As our family sat for dinner at a local restaurant, we glanced up at the TV screen in the corner of the room showing Game 7 of the World Series, only to see the LA Dodgers down 0-5 after two innings to the eventual world champion Houston Astros. While that might seem "tragic" to some, the most sobering moment was seeing the breaking news headline scrolling at the bottom of the screen that reported a fatal shooting at a Walmart just 40 minutes upstate from us. As I processed that headline, I found myself struck by two different emotions — sadness on one hand and at the same time un-surprise.
Honestly, that sense of un-surprise actually...well, surprised me. I was caught off guard by that tinge of un-shock over such a violent, senseless crime that is not too far from home. And it reminded me of a sickening reality: we live in a world where violence, terror, and a disregard for human life is becoming the new normal. That bothers me...terribly. Jesus' words capture it well:
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12, NKJV
But when this sign is increasingly fulfilled and the winter chill of human lovelessness ices over the hearts of humanity, I don't want my first response to be a mild sigh of, "That's just what happens." I don't want to be callous to the depravity of our human condition.
No, I want to remain warm to the reality that this is not God's ideal, this is not my home, and that this world and my heart are in desperate need of Jesus.
SEEING HUMANITY'S PLIGHT
In last week's post, we stopped mid-story to zero in on Elisha's first prayer for open eyes in 2 Kings 6. The faithful prophet prayed for his servant to be able to see the not just the danger of enemy armies but also the protection of heaven's hosts. That's the eye-opening prayer that most remember. But there actually is a second round that is, again, quite humorous...and humbling.
Ever-full of confidence in God's power, Elisha prays that the Syrian armies would be struck with blindness. He then proceeds to lead them "to the man whom you seek" (2 Kgs 6:19), but leads them by the hand instead to the very court of Israel's king who wonders if he has a green light to slay the Syrian army -- a very vulnerable position for this now helpless band of soldiers It's here and for these foreign forces that Elisha prays the second time for open eyes:
So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria! 2 Kings 6:20
Utterly weakened, totally off-course, and oblivious to the fact that they were one step away from death, the Syrians opened their eyes to see the danger of their position and their need for saving grace and mercy from deserved destruction (see vv. 22-23). That's what Elisha prayed for the second time -- not awareness of God's provision in this case, but awareness of their plight. And I believe we need to pray for the same at times.
When all seems hopeless, when we're overwhelmed by our helplessness and inadequacies, we can pray for eyes to see God's abundant care and merciful presence that He has already made available to us. But as my surprising un-surprise from last night has reminded me, there are times when we are under-whelmed by things that really should bother us. There are seasons and contexts in which we are blind to the danger that surrounds us, and we need to pray for eyes that are open to our pitiful condition, our need for grace that literally saves us. (Laodicea anyone? See Rev. 3:17-18.)
Would you join me in praying for open eyes -- eyes open to God's care and also our own condition? I would venture to say that as we pray for eyes wide open, we'll find ourselves praying all the more -- praying with increased confidence in God and also increased dependence upon God.