Those without faith are, for good reason, losing hope. They want answers.
Where is God?
Doesn’t He see what’s going on?
The answer is found in Revelation 4, in John’s description of the throne in heaven. That’s where God is, friends. He’s always been there.
His throne is majestic, as you might imagine. The text is full of similes because John has no exact words to describe what he’s seeing. Isaiah uses many of the same descriptions in his book, and so does Ezekiel and Daniel. Don’t you love the consistency in the scriptures that spans multiple authors over hundreds of years?
Voice like a trumpet.
Colors of precious gems and stones.
Flashes of lightning and peals of thunder.
My favorite description is in verse 6:
“and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like a crystal.”
Author Laura Hillenbrand uses a similar description in the telling of Louie Zamperini’s story in Unbroken.
For days, Louie and his friend Phil floated somewhere in the Pacific Ocean on a life raft, near death, fending away sharks, sunburnt, starving, dehydrated, lost, and growing more hopeless by the hour.
“One morning they woke to a strange stillness. The rise and fall of the raft had ceased, and it sat virtually motionless. There was no wind. The ocean stretched out in all directions in glossy smoothness, regarding the sky and reflecting its image in crystalline perfection. Like the Ancient Mariner, Louie and Phil had found the doldrums, the eerie pause of wind and water that lingers around the equator. They were, as Coleridge wrote, ‘as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.’
It was an experience of transcendence. The water looked so solid that it seemed they could walk across it. When a fish broke the surface far away, the sound carried to the men with absolute clarity. They watched as pristine ringlets of water circled outward around the place where the fish had passed, then faded to stillness.
For a while they spoke, sharing their wonder. Then they fell into reverent silence. Their suffering was suspended. They weren’t hungry or thirsty. They were unaware of the approach of death.”
It’s a bit prosier than John’s description, but the effect is the same, don’t you think?
It’s a sea of glass in the midst of an imploding world.
It’s a much needed measure of calm when it seems all hope is lost.
It’s evidence of a Creator and Sustainer who is still in control, who sits on his throne, atop the world he loves, and sees every bullet, every spatter of blood, every tear, every victim, every anguished cry, every broken heart. He sees. Never wonder if he sees.
Yet the bullet pierces the skin, and we wonder why. It’s a fair question. Why isn’t he stopping this? Why won’t he come and put an end to this?
Can I ask a different question? Have you ever stopped to ponder how many tragedies he has prevented that we’ll never know about? How many lives has he spared that the Evil One had marked for destruction?
I can’t even begin to speculate. But I can offer a word from Peter, who knew what suffering was, and who spoke to people who knew it too, people who needed to hear this sweet reminder when they too wondered why the Lord hadn’t yet returned to right the wrongs of the world:
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:8-9
These verses have been such a comfort to me in the wake of these awful events. He is patient toward me. Toward you. He doesn’t want any of us to perish. That doesn’t mean to die, the way the innocent died last week in San Bernardino. To die is not the worst thing that can happen. To perish, to be eternally separated from Him, would be unthinkably awful, so He is gracious to make us wait.
I think of the Old Testament saints who waited their whole lives for the Messiah, and died waiting.
I think of the elderly prophetess Anna, who gave thanks at the temple when Mary and Joseph brought their new baby, the one for whom all were waiting.
We wait still. We wait, and we wait. We cry and we mourn. We long for his return again, as we should, but we can’t forget to view the throne of heaven this Christmas season along with the headlines.
See him sitting before a “sea of glass” and rest there with him. Repent and be ready.