“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.” Luke 12:39(NIV)
This verse came to mind immediately as I listened to a message on my phone from my power company. The voice calmly said that my power would be turned off at 8PM the following evening and, hopefully, restored by midnight. Well, I thought, that was sure nice of them to give us such a long time to prepare for this. I knew my freezer contents would be safe for a few days if I didn’t open the door; the refrigerator contents would stay safe for the hours in question, if I didn’t open the door. Oh, woe is me. People in North Korea live without power everyday. I really didn’t have to face any hardship from the outrage. What irritated me was that my predetermined schedule would have to be altered at the request of an automated voice. It’s good to be in control, I always say.
Living in a rural area makes me stay prepared for outages. If you have an electric powered well, then you also understand that there will be no water or flushing commodes. If you have animals greater than 1,000 pounds in weight, you also understand the fear of not being able to provide enough water for them. This is why I routinely keep may guest bathtub filled, keep several cases of bottled water on hand, and stock up on batteries, candles, and lamp oil. I know the power thief is going to visit, and he never comes at a convenient time.
As I complained about my power company, which provides superb service and used this outage to upgrade our power station, I saw the parallel to the passage in Luke. If I had known what trouble that person would bring into my life, or knew that my child would never come home from school that day, or realized the harm I was doing to myself by introducing certain foods or chemicals into my body, would I have prepared to intervene to stop it? As I gathered my supplies in anticipation, I wondered: how am I prepared for next blow of trouble coming into my life?
I can’t say I’ve been blindsided by the trials I’ve experinced. I know from the book of Corinthians that no testing will overtake me, except that which is common to us all. I hear a common thread of complaint from the women I minister to: “If only I had…”, and fill in the blank. In retrospect we see what we should have done, but in reality, we usually do all that we can at the time the thief makes his appearance. So, what are we to do, as implied in the scripture from Luke, to make ourselves ready for the thieves that are coming?
As simple as it sounds, we need to trust God. Staying in His Word gives us so much insight into His character, but also into the character of man. I’ve joked that the book of Judges should be required reading for all adolescent boys. The fate of Sisera and Samson should keep most young men on the basketball court and off the streets looking for girls. The fact that most men can see better than they can think is extravagantly illustrated in this Old Testament book.
If we think because we are God fearing people we will be spared the outcomes of the same dumb choices that the people of the Bible made, we need to think again. We might shimmy up to the line between disobedience and righteous living, thinking somehow the God of the universe is going to make an exception for us. Wrong. The thief is out there waiting for you at that line, waiting for you to cross it. He’s whispering sweetly saying: this is going to be different. Again, wrong. Before you know it, the camel is inside the tent, and you’re left without any wiggle room.
I think of the time when that thief entered my life, and I thought I was prepared. I teach the Bible every week, I stay healthy by eating my crazy paleo diet which keeps my weight and blood sugar down, and I do my level best to avoid those big sins we all like to point out that we’re not guilty of. Yet, I’ve lived through a struggle with thief of the dark, knowing that this should not be happening in my life. My spiritual candles and batteries were stashed, the living water was accessed through the Living Source, and I stayed in direct contact with that Voice that speaks truth and peace. I saw it coming, yet because of the demands of life and the temporary physical disability I struggled with, I was held under water just long enough to almost lose consciousness, popping up out of the water gasping for breath and thinking: what the heck just happened? No, I wasn’t blindsided, but it sure felt like it.
Now, on the other side and safe on the shore, I look back over that abyss that held me down and realize that my enemy is very alive and very crafty. When Peter described him as one seeking to devour, he wasn’t kidding. Staying in the Word, praying in the faith, and ministering to others still left me vulnerable to his attack. Sometimes, it’s nobody’s fault. It just is.
But God…Those two words are cast richly throughout the pages of scripture. The key, I believe, to anticipating the thievery that is coming into my life is knowing that God is greater. I know He is able to do beyond all I ask or think. I experience His mercy everyday, and it’s new every morning. Instead of flailing around like a drowning fool, I rest in Him because He has thrown me a life preserver in the man of Jesus Christ who has defeated death.
I keep my candles, batteries, and oil stocked, knowing the darkness is coming. Sometimes, that darkness exceeds my preparation. I know that, even as I prepare. But, just as I know the power eventually will turn back on, I know that God is waiting for me on the other side of darkness, fully able to rescue me and restock my resources. We may not be able to schedule our darkness, but we can be prepared for it when the Lord of the universe is our light.