Staring Down the Barrel

Everyone has fears. I'm not talking about encounters with undesirable creatures (spiders, snakes, etc.), but experiences with undesirable realities. It could be losing our job, our spouse filing for divorce, getting cancer, or a child dying. We all have worse case scenarios in our mind that we pray never makes it into our lives.

Think about facing the prospect of one of these dreaded scenarios. What is the proper response? How do we deal with it? What posture should our hearts take as we face an unknown future?

The Unknown Tomorrow

This is where my family has lived for over three weeks. My son was diagnosed with fungal meningitis. He has had seizures, strokes, and been unresponsive for seventeen days. There was one day during that stretch where Kaleb squeezed our fingers, smiled, and nodded his head. That was eleven days ago.

We've endured trials for thirteen years with him, but this feels different. A few nights ago I was pondering - the "what if" game is a dangerous game to play - what our lives may look like if Kaleb beats this infection, but doesn't recover his ability to interact with us. Are we ready for a new normal with new challenges? We could get our son back 100% normal or get him back 100% different.

The next morning I prayerfully reflected on these possibilities. Then the Lord graciously reminded me of a story that shows how our hearts should respond to these trials.

Let Him Do What Seems Good To Him

1 Samuel 3 is an incredible chapter of Scripture. Most know it for Eli and Samuel's late night exchange. The Lord calls to Samuel in the night and Samuel thinks it is Eli. He goes to Eli and asks if he called for him, Eli denies. This happens twice more before Eli realizes it is the Lord calling Samuel. He instructs Samuel to listen for the Lord again, and if He calls, to say, "Speak, LORD, for your servant hears." (1 Samuel 3:9). It happens again, Samuel does as Eli instructs, and the LORD speaks to him. This is often where we end the story and give a lesson on listening to the LORD or prayer. But as Paul Harvey would say, "Now, for the rest of the story."

What did the LORD say to Samuel that night? He told him that Eli's two sons would be killed for their rebellious and unrepentant lives (1 Samuel 3:13). The next morning Eli asks Samuel what the LORD spoke and warns him not to hide anything. Samuel tells him. How does Eli respond? He says in 1 Samuel 3:18, "It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him." He submits himself to the judgment of God. He resigns himself completely into God's hands. Was Eli a heartless man, unconcerned and dispassionate about his sons? No. In fact, their deaths - and the ark being captured - would be the cause of his own (1 Samuel 4:17-18).

Eli's response is more foreign to us than driving on the other side of the road. Sadly, even within the Church and in the lives of Christians, we rarely see this kind of submission to the will of God. We want the LORD to do what seems good to us. Eli's response needs to be taught as the standard for how Christians should respond when staring down the barrel.

Implicit Trust

To respond like Eli we must see God as the Sovereign Lord over everything, including our lives. We must recognize the wisdom, goodness, and love in all His choices. He cannot do otherwise. It's impossible. Whatever circumstances the LORD puts us in, and whatever future He decides, will always be driven by these attributes.

It is easier to trust God when there are minimal trials in our lives. The key is trusting even when storm clouds appear on the horizon. We are to trust in the LORD with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). We are not wise enough to script a better future. God always chooses what is ultimately for our good (Romans 8:28). As Tim Keller says, "If we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives." We know our thoughts are not His thoughts and our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8). We trust Him, even when we do not understand. As Spurgeon once said, "When you can't trace His hand, you must learn to trust His heart."

Jesus, the Greater Eli

Ultimately, Eli is a pointer to Christ. In Gethsemane, Jesus stares down the barrel of God's wrath about to be unleashed on him because of our sin and guilt (Matthew 26:36-46). He asks for the cup to pass; yet, not what he wills, but the will of his Father be done. It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him. Our Savior shows us how to surrender fully to the will of God, even when it may be a cup we would rather see pass. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can face any future. Even if the worse happens to us here, these light momentary afflictions are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

May we as Christians imitate the example of Eli. Lets trust the wisdom, goodness, and love of the Sovereign Lord. We have no need to fear our worse case scenarios. They are temporary. Jesus bought us an inheritance beyond these trials. John Newton reminds us,

"The campaign is short; the victory already secured: we have but a few skirmishes to pass through, and then He, who has promised to make us more than conquerors, will put a crown of eternal life upon our heads."

So we join with Eli, stare down the barrel, and say, "It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him."