"And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide Himself any more, but your eyes will constantly behold your Teacher.
And your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way; walk in it, when you turn to the right hand and when you turn to the left."
Isaiah 30:20-21 (Amplified Bible)
Tucked between the stories of Noah's family being saved from the flood that destroyed the earth and the call of God on Abram is a little story that I have either heard or read many times since my childhood. After Noah and his family left the ark, they were commanded by God to "...be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it." (Genesis 9:7, NIV) God gave the family protection from the animals by causing animals that would naturally be dangerous to the family to be afraid of them. Peace throughout the earth reigned as the descendants of Noah were born and multiplied.
But after all the lineage of Noah's sons was given in Scripture, Genesis 11:1 starts like this:
"Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there." (Genesis 11:1-2)
The fact that everyone spoke the same language resulted in everyone settling on a beautiful piece of plain called Shinar. Let's face it, girlfriends: we hang out with those who are similar to us, don't we? How many of us would willing leave a group of people with whom we got along with wonderfully well to live in possible isolation or with people that we don't get along with? I like people who think like me, talk like me, and share the same goals and interests as I do. I have had times in my life when my friendships have been such a harmonious source of blessing in my life. I have dreamed big dreams with others and had big plans, plans which all look so good on the surface because I don't fully understand the fickleness of my human nature.
Something huge happened when all these people did not spread out like God had wanted them to. Look at what verses 4-8 say:
"Then they said, 'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.'"
(This was in direct defiance to what God had asked them to do. And the ugly, veiled face of pride was revealing itself in their wanting to make a name for themselves. The group was going to build a tower that reached to the heavens--the place where God Himself dwelled. They foolishly thought, because they had each other, that they didn't need Him.)
"But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, 'If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'
So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city."
Have I ever been there--without even realizing that I have gotten to that awful place! I can settle on a beautiful plain that will mean death to me because I am in direct disobedience to God's command that I move on. My Abba cannot let me stay there for long before He has to remind me how utterly desperate I am for Him. I have to be shaken out of my stupor, my comfort, and my rebellion. My heart's motives have to be exposed for my own good. It is then that my life can become incredibly chaotic with confusion. Suddenly, my wonderful, harmonious life is turned upside down on its head before I even know that the cyclone has hit it. The clear, marked path has shadows and patches of deep, dark woods that I never saw before. I realize that I can no longer rely on what I have falsely believed to have propelled me down the path before. My sumptuous fare has suddenly turned to the bread of adversity and my drink is the water of affliction. And my heart is broken with the shock of my world being turned upside down.
Has there been a scattering in your life, sweet friend of mine? Are you sitting there looking at the pieces of shattered dreams in your hands? Have you been served with divorce papers, lost a relationship very dear to you, on the verge of financial ruin, loss of a job/profession, or are in the depths of depression that you cannot shake over an unforeseen circumstance that has turned your once-safe world upside down? Are you far away from all you once had to bring you comfort? Is life just one tangled mess of confusion?
We cannot forget that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. What do we cling to when we start asking ourselves why life is such a mess? We cling to the revealed Word of God which is our shelter, even as it reveals our hearts.
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory." Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIV)
This time of confusion is not confusing to our God. Those dark shadows along the path are not darkness to Him. Those shattered pieces of our lives are in the gracious Potter's hand. He can take what is broken and awful and make it into something for the praise of His glory. As unlikely as it may seem at this moment, this, too, has been allowed for our strengthening if we give Him full access to our brokenness.
Jesus, you are the Teacher. You are also the God of order. The result of my confusion given to You is clarity. Suddenly, without the crutches I have always depended on, I am able to see impure motives and arrogance that was hidden from me before my world became topsy-turvy. And when I am able to confess that, I can clearly hear Your voice saying, "This is the way, Shawn, walk in it." Help me to hear Your voice!