Waiting on … Dothan

If you know me, it’s no secret that I love mountains. In fact, 46 of my friends are mountains. Each one having a unique personality and perspective. From any summit or approach in the high peaks region of New York State, I can look out and call by name those mountains looking back at me.

There was a minor earthquake in the Adirondacks earlier this week, very small 2.5, that caused me to meditate on the permanent, impermanence of mountains. I wondered about Mt. Marcy, our tallest mountain, shaking. It didn’t in this recent quake, but what would it take to move Mt. Marcy? Simply: an act of God.

My mind traveled back in time to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens on the Cascade Range in Washington State in 1980, I was 6. The eruption of this beautiful 9,677ft mountain reduced it to 8,363ft. Think about that! The mountain was moved, but tragically many people died, lives were changed, and property was destroyed.

I’m sure for someone Mt. St. Helens represented some personal mountain, something they hoped they could overcome, but didn’t believe was possible. But then, the mountain was moved, it was knocked down, it prominence and majesty irrevocably changed.

I love mountains, in nature. Personal, metaphorical mountains in life, honestly, I’ve climbed them, and I can do without them. Yes, I know there are more to come. Hey, at least I’m honest.

Joseph, the beloved son of Jacob, was given a vision. It was ridiculous from a human perspective; and he arrogantly shared it with his family. At his young age, he had no idea the mountains and valleys that were to come before the purpose of that vision came to be: not for his glory, but Gods, and ultimately, salvation for others.

There is a period as the Lord begins to move Jospeh from his fathers house, to the hands of his brothers, and ultimately to the seat of power in Egypt, when it seems that God was quiet, not involved, not speaking, when happenstance seems to be in control. But God.

Only with years of anguish and sorrow, in triumph and tragedy, could Joseph see the hand of God orchestrating his life. Joseph remained faithful, even while the Father was quietly maneuvering him to be a rescuer of his family: even his brother who had wronged him. As Joseph tells his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20; cf. Ro. 8:28-29).

Like Joseph, many of us seem to be on our way to Dothan. We are sent out, and at times it seems that we are unable to hear the whispering of heaven to assure us that we are heading in the right direction. Except for “the man” along the way telling us the way there.

Dothan, דֹּתָן, is an interesting word, as it seems to mean two wells, or a place of waters. Water often signifies life and refreshing in Scripture. And in Joseph’s case, it did mean life, just not the life he was expecting.

For the first time in many, many years, I find myself on that journey to Dothan. Not exactly sure as to why, and unable to discern the “why,” yet finding comfort that His will is ordering the way. For me, that is my Mt. St. Helens eruption, and the fracturing of the mountain of abandonment that I’ve attempted to cross for as long as my memory has been. While some pray for healing, I often pray: “I will never leave you … I am with you always … “ that’s my security, the presence of Christ.

It’s the paradox of go, and wait: hurry up, but be still!

Dothan is not the destination, it is a place of life and refreshing, for the next leg of the journey. Dothan is a place of life, but also a place of miraculous victory! It is a junction point that we look back to and say, “I needed to go there, in order to get here.” Where we go may not be what we are expecting, but it is what He is ordering. The purpose will only be clear after the rescue.

The mountains we pray to be moved in faith are moved by an act of God alone. We can hardly move ourselves, so let Him do the fracturing, the shaking, and ultimately the healing.

Just as Jacob did with Joseph, our Father in heaven has showered gifts upon us and wealth for the work along the way (I Cor. 12-14). We are adorned, even in our servants attire, in robes of His Sons glorious righteousness, and we will settle, after all the Dothans of this life, in a place prepared especially for you and me, by the hand of Messiah Himself (Jn. 14:3).

That mountain before you, as you stress to climb it, will crumble with one word from the One who set it there. Glory to His name. Trust Him.

Shabbat shalom.
Pictured: Mt. Marcy from Lower Wolf Jaw Mountain.

The Sadness That God Wills

Life has sadness. It’s unavoidable. In nearly twenty years of ordained ministry I’ve dealt with a lot of sadness. While some of that sadness belongs to others, some of it belongs to me. It’s not often that I get a call or a message celebrating a blessing in life, most often people reach me when trial has reached them.

I’ve been wrestling with a bout of sadness lately, thankfully not as severe or crippling as in times past, but present none the less. I cannot even put a finger on the cause, just a presence of sadness that brings tears rather freely.

Today I found myself sad for a man who lost his wife, an individual that I’ve targeted in years past during theological rants on points I am unable to remember. The moment humanized someone I admittedly, and to my shame, dehumanized.

The apostle Paul writes, “For the grief that God wills brings a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret. But the world’s grief leads to death” (II Cor. 7:10).

Translated slightly differently, yet pertinent to this thought, “For the sadness that God wills brings a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret. But the world’s sadness leads to death.”

The underlying Greek that I changed to sadness, λύπη, can mean grief, pain, sadness, or sorrow. While I do not diminish the experience of sorrow, grief, pain, or sadness, Paul’s words specific to godly grief, or “the sadness that God wills” changed my thinking.

It is surprising the number of famous preachers who suffered severe periods of depression, preachers referenced today with the greatest of respect. I was recently surprised to learn that a rabbi I’ve held in the highest regard experienced long periods of depression during his life. Yet, this has been sadness. I know depression, but I’ve recognized this recent period as one of sadness. Life changes. Things change. Circumstances change. On and on. But back to what Paul wrote: what God wills.

When you help others with sadness, let down, heartbreak, fear and trauma as often as I seem to, it can unintentionally numb the heart and soul. While you tend to the need, with the right actions or words, your heart can be unexpectedly calloused to the human, perhaps just not as feeling as one should be.

What Paul is saying in II Corinthians 7:10 is that God’s will in the sadness is that of salvation from it, as it leads one back to life, and in His will, life with feeling. Sadness that is of the world, or of ungodliness, leads to death – a helpless feeling of dread that one cannot escape from. Helplessness.

John Piper once wrote, “When sadness makes life heavy with tears, don’t stop doing your work. Take a deep breath. Own the sorrow. Trust God’s promises. Wash your face. And go to work.” Live. In the work, in the movement, you will find that you meet God’s will head on.

The God who has delivered me from so much is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8); and He has promised in His infinite goodness and grace to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). And since I am a work in progress, as you, dear reader are as well, I take hold and hold onto this: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah” (Phil. 1:6).

Sadness pricks the heart; and in doing so, by God’s will, we turn in repentance to Him once again for renewal, comfort, and relief from what is beyond our control. Sadness, grief, pain, and sorrow is part of the human experience, for the redeemed and the unregenerate. For the redeemed, perhaps it humbles us before Him once again; and for the unregenerate, perhaps it will awaken a need for a Savior, Helper, and Friend.

I do not have the answers yet, but I can trust in the One who does to awaken my heart with inspiration to once again, save me from myself, and baptize me in the greatest depths of His love. There are many causes of sadness, some medical, others spiritual, or physical; but the important thing is to never give up, or give in to it. Pray, and then keep your eyes open for the answer to the moments before you. Keep fighting the good fight, stay in the race, and He will finish what He started in you. He will give you His heart.

Be well. Shalom.