A Strange and Unsettling Time

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

“It’s a strange and unsettling time.” So ended the Twitter thread of reporter Kyle Cheney after five people, including Congressman Steve Scalise, were shot in Arlington, VA Wednesday morning.

It is a strange and unsettling time.

Congressional hearings. Fired FBI directors. Special prosecutors. Russian election meddling.

Congressmen being shot at on suburban playgrounds. Secret health care bills. Contentious elections all over the world. Divisive, heated and hateful rhetoric. Fake news.

Ongoing terrorist threats from ISIS and other extremists. Bombs in Manchester. Rampages in London. Escaped convicts—cop killers—on the loose in Georgia. Mass shootings so frequent that we’ve quit counting and barely notice.

Death by prescription drug is now the leading cause of death in people under 50 in America. More people are now dying from drug overdoses than ever died from car accidents, AIDS, or gun violence. Overdose deaths have more than doubled since 2005. 

It’s a strange and unsettling time.

The current trajectory seems less than encouraging, and it can make me fearful of what the future holds. But what I’m feeling is more than fear and uncertainty.   

I’m feeling something else, too. It’s grief. Grief is what we feel when we’ve lost something (or someone) important to us.

I’m not sure what exactly we’ve lost yet, but I know we’ve lost—and are losing—something important. Civility. Community. Compassion. Faith. Hope. Love. Democracy. I don’t know, but I know we’re losing something.

It’s like I’m grieving something I know we’ve already lost, but I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly it is yet—or how deep the wound is—or how much this loss will change me—or how permanent the damage will be.

These are strange and unsettling times. As I was thinking about our current situation, I wondered if the Bible had anything to say about times like these.

I’ll admit I was tempted at first to start scouring the end times prophecies! But I finally, and fortunately, settled on the equanimity of Job.

Job lived through an unbelievable experience of loss, grief, and fear for the future.

Job asks, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” Job reminds us that God can be present even in strange and unsettling times.

Job says, “I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” When I look at the world around me and wonder how it will all shake out, I feel the same way.

Job cries, “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales, it would surely outweigh the sand of the seas.” Job does not bear these disquieting times without lament, and neither should we.

Job complains, “The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me.” Job openly wonders if God has a hand in the grief he is experiencing.

Few of us are experiencing personal trials even remotely approaching the trials of Job, but still we ask, “Where is God in all of this? Why has God abandoned us to poisonous forces? Why are dangerous and destructive things happening one after the other? How will this all end?”

Here’s the answer. We don’t know. Job didn’t either. The struggle is real, but it isn’t new.

Job’s questions—and now ours--are as old as our faith.  

It’s a strange and unsettling time.

We have no peace, no quietness, no rest—only turmoil. We are burdened by the uncertainty and tension that surround us.

The times seem dangerous. The heavy atmosphere is at best a distraction in our hearts and at worst a looming disaster for our world.

It seems as if a poisonous spirit has been marshaled to infect us. And everywhere we turn, it seems, more poison to drink.

I admit I don’t know what to make of it. I don’t know what to do.

Neither did Job. So do you know what Job did? Nothing.

Job waited. Job didn’t try to fill the void. Instead, Job waited for God to speak.

And, after a while, God spoke.

We can learn from Job that eventually God speaks into strange and unsettling times.

Today, many are not patient enough to wait on God and are filling the void with their own “wisdom.” Job experienced other voices that claimed to know what to do, too.

Job was not swayed by them, though, and neither should we be.

Instead, Job waited.

These are strange and unsettling times.

It is a strange and unsettling time to be an American.

It is a strange and unsettling time to be a Christian.

It is a strange and unsettling time to be a pastor.

It is a strange and unsettling time to be the church.

So I’m waiting. I hope God speaks soon.

See you Sunday.