of the physical world is also true of the spiritual. If one breaks God's law here, we expect that this trouble will come on him there. But sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't. Life is not as predictable on the individual level as it is in looking at the overall picture. For those who are trying to follow Jesus, life is not as smooth in the everyday occurrences as it sometimes looks from a distance. Blessings do not come on any more of a predictable pattern than punishments do.
This has happened to many before us. Joseph's rise to power in Egypt was marred by years first as a slave and then as a prisoner. David slew the giant and became the king's son-in-law only to flee as a fugitive from the king. Elijah called down fire on top of Mt. Carmel only to have his life threatened and have to flee to Horeb. Paul was plagued by beatings and shipwrecks as he traveled about to spread the good news. Even Jesus, who lived a perfect life, had to endure opposition and finally a lynch mob. If the everyday lives of such men were marked by chaos, can we expect more?
But what we must do when chaos comes to our lives is back up and look at the big picture. If the everyday is marked by chaos, the overall is marked by harmony. This is the message of the book of Revelation. Persecution and trouble may come our way, but God is in charge and He will win in the end. What we must be careful about is to persevere when everything seems to go wrong. Just as the mountain climber could not climb the perfectly smooth surface that he sees from a distance, so we need the rough terrain of our lives in order to grow spiritually. To endure we need to focus, not on the disorder of the individual day, but on the order that God brings to our overall lives. We need to count our many blessings when troubles come our way. It is only then that we can see the harmony from a distance.
Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.