It’s trick-or-treat time again. And you know what that means…
Temperatures are falling, leaves are falling, and leaflets from politicians are dropping into mailboxes day after day. (Please recycle… and pray the negativity isn’t catching.)
Halloween is here. (Pumpkins on porches. Check. Parties in preschools. Check. “Thriller,” “Monster Mash,” and “Werewolves of London” on playlists. Check. Check. Check.) But all the fun-size candy in Kroger can’t counteract the increasing bitterness in our world. All the cute kiddie costumes can’t mask the ugly, grisly and grotesque coming into plain view everywhere from a synagogue in Pittsburgh to a kindergarten class in Chongqing.
Evil is real.
And it’s always brewing.
A few weeks ago, I stood on the beach with a friend and watched the sun set over the water.
It was a dark and stormy night… (It really was.)
As we stood at the water’s edge, huge thunderheads rolled in, and the sky slowly faded to black. Lightning flashed in the distance, and the sea graced us with a dazzling reflection. We knew it was risky to stand there, unprotected, on the shore… but we couldn’t pull ourselves away. The lightning was wild and beautiful, streaking across the night sky in staccato bursts. We were captivated.
The rumbling and cracking crept closer, more frequent and fierce. And finally, as the storm front overtook us, we ran for cover.
Because it was the only wise thing to do.
So many storms battering our neighborhoods and the nations. Political firestorms, natural disasters, bomb threats, hate crimes, racial tension, religious persecution, and global unrest… from north to south, east to west.
And then there are the internal tempests. Dread, distress, dis-ease. Gripping fear, crippling depression, simmering rage… raging psychosis.
(Some troubled souls battle their demons a long, long, long time… and then succumb.)
The truth is, sometimes we see a storm brewing… and we can’t or don’t take cover. Because we’re paralyzed with fear. Or too busy storm-tracking. Or focused on fault-finding. Or foolish enough to think we can brave the elements alone.
And sometimes the storms blindside us.
Like stray lightning bolts or bullets – unpredictable and deadly. Something – or someone – gets struck in an instant. Stricken by catastrophe… meteorologic or manmade.
Some storms are self-inflicted. Imprudent decisions, impulsive actions, stoking conflict, fueling hate.
Like a tornado tearing up a town.
A rampage about to erupt.
A bomb set to detonate.
Whether we realize it or not, most of life’s storms brew in an unseen realm. Two powerful fronts collide…
Good vs. Evil.
Ultimately, that’s what all the world is. A storm front. A battleground. Because that’s what we are. Good and evil. Divine and despicable. Made in God’s beautiful image… and inclined to turn ugly.
All of us.
And the reality of that can be heartbreaking. Or horrific.
How is it possible that in this country – the land of the free and the home of the brave – even a synagogue isn’t safe anymore?
I cannot explain away all the evil in the world, except to say that God – out of His goodness – gives us the freedom to do as we please.
Some do good. (And some don’t.)
But I am absolutely certain of this:
When broken, tormented people choose to break and torment… God isn’t MIA.
He is Savior.
For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. ~ Zephaniah 3:17a (NLT)
Ultimately and eternally, Jesus saves.
But sometimes we don’t get to see the rescue on planet earth. That alone can be a terrifying thought. Traveling through an entire lifetime without a real sense of security. Without knowing that we can find refuge and relief. Someplace. Any place.
That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Where do we turn? When all hell breaks loose, we need a safe place to hide out – and ride out – the storm.
A bunker. A shelter. A stronghold.
Where’s your safeguard? Or more pointedly, who?
Who do you turn to when it seems disaster’s about to strike? Who cares deeply enough and is capable of offering protection and imparting peace?
“Help us, Almighty One. You’re our only hope.”
(I know I sound like a lot like Princess Leia here, but the line – the plea – rings true.)
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. ~ Psalm 91:1-2
But what about those precious people who were slaughtered in their place of worship on Saturday? Where was God when that shooter opened fire?
Where He always is.
Just as God promised Joshua once upon a time, He promises us. (And them…)
I will always be with you. I will never abandon you.
When we cry out to Him, He hears… cares… comes.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.” ~ Isaiah 58:9 (CEB)
God’s presence is ever present.
Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:7-10 (CEB)
Yes, storms are brewing. And some will wreak havoc.
So, please… please don’t delay. Seek shelter immediately.
P.S. One more thought on the evil in the world…
“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Charles Baudelaire