Defined, ebb and flow is a recurrent or rhythmical pattern of coming and going or decline and regrowth. The frequently used phrase is used to describe something that changes in a regular and repeated way… the ebb and flow of fashion or the ebb and flow of human history. What jumped out at me early Monday morning on the way to the office was the predictable ebb and flow of traffic. What I mean is the ebb of abandoned roadways very early in the morning when only the groundhogs and deer freely move about the asphalt. Then in short order, the miles and miles of thoroughfares come alive as the great American workforce begins its faithful daily flow enabling the nation’s powerful economic wheels to turn. As I wade into the flow there are the cautious navigators who thoughtfully make their passage with the greatest of care and precision. Then, there are the aggressive sorts who move from point a to b with great haste and embody the old “drive it like you stole it” mentality. Lastly I regularly notice the “late for work again” crowd… now these guys and gals mean business! You’ve gotta give them a wide berth which also provides the Ohio State Patrol’s finest with the best of vantage points to tame the more adventurous automobilists. Interesting as that may be, what about the Ebb and Flow of life… our life?
In the Old Testament book of Genesis we meet a man by the name of Joseph, whose life had quite the full tank of ebb and flow and highs and lows. His father gave him great favor …only to see his brothers despise—and-hate him. He wound up in a slave-gang-caravan all-the-way to Egypt only to be sold to the captain of the Egyptian guard. While there, his status greatly improved as Potiphar (his new owner) promoted him to chief servant… only to have that violently stripped from him as Potiphar’s wife falsely-accused him. He then ended up in prison chains, …despised, …alone, …forgotten. However, at each step along the way…in the midst of the ups and downs, God was with Joseph. It wasn’t long until he traded his prison jump suit for the fine royal linen. He turned in the shackles and chains, in exchange for a golden necklace. He resigned as the assistant to the prison warden, …and he accepted the new position of Pharaoh’s right hand man! It was a day when God shuffled circumstances in startling ways. Oh how the circumstances can change! But isn’t it true that we have had experiences in our own lives? Times when our circumstances have changed so dramatically and quickly? How often were those times the result of God’s work? When God stepped into the darkness and confusion and lifted us up. But then, God does something to turn your life around. Certainly, He does it when He forgives us and shares His loving kindness with us and we’re saved from our sin! It also happens when His blessings are poured out on us …and when situations change dramatically for the good. And when that happens …the questions and doubts, the hurts and fear began to subside, …they begin to be drowned out by the Voice of God! He seems to be saying… “See! I’ve loved you all-along! “You are my child and there’s so much that I want to do in your life!” God has also changed our lives in dramatic-ways. When God opens doors for you, when He heals broken parts of your soul, when He restores your health, or mends hurting relationships, when He blesses you in some incredible way. Whenever life’s circumstances change, it gives an opportunity to hear God’s voice more clearly and-thankfully. When we tune in to His voice, those other voices can be drowned out!
Elizabeth Elliot is a woman who knows about pain and loss. As a young wife and mother, she was serving as a missionary in the Ecuadorean jungles. Her husband, Jim Elliot, and four other missionaries were trying to reach a remote tribe called the Aucas. They had worked long and hard to build a relationship of trust with them. But one sunny day on the bank of a river where their plane had landed, people from the tribe speared and killed all of the missionaries. It was an enormous tragedy, and one that could have left Elliot and the other wives wallowing in bitterness. But that was not the kind of person Elizabeth was. She placed her trust in God and surrendered to God’s will for her life. She lines out the difference between resignation to despair, and a surrender to God who is loving and good: “Resignation is surrender to fate; acceptance is surrender to God. Resignation lies down quietly in an empty universe. Acceptance rises up to meet the God who fills that universe with purpose and destiny. Resignation says, ‘I can’t,’ and God says, ‘I can.’ Resignation says, ‘It’s all over for me.’ Acceptance asks, ‘Now that I’m here, Lord, what’s next?’ Resignation says, ‘What a waste.’ Acceptance says, ‘In what redemptive way can you use this mess, Lord?’” Elizabeth went on to faithfully serve the Lord and witnessed the very people who killed her husband come to Christ. In fact, it was the death of her husband and the others that opened the way for the Gospel to be brought to the Auca tribe. Never allow the ebb and flow of life to pull or push you away from God’s amazing plan for you!
Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.
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