Horizons – looking ahead

Recently I experienced a horrendous event.

One Friday evening a friend of mine contacted me at around 20:30 to say his wife had not come home. She was expected home 3 hours earlier. No one could get hold of her. Of course, the mind wanders to the worse case scenarios.

Fact: She has not come home.

Fact: No one can get hold of her.

Fact: She should have been home by now.

Conclusion: She has been hijacked, lying in a ditch somewhere, been involved in an accident…. Or worse!

Fortunately, she was found well, and all was ok.

Most of us tend to look ahead, to look over the horizon to infer what might be coming down the road. We do this in all sorts of ways with the aim of planning ahead to either avoid something bad or to capitalize on an opportunity. If we’re honest, we’re looking for a sense of security (did someone say “idolatry”?)

Right now, whether we look over the horizon at our own country, or for the World at large, even the greatest optimists among us may be hard pressed to view data that supports a positive outlook. Many have a sense of dread.

As Christians, we are supposed to be carriers of hope. Things might not look good “on Friday, but Sunday is coming,” we remind ourselves and others. We say that God is in control and that “we win in the end.”

These are sincere but can be unhelpful statements when comforting a husband who cannot get hold of his wife on a Friday night. Or speaking with a single mother of three young children who has been given a terminal diagnosis. Or when trying to comfort parents who have just lost a child.

I am certainly drawn to these statements, myself as a natural optimist. But sometimes, when we look over the horizon, when we look at the data around us, economic or crime statistics, the news, or the myriad of complainers and doomsayers around us, it can be hard to maintain a sense of positivity and hope for what lies ahead.

The “facts” often do not support our hope and faith and it can be hard not to reach dire conclusions.

Perhaps some may think like this:

Fact: We are in serious economic trouble.

Fact: Crime is on the rise.

Fact: The government does not have any answers and even if they do, their history of execution has not been stellar.

Conclusion: South Africa is headed into a failed state (if not there already)

They may ask questions like “Where are you God? Do you really care?”

This is what the disciples were going through when the storm came up on the sea of Galilee. With no hope on their “horizon,” they found Jesus to be asleep.

Fact: There is a massive storm capable of ripping us and the boat to pieces

Fact: We are far from land

Fact: Jesus is sleeping

Conclusion: We are all going to die, and Jesus does not care.

 

But here lies the hope. In God’s Kingdom, 2 + 2 does not always equal 4.

Jesus gets up, wonders what everyone is getting so upset about (haven’t we been speaking about faith boys?) and calms the storm.

Fact. Fact. Fact. Different conclusion (storm calmed!)

The truth is, we cannot see over the horizon. Yes, the news and data might point to terrible things. The diagnosis may be dire. Perhaps we cannot see a way out of our financial distress in our family. We start to imagine all sorts of bad outcomes and are confident in our “conclusions.” The “facts are the facts,” we may say.

Repeatedly in Scripture, we see and are reminded that God is sovereign. That He holds the future. And no matter what future awaits over the horizon, we can trust God to be with us through it all.

More than any other exhortation, God reminds us “Do not be afraid.” But that is not because it will “all be ok” according to us. But because He is with us. And it is good to remember that when He is with us, 2+2 does not always equal 4.

So, as we look ahead, let us make our plans. Planning is good. But let us also rest in the knowledge that the “facts” around us may not matter to the God who is able to calm the storm with just a word.

By Sheldon Delport