We all want control. Americans especially want control. We even have multiple departments of our federal government (CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, National Security Council, etc.) dedicated to the procuring, enforcing, and defense of the illusion of control for Americans and US interests. But control is just that… an illusion. Sometimes our ability to maintain the illusion lasts for a while. We secure health insurance and life insurance. We pay extra for increased safety features on our vehicles and strap our children into car seats that could protect them from a nuclear blast. Even our cigarettes have a disclaimer on them so that we know just exactly what we are putting on the line when we light up. But eventually the illusion of control is taken away from most of us, sometimes violently so. A car wreck, a job loss, a cancer diagnosis, a child’s unexpected sickness, a parent’s death can all tear away the idea that we are in control of our lives or of those that we love.
But some helpful reflection on something we all do every day, should help let us down a little easier… … sleep. We all surrender ourselves to hours of sleep every night. The average person is asleep for roughly 1/3 of their life. This means by this point in my life I have been around the sun 13 times with my eyes closed. And what happens to us during those hours each night (besides drooling on my pillow and swallowing the occasional unfortunate critter)? We have no clue. Nada. None. Zip. Zilch. Hours pass each night as we lie there as passive passengers on this planet as it hurtles around the sun. There is no control while sleep happens. And while we might be passive recipients of history as we sleep, there is One who is working. And He is working everywhere.
But in certain corners of this world God seems to be working in extraordinary ways while people sleep. Stories and reports of Muslims are told from multiple quarters, stories of dreams or visions of Christ calling Muslims away from Islam and to faith in Christ. A missionary friend of mine who is serving in an undisclosed country in the Middle East recently told me that he couldn’t think of a single Muslim in his experience who had come to faith in Christ without some form of dream or vision. The secular mind wants to pass this off using “either the mechanics of neuroscience or the fuzzy operations of psychology,” says James Kushiner. But the proliferation of such stories from such diverse geographical and chronological distances bankrupts any explanation that tries to reduce things to merely mechanistic causes. Faithfulness would seem to call the Church to celebrate these stories and the lives that are changed as a result.
Nevertheless, for many American Christians watching the horrific reports of ISIS and Boko Haram on the daily newsfeeds causes faith to wobble and stutter. Many watch the persecution of Arabic and African Christians and the ruthless practices of ISIS and Boko Haram and think, “This world is just getting worse and worse.” But, Christian, let me ask you this: do the members of ISIS sleep? Do those who belong to Boko Haram rest their eyes in sleep? They might be elusive, escaping detection and attack from those who would (and should!) stop them from perpetrating their evil. They might receive armaments and support from other Muslim groups who are sympathetic to their jihad. But every night, regardless of the stronghold they are using and regardless of any weapons they have at their fingertips, they lie helpless before the Triune God. No armor, no deep dark cave, no powerful ally can hide or protect them from the dreams that could turn them from being an enemy of God’s kingdom on earth to a cleansed and repentant brother or sister in Jesus Christ. So what will you pray for, dear Christian? Will the news cause your faith to wobble or give you cause to implore our heavenly Father to send these terrorists dreams and visions as He has done so many times before?