Explore: When your world crumbles

• The Explore the Bible lesson for June 1 focuses on Ezekiel 1:1-3; 1:28–2:5; 6:7-10.

It was one of those priceless father-son conversations. Some years back, my youngest son was in his early 20s. We were on a road trip together. He explained that reconciling the reality of how life worked with the values he’d been taught was difficult.

It was a complex situation, and there were no easy black-and-white answers. I pulled deep from the well of my own experiences before answering. Finally, I told him: “Let’s see what God can make of this. There is what is happening, and there is what God is making of it. Let’s be patient and see what God can do.” In time, we were both surprised at what God made of what looked like a hopeless situation.

The children of Israel lived in exile when God called Ezekiel to speak to them. God sent Ezekiel into hostile territory. Since their dreams had been dashed against the hard rock of slavery, the people of God, in their anger and disillusionment, turned against God instead of toward God.

Point to the presence of God's glory

Ezekiel’s first job was to point to the presence of God’s glory, even in the darkest night. The vision given to Ezekiel in chapter 1 almost is impossible to picture. The individual details of the picture are not as important as what the whole picture represents. The sum is greater than its parts.

Ezekiel saw the glory of God, the holiness of God never enslaved by worldly conditions, even the worst. The glory of God never is held captive by life’s disappointing circumstances. Ezekiel’s prophetic message was to begin with that sacred reminder to the people of Israel. Their God had not been trampled simply because the dreams of God’s people had been.

Ezekiel’s message, as laid out in chapter 6, is not pleasant. God used Ezekiel to tell the people of Israel there are dire consequences for those who choose to rebel against their Creator.

Times of crisis can mature faith

The ultimate intent of Ezekiel’s message was to awaken the Israelites to the fact times of crisis also can be times of maturing faith, with it becoming more real for those who choose faith instead of rebellion.

In his 2004 book Built to Last, Jim Collins and a colleague report on a six-year study they conducted on businesses that survive and thrive for generations. Although these businesses existed for different reasons, they saw some common denominators of success between them.

One of those common denominators was they learned how to celebrate, not condemn, failure. Each business had learned times of failure often are times for the greatest learning. Some companies went so far as to reward employees who tried new ideas and failed. They were willing to invest in the value of what can be learned about success when things fall apart.

We are too quick to associate success with the blessing of God. Indeed, we should thank God for his blessings. People of faith also learn, however, it is in times of crisis that our faith has the most to gain.

God works through calamities, too

The calamities of life often prove to be a contrasting canvas against which the glory of God can be painted. There is what is happening—good or bad—and there is what God is doing in and through it. It takes time and patience to see the bigger picture of God’s glory in the mess man has made of things.

It is only natural to want to give up when, having been faithful to God, our life falls apart. It takes a supernatural faith to see beyond the disappointment to the possibilities of faith. Like successful companies, we ought to stop, and “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

That doesn’t mean we should give thanks for the circumstances themselves, especially when they are devastating, horrific and heartbreaking. It means faith allows us to see beyond the circumstances to what God is making of them.

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