When you are faced with a need, a struggle or anything that you are going to present to God as a request, petition or supplication, what is your attitude? Does your prayer sound more like a complaint? An argument? Or does it sound like the whining of a child who wants to get their way?
First, let me say that the Father knows the maturity of each child and the situation in which we find ourselves. I don’t think He is offended when one who is immature or new in the faith whines about their difficult situation or circumstance. However, there is also within this a call to each of us to grow in our maturity – particularly in how we present our requests to God.
In our season of exile from one another, the natural tendency is to slip into whining, complaining, grumbling, or even arguing. I have been in each of these positions within the last 48 hours. I have found myself taking my requests to God with whining and complaining. I have made my arguments and grumblings known to my wife, God, and some of the other ministers in my circle. I have questioned God’s involvement and why He doesn’t move in the manner that makes the most sense to me.
On Tuesday, Governor Polis stated that this current season of “Safer at Home” will continue until June – and possibly well into June. This was incredibly frustrating to me and I found myself complaining, whining and arguing with God. It went a little like this, “Why do I have to obey and subject myself and our church community to a leader that is driven by fear? What gives the governor the right to pass thirty-day orders concerning the assembly of citizens? Isn’t this a violation of the constitution? Doesn’t the church have any recourse?”
I am considering whether my attitude is in the same place as that of Christ. I am finding that my prayers in this season are argumentative and full of complaints. I don’t think I am whining, but I don’t think I am filled with gratitude either. So, this is directed at me just as much as toward each one of us.
What are you grateful for in this time of exile? How can I express my sadness with gratitude? How does thanksgiving change my complaint into worship? When was the last time I thanked God for the government and prayed for wisdom for our earthly leaders? How does submission to human authority demonstrate my worship of God? Why does a timeline change my response of worship?
I believe that we are being called into maturity during this season of exile. I love that we spent Lent and this season of exile in the Book of the Twelve – most of which were written around themes of fasting, sacrifice, obedience, and exile. The next two weeks we are going to be looking at Ezra/Nehemiah – as we were anticipating that we would be emerging from exile on Pentecost Sunday. If we were allowed to open our doors to everyone on May 31st, the reality is that many in our church community would still be in isolation due to various risk factors. So, our exile of social distancing continues. (Even as I read this statement, my first response was, “Ugh!”)
What are some lessons that we can learn from the Jewish exile that apply to our exile?
We are to plant gardens and bless the city where we find ourselves living
It is good to long for the return, but engage in worship and ministry now
Live in the season of exile and learn from it
Learn to present your requests and petitions to God WITH thanksgiving and gratitude
Everyone will not return at the same time
People will be tempted to look to their own houses at an expense to the Family of God
There are many, possibly most, who will continue to press into the community of Christ through participation, prayer, and giving
Some will pull away from the family of God to care for or to protect their birth family
Worship will need to be defined by faith instead of rituals
People will look for hope or security wherever they can find it – even a false god
Exile reminds us of our need for the community of God and redemption of His House
These are just some lessons that I am taking from this season that have direct parallels to the exile of the Hebrew people to Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and then Persia. The people were driven to the far corners of the earth for at least two generations. Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah never saw Jerusalem or the temple again, though they believed it would one day be restored – and their faith was credited to them as righteousness.
What if you took some time today to meditate on these questions? How is this season strengthening your faith? How are you pressing into Christ and seeking the redemption of His Church? How will this season shape your definition of worship and the role of community in worship? I hope that you will either journal or track your journey through the wilderness in some way and that you will share it with me soon.