The Declaration of Glory

We have entered the monsoon season here in the highlands of central Arizona. It is another season within the summer. The broad, naked blue skies, vibrant with sunlight, have been overtaken by vast, billowy clouds and gentle hues of blue, violet, and gray with patches of pink, peach, and orange. Entranced by the skies, I walked the house-less circle behind our cul-de-sac yesterday evening. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and as the sun fell behind the mountains, the misty sky busily declared and declared. I did not have a camera with me, but if I did, the glory would have refused to be reduced to pixels.

Standing in place, I slowly circled and circled, eyeing the beauties a full 360 degrees. Fanning arrows of light shot from the orange ball descending behind the Bradshaw Mountains and penetrated layers of wispy clouds, finally reflecting neon lights from the  undersides of the plump puffs above. My breath stopped and then started again. Circling toward the east, a massive, fully defined rainbow began at the base of the meadow to the south and landed in the distant meadow to the north. Only in Arizona have I witnessed such flamboyant and playful rainbows. On the outside of the north end, a second rainbow mimicked the first . Stuccoed homes nestled within the arch’s middle. Beyond, even the Mingus Mountains could not out-top the colorful bow of promise. Again, my breath stopped, my heart swelled with joy, and my breathing began again. Without words or sounds, the heavens spoke and sang: Hallelujah: Praise to My Creator. Nature was showcasing God’s meticulous artistry.

I continued to circle, reluctant to take my view from either the descending sunscape or the opulent rainbowscape. I could not view both singularly, so I turned. Finally, the rainbow held my attention as I witnessed its playful disappearance. As confidently as it began, it coyly dissipated until it vanished. I sought signs of its recent existence, but all was gone. Turning toward the sun, it too had hidden itself but left clear signs of its recent presence in the muted colors dispensed in the clouds.

I declare, such spirited declarations from God’s nature declare the harmony between the material and the spiritual worlds. As Colossians 1:16 clarifies, “For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible. . . — all things have been created by Him and for Him.” Indeed,  the skies remind me that the unseen God who is spirit is known both through creation and through incarnation — His Spirit taking on human flesh in Christ.

Such mystery. The mystery of God in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. The mystery of beauty and goodness co-mingling with sadness, sin, pain, and evil, culminating in Christ’s loving and violent cross. This mystery is seen in Collateral Suffering and Redemptive Joy.

Note the last post in which I present the framework of my doctoral thesis, a taxonomic theology of suffering and joy. I have constructed taxonomies (systems of categories) for suffering and joy based upon three triads with three categories per triad. The first category (taxon) is Recompensive Suffering: compensatory, based upon the sow — reap principle. It fulfills an innate sense of justice. This is merited suffering. Yet, as difficult as deserved suffering may be, undeserved suffering is more disconcerting. It is often mysterious. It is unjust (I Peter 2: 19-21). This is Collateral Suffering.

God’s creation, according to Scripture, exemplifies both Collateral Suffering and the answer to it, Redemptive Joy. According to the first chapters of Genesis, God’s creative work was singularly good. It was so good that the morning stars sang! However, when sin brought on death and the curse, all of creation became subject to suffering and futility (mortality and temporality) within the context of His continuous blessings.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly. . . for the redemption of our body,” explains Romans 8: 20-23.

Blessings abound within the context of brokenness and pain as we see that God still causes the sun to shine on all of us (Matt. 5:45) and that Christ holds all things together (Col. 1:17), so that the divine laws of nature can be trusted to maintain life on earth, even as nature groans. Total chaos and ruin are restrained. Within the current chaos of our fallen world, He is present with us.

This relates to my evening walk in which I witnessed the glory of God declared by the skies. Even when groaning under the curse of futility, disorder, and violence, the skies declare the glory of God, showcasing His handiwork. I live a few hours south of the Grand Canyon. If such beauty, carved via violence, showcases God’s ornate intelligence and artistry, what can I anticipate when God’s goodness will have no rival?

Today is a difficult day. It is the third anniversary of our losing Dustin DeFord and the eighteen other Granite Mountain Hotshots here in our county. In one hour of my present writing, the anniversary of the furious winds which drove the blazing, consuming fires will be here and then gone. When you read this, the anniversary will be past. Time rolls on. I sigh, remembering Dustin standing here in our living room, next to the fireplace, talking with me before he left our house on Father’s Day 2013, not knowing his earthly clock had a mere two and a half weeks left. He had eaten heartily. He had leaned back in his chair and talked about what it meant to be a fire fighter, and humbly under his breath chuckled, “They call us hotshots.”

He had worked so hard to attain this position. He felt called to it and to these guys. His passion was to share his faith with them and loyally to support them as they worked together to protect people and homes. He had sought our prayers. Someday, he hoped to be a pastor.

Did the heavens declare the glory of God that day? Why must earth’s patterns turn so violent? Why must humans be so blind to what is ahead? Why can we not always make the soundest and safest of choices? Collateral Suffering — undeserved, unjust, mysterious — takes my breath away because of its horror. Injustice leaves me angry. Nature groans. I groan.

I feel so helpless. Collateral Suffering calls me to “be still (quit striving) and know that [God] is God,” and I am not (Psalm 46:10). My only sane option is to “lean not on [my] own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Instead, I can choose to trust the Lord, acknowledge His presence, and follow Him. Jesus invites me to come to Him when I am weary and He will give rest to my soul (Matt. 11:28-30). I can “draw near to God and He will draw near to me” (James 4:8). I am learning that I need Christ’s presence more than I need answers. What good are answers without Him? Yes, I’d prefer both, but I do not need to be greedy. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deut. 29:29).

Can we, finite humans, trust an infinite God who is infinite in every one of His majestic attributes? I trust His infinite wisdom and love. I accept His present comfort (II Cor. 1:3-4). I can give His comfort to others. I talk to Him in my heart all day long and within the waking hours of the night. I know that “in Him I live and move and have my being” (Acts 17:28).  This world in which good, blessing, joy, sin, evil, and suffering co-mingle is only for a parenthetical period. “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house [our mortal bodies] is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house  we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven” (II Cor. 5: 1-2; read the rest of the chapter!).

The declaration from the heavens provides us with an outstanding example. If creation can groan and yet radiate God’s glory, so can we. “I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him. As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 104:33-34).

We must counsel ourselves with such messages daily. There is so much mystery and so much to cause us to groan. But He is nearer than our next breath and in His presence is blossoming joy (Psalm 16:11), redeeming our pain. Our invisible yet relational God pours out His glory in His creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and His love by His Spirit into our hearts (Romans 5:3-5). Declarations of glory. Declarations of love.



Categories: Joy & Suffering -- Good & Evil, Spiritual Growth | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “The Declaration of Glory

  1. Carolyn

    What a way to begin my day! I can barely begin to envision the beauty you are describing, but my mind is having a party in trying to piece it together! Your words and thoughts are a blessing to me this morning and causes me to listen more intently to the Holy Spirit’s prompting that I need to “Be still…and know…” He truly has my life, with all of it’s messiness, in the palm of His hand, and I can trust Him with it. And He promises to make “…beauty out of ashes.” Thank you Karen, for sharing your heart. Now, I’m going back and reading it all again! 😍

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