In high summer, it is time to put up hay. Haying season must be hot and dry. It is dusty, thirsty, sunburned work. But it must be so. After the hay is cut, nothing will destroy the crop like a rain, and it cannot be baled wet. It would grow mold and shifting 200 wet square bales would break your back. So when your eye catches that one little dark cloud on the horizon and you felt that wisp of cool air, you started to pray hard for it to pass you by.
But never once do you stand at the edge of the field in a panic, merely hoping or even praying that rain doesn’t spoil the hay. Quite the opposite, in fact: you go faster. You bump the tractor into higher gear than you would normally dare; you have the energy to hurl bales further than you thought. You pray hard while you work hard. The urgency of that cloud in the corner of your eye clarifies the needs of the moment. This is one image that comes to mind when I read Hebrews 10: 23-25.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The “Day of the Lord” will be an awesome, terrifying, world-upending day. Revelation gives us all kinds of signs to help us know when it is close. But I don’t think we’re meant to read these “signs” as if we were standing on the edge of that hay field, observing the dark cloud nervously and guessing which minute it would arrive. I suspect the gifting of them was not to give us something just to speculate on or talk over for their own sake, but to spur us to work even harder doing good as we see it coming.
So instead of despairing as we read the news, we hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. We have a faithful God in the heavens, who does whatever He will, and living outside of time as he does, justice has already been served, evil has already been defeated. We rehearse the stories of the faith to ourselves—of Hagar’s salvation in the desert, of Jonah’s redemption in the middle of the sea, and of Hannah’s answered prayer in the middle of a painful polygamous marriage. He rescued or condemned whole nations for their actions and He is not just an ancient idea but a living, acting God who is still filling book after book with stories of His faithful deeds. He is the hope we profess.
But as we work, we don’t just work for our own selves. We consider how to spur each other to love and good deeds. We get together to talk deeply and often of our good God, to meet needs of comfort, of food, of health or safety. We apologize, we forgive, we live in such as way as to teach others how to live. And this will never be easy. We will feel overwhelmed, sometimes. But Christ came to be spent; perhaps the more we save ourselves from pain, the less able we will be to give. What good are we doing anyone–even ourselves–if all we know to do is stand helplessly on the edge of field, talking about how scared we are, how we can’t watch the news these days, how angry we are, if that’s ALL we do? Maybe some of the best work we will do is to turn a conversation to a discussion of God’s character. His person is always the right solution. Always.
Don’t you feel the urgency of that cloud on the horizon? It’s coming fast. If you and I are busy but the grief of our hearts threatens to overwhelm us, I often find that my problem is back at the beginning, in my confidence in Christ. I have forgotten the God I serve; I have forgotten that my God is in the heavens. There are lots of clouds on the edge of our fields, these days. A good many friends and brothers and sisters are in the thick of it. Their work looks different from ours, but we cannot become weary of doing what we can, right now. Neither should we despair.
Our God IS in the heavens–and right here, too. And all the clouds are his.