Matthew 24:21-25 "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand."
How do we lose ourselves? I am wondering, if we have a personal relationship with Jesus, how could we be deceived? Ah, but then it says, "If possible" Yeah, but it does say, "Unless the days were shortened, no flesh would be saved." hmmm. Does that mean that we would all kill ourselves or be killed? Or does that mean that we would all walk away from God? Which is more frightening?
I heard many explanations about this passage, "It's happening now", "It happened during Roman rule", "It was just a metaphor", "It is something that is in the future yet". Ok, I'll buy that, perhaps all these explanations have truth in them. The thing is, it lets me know that I can get lost. I can be deceived. I'm not talking about salvation here. That's a discussion for another day. I want to talk about the level of pain that would set us up to grasp for an unfamiliar christ. Jesus says, "and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:3b-5. What would it take for a sheep to follow a stranger?
I'm thinking of a chicken I had once (ok, so you relate to sheep, I relate to chickens!) I bought this chicken at a wild game bird swap meet. She cost me a quarter because her owners just wanted to get rid of her. I'm quite sure she was too tough to eat. She was a free range chicken that had had too much freedom. I could not tame her. She hid her eggs all over the yard. grabbed a bite of scratch when I wasn't in range and she never darkened the door of the coop where all my other chickens took refuge at night. She slept alone in a tree outside. So imagine my surprise when she came up to us one winter. There was snow on the ground. She was hungry, sick, her leg withered and curled up underneath her. My husband, being a man of mercy scooped her up (something she allowed without any hint of a fight) and nursed her back to health. Within a few weeks she the same wild hen as before. In her desperation, she was willing to trust. The question is, would she have trusted anyone at that point?
More and more I believe that though the Bible is clear, it isn't intuitive to us. In Christ the last shall be first, it is the weak that are strong, the blind that can see, the lesser that is the greater. Everything is the opposite of what we think it. what is natural in this world. We keep looking for signs of great suffering as if it is physical suffering that is the hardest to survive. I'm not convinced. What about other forms of suffering? I believe suffering can drive us to follow a different shepherd... or perhaps simply shy away from the shepherd that we have.
But tell me, what is suffering? Is it limited to our flesh (hunger, physical pain, or thirst?) I'm thinking of Job 19:2 where he says to his friends, "“How long will you torment my soul, And break me in pieces with words?" Job was a man who had everything, money, a great family, prestige. He wasn't tormented with hunger or whips. He was tormented with accusations, false prophesy and emotional cruelty. Is the wealthy man's form of suffering less horrible?
I have been tormented with words before. I can relate to Job's description of being broken into pieces with words. Perhaps I still feel broken. I know that today, I feel lost almost like the shepherd's voice is too far away to distinguish? I think there is a place in all suffering where we give up, quit fighting, settle and learn to believe, "this is my new normal" Perhaps, "this is all I've ever known" or "This is what I deserve" Perhaps we just kind of wander off... perhaps the pain shuts up our ears so that we do not hear the call of our shepherd. But this I know, even if I can not hear Him... he hears me.