God Thy Dread, Chicken Little

stock photo credit Achim Bongard

These days have me feeling like chicken little. Writing from the wringer of anxiety, I fret my peers concluding I’m losing my ever-loving … perspective. Nevertheless, let’s enjoy the ride for two minutes, if for nothing more than literary exercise.

Droughts, floods, and plagues, unpredictable tides and winds are reported like as many fallen skies. Heat omega domes pop up over the face of my continent like the angry boils on a plague-ridden face; they emerge, they spread, they burst, leaving a puss of drought that lends itself to the scorches of incineration. Alpha and Omega.

Formed as I am by the dual influences of science and faith that would pin the blame on climate change or else the apocalypse, I think much can be explained by climate change. Though perhaps it’s on account of both. After all, at what point would God say ENOUGH! and shed this earth like a worn-out cloak? [Psalm 102:26]. The protective layer of oxygenated air clinging to the earth, somehow steady for millennia at life-giving concentrations and pressure; unbidden, I envision it puffed to oblivion in the vast expanse of the universe in an instant, like one blowing the smoke from the wick of a just-extinguished candle. I fear that end would be a little too merciful. Anticipating disaster, my instincts prompt me to make some sudden adaptation, but there is no clear difference I can make. I recommit myself to reasonable and measured courses of action. Discern between panic as opposed to the purposeful compulsion of fire in one’s gut.

I practice the spiritual discipline of reading scripture, often a source of comfort and reassurance in unexpected ways for life’s ebbs and flows. It just so happens that my reading plan has me camped out in books like Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Micah. There is no reassurance here. These are accounts of the people of God growing arrogant and apathetic again and again. Stories of God offering correction, of God withdrawing his hand that restrains the forces of disaster and defeat. Warnings and retellings of once-productive cities being decimated by the forces of nature and of enemies; foundations of civilization being blown asunder, descending into chaos; people scattering away from noble prosperity into base survival. Floods, fires, violence, hunger, plagues, and ruin. God staying his course of wrath onto his stubborn people. HIS! How many months have I dwelt among the doomsday prophets? Perhaps I should read through my plan faster.

Discouraging as it is, clearly this is a season I’m meant to know. And yet, somehow, in spite of the disasters, in spite of my instincts and anxieties urging despair, I don’t believe this is the cusp of Armageddon. Not quite; something doesn’t exactly fit. In any case, global desolations have come before, and they have waned. Does scripture describe how our generation will overcome a season of hardships to once again enjoy productive, prosperous earthly lives? Or does it point to our spiritual end in paradise? Sometimes.

On the heels of a great flood of the Euphrates and of the Assyrian invasion of the once-promised land, the prophet says to God’s own;

Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces!

Give ear, all you from far countries.

Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces;

Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces.

Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing;

Speak the word, but it will not stand,

For God is with us. [Isaiah 8:9-10]

And thus, how shall we best respond when facing the atmosphere of disaster? Isaiah immediately continues;

For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying;

“Do not say ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all this people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken. [Isaiah 8:11-18]

Comfort, safety, and prosperity may not be guaranteed, and yet there is a mysterious hope, a mysterious promise that covers us collectively and individually at once. This hope was once the Messiah, in the days of the prophets it was. The Messiah is the hope again.

They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry…

…they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish…

…The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation and increased it’s joy;

They rejoice before You according to the joy of harvest…

…For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given… [Isaiah 8, 9 excerpts]

In counterintuitive ways, the Messiah once established redemption. His methods make sense only in hindsight. I expect that understanding for the design in his plans will escape us again, and yet we will see redemption, in the end. This is the mysterious hope. But we are not there now. In the meantime, search for the correction. Dread it if you must.

Chicken little, let Messiah brood you under his wing [Luke 13:34]; brood there more so in the face of disaster. Whatever wrings your anxiety, God be thy dread, chicken little. God my dread, my sanctuary.

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