I’ve loved being able to share the things that God has done in my life with you. I love the emails I’ve received from those seeing the extraordinary work of Jesus at work in their own lives. Testimonies bring life. They are power. They are love.
But I want to shift gears here just a bit in order to put into words something the Lord laid on my heart earlier today. I want to ask you a question for your own reflection. The question is, “What is your first reaction when tragedy strikes?”
My son and I were on our way to see our favorite football team (K.C. Chiefs) play in Jacksonville. It’s about a 3-hour trip and there was anticipation in the air. I hardly ever have an opportunity to see the Chiefs play live so I was very excited.
As we were entering the city limits I received a phone call from my wife. She got news that the child of some friends of ours was diagnosed with a terrible illness. Things like that seem to just suck the air out of everything. I’m sure there are those of you who know very well what that feels like.
I ended the call with my wife and tried to sort out what I’d just heard. The injustice, unfairness. I just stared ahead for a moment or two and then it happened. My head dropped. I kept my eyes on the road of course but I felt my body slump. Now I’m not saying that my reaction was unreasonable. When sorrow hits us and we react. But what happened next profoundly impacted me.
A flash of white above my line of vision grabbed my attention. I looked up to see a sign hanging from an overpass we were approaching. Spelled out in big, black letters against a white canvas was, JESUS.
I had to lift my head to view the sign fully. As the name on the sign echoed through my mind I felt my spirit stir and heard the Holy Spirit begin to ask me, “What would happen if your first reaction to pain and trauma was to look up instead of down?”
The question sat with me for the next handful of miles. I was reminded of the Israelites who had to look up to the snake on a pole in order to be healed. Have you ever asked why? Why did they have to look up? Was it about some kind of attempt to let the people know that God was dominant? Some sort of effort to make them learn their place? Or could it be something different?
What if it was about a battle? What if it was about lies vs. truth? What if it was about faith? What if it was about how looking down kept them locked in hopelessness, despair and doubt. What if keeping their eyes on the earth was supplying power to the chains wrapped around their hearts? See, in order to look up we must believe that the thing we are looking to has the power to set us free, to heal us. Otherwise why would we lift our heads? As many of the Israelites who decided to believe the truth and look up were healed.
Now I’m not saying that the reasonable reaction to terrible news is to stand up and start praising God. That is unreasonable. Some have misunderstood the “Count it all joy” passage. We are humans with emotions. Things hurt us and we must grieve or else our hearts die. But do we want to grieve in the earth or with Jesus? Lifting your head to Jesus in the face of tragedy doesn’t mean making some kind of lame attempt to have joy. It means recognizing that Daddy God cares and wants to hold you. He want’s to cry with you. He wants to hold your heart. To put you back together.
We don’t have to spend time in the dust. But change won’t come automatically. We must choose to look up first. Now looking up doesn’t guarantee a physical healing or that what was lost will be restored exactly as it was. But it will keep our adversary away from our hearts. As long as our eyes are looking at Jesus Satan can’t touch us. Depression, hopelessness and despair won’t have a foothold.
Easier said than done right. I know. But it can be done. I lift my eyes up, to the mountain. Where does my help come from? My help comes from you, maker of Heaven, creator of the earth.
Jesse and Kara Birkey
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