Psalm 18:1-3 (ESV)
When it seems like the world is in ruins and everything is falling apart around us, we are reminded that there is a place of security and strength to which we can run. Even if we are far away, there is a beacon of hope, a lighthouse in the storm. The Lord stands strong in the midst of our struggles and battles. We can run to safety at his side and trust him to fight against the enemy that would destroy us.
While this summer did not look anything like we expected it to (see Brandy’s posts – France, Switzerland), it has been educational. We were able to visit with a number of missionaries in Europe, which was what we hoped for. We were also able to visit Normandy, France as well as Mont Saint Michel (definitely marked off a couple of lifelong “to-do’s”). One of the most amazing things about our travels this summer was the number of castles we have seen. The vast majority are ruins, but some have been restored or are in the process of restoration.
I found myself looking at these structures wondering about their history, about who used to live there and what their lives were like. Wondering why they abandoned such a seeming ideal structure. Had there been a family tragedy? A war? Financial ruin? Legal troubles? A move for a job that paid better than farming?
When we visited Nomandy, we saw many structures that had been rebuilt after being bombed and blown up in World War II. The reason for their destruction was obvious, but the fact that they, from their Humpty Dumpty state, had been put back together was remarkable. Restoration is an extensive and expensive process. Undoing years of neglect sometimes involves completely tearing down and rebuilding, often with the original materials. Sometimes, rather than rebuilding, the structures are scavenged for building materials for other structures, such as the Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard near Avignon, France, the largest standing aqueduct that was contemporary with Jesus Christ.
Why are some structures maintained, some rebuilt, others repurposed and still others abandoned? The difference is in the level to which someone cared about and for them. In a Genesis 3 world, it takes time and effort to maintain anything. Everything is moving toward destruction, degradation or death. This is both a law of physics and a spiritual reality.
The state of Christianity in Europe can be seen literally and symbolically in the bones of churches strewn across the landscape.
Many churches have been “re-purposed” as shops, pubs and museums. I guess I am glad that some of the architecture and art has been maintained, but it is a stark reminder that it is a gravesite of a once worshipping body of Christ.
These stone and wood structures suffered the ravages of years of neglect. As I pondered the history, I imagined the process of decay. Except for cases like Normandy and the rapid decay brought on by explosive forces, the ruins were the result of small things left unchecked. Water, the universal solvent, leaking through a bit of thatched roof. If the occupants noticed and fixed the leak, further damage was prevented. Uncorrected, water gets into the walls and either begins to wash away plaster or nature begins to encroach. Soon, a stone comes loose allowing in more water or animals seeking a safe home. Fast forward a hundred years and you stand before a ruin.
Spiritually, there are many who have neglected their Christian walk and are little more than crumbled walls where once stood a beautiful cathedral. As the proverb says, “a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:10-11) That is not to say that rest is inappropriate, but extended periods of laziness are.
In our spiritual lives, it looks like skipping our time in the Word once in a while so we can catch up on some sleep, followed soon after by sleeping in every morning with the intent to spend our lunch time with the Lord. Then we only read the Bible on Sundays at church, then we forget to take our Bible to church (we have it on our phone after all). Before long we are looking on Amazon because the sermon is boring and it is better to stay awake not listening than fall asleep piously.
So it goes with neglecting prayer, fellowship, giving, evangelism, etc. “Little” sins like a wandering eye, a grumpy attitude, looking out for one’s own interest grow into lust, anger and selfishness. We should not be surprised when our love for the Lord begins to wane and our faith begins to feel stale.
We need not despair when we see cracks in the walls or leaks in the roof. It does not mean that all is lost, it is a prompting from the Lord that we should attend to our house, that we need to pay attention to areas that have been neglected.
Maybe there is someone in your circle that used to be a strong Christ-follower. Have you ever wondered about their history? What happened in their lives that left their faith in ruins? What seeped into a small hole and created a crevice? A broken relationship? Lost job? Some “small” sin? When things don’t go the way we planned sometimes we assume that God is either powerless, unloving or absent. Discouragement and frustration become footholds that the enemy uses to weaken our faith and eventually breach the walls of our fortress.
Perhaps it isn’t someone else whose faith-walls are crumbling. Many Christians have lost some of the zeal and excitement of their early walk with the Lord. While everyone has days where they are anxious or discouraged, when we notice that we are having more bad days than good that is a prompting from God. When we notice that leak has made a stain, that the stain has developed into a crack, that the crack has become a gap, the Holy Spirit is giving us a glimpse of reality, a moment of clarity.
Unlike all those neglected church buildings reduced to ruins, our God cares enough for us that he will never abandon or forsake us. “I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We can run from God, or rather inch away from God, at the risk of ruining our earthly lives, but we have the promise that God will complete his work in us, working all things (including our rebellion) together for his glory and demonstrating his love for us.