Our family took a road trip out west this summer. For many southwest Minnesotans, the term "out west" refers to the untamed wilderness found between Luverne and the fabled Pacific Ocean. Our route took us square across the middle of Wyoming. I could have also phrased that as "across the middle of the square that is Wyoming" since the state appears on the U.S. map as a big square that was quickly added when nobody was looking.
Wyoming offers some of the most beautiful views in the country. The Black Hills in the east and the Grand Tetons in the west are almost as impressive as the Buffalo Ridge and the Ocheyedan Mound. But in between these awesome vistas lie vast tracts of absolute nothing — mile after mile of boring desert, populated with only sparse sage brush and hungry-looking antelope.
Our lives are like Wyoming. We have some tremendous high points like weddings, births, baptisms and successes at home and work that rise up like the Rocky Mountains. We cherish the memories and photographs we take of these occasions and think back upon them often. But what makes these events so special is that they don’t happen every day. Oftentimes there are long valleys of nothingness in between these high points, sometimes stretching out over months or years or even decades, times when life seems dull and empty.
I often find myself envious of the lives of Bible characters. Imagine the excitement that King David or the Apostle Paul experienced as it seems like every day brought a new adventure in which God provided huge blessings or saved them at the last second from certain disaster. The prophet Elijah bravely spoke God’s truth to the wicked King Ahab and then stood back and watched as fire from heaven came down and humiliated the pagan priests as they gyrated around to attract their idol’s attention.
But life was not just one high point after another for these men. David experienced months of anguish after committing one of the most awful sins ever. Paul endured long days and nights in one dungeon after another recovering from life threatening beatings. Elijah became so depressed after nobody seemed to get God’s fiery message that he asked God to take his life.
Part of the reason we miss these low points in the Bible is because we lose time perspective when reading about them. We read about the entire life of Abraham in just a few pages, so it’s easy to forget that there were decades long stretches of emptiness in his life in between the awesome encounters he occasionally had with God.
Everyone reading this finds themselves in a different spot on their journey through life. Some are enjoying the awesome vistas where God’s blessings are strikingly evident. Others feel like hundreds of miles have gone by since they’ve seen anything good. If you find yourself traveling through the emptiness right now, take comfort in the fact that Biblical heroes like David, Paul & Elijah journeyed through the same deserts you are, and all of them found that what Hebrews 13:8 says is absolutely true: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
In theology, we call this phenomenon immutability. God doesn’t change (literally ‘mutate’), rather His providence remains the same to you whether you’re experiencing mountain highs or going through the lowest valley.
We’ll have to pick this back up in a future column in which we use Minnesota as a metaphor for life rather than Wyoming. Dontcha know the possibilities that will bring! Uffda!
Chad Werkhoven is pastor at Worthington Christian Reformed Church.