“Death… Anger… Retaliation… you have no power over me.”
“Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.” Ezekiel 37:9
Recently, I had the opportunity to do something I hope no other person will ever need to do… compose a letter to be read as a victim statement in a court of law. The letter stated simply that I forgave the individual who broke into my home, violating my space, and stole from me. I closed with the words “Please know that there is hope… and that hope comes in the name of Jesus! He can use these events to do amazing things… All you need to do is to decide to follow Him… completely!” The victim advocate assigned to my case asked how it was possible to forgive someone who was so unworthy of any sort of compassion. I thought about the question and responded saying how wrong they were… that all of us, for one reason or another, are unworthy of compassion… that while we’ve all been hurt before in some way, we’ve also hurt others… that we’re all in a hopeless state in one form or another… that all of us need undeserved grace and compassion each day we’re on this earth.
Fast forward to today… reflecting on Ezekiel 37-39. As I was reading Ezekiel 37, I came across Ezekiel 37:9… “Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.” How does He do it? The God of the universe, offering supportive words at just the right time and place, when encouragement is needed most! Some might conclude, a coincidence. No… a God-incidence!
Sadly, I’ve been witnessing the kind of death that is spoken of in Ezekiel all around me… the type of death that exists among the living, far more tragic than physical death. It is spiritual death, and it claims people without anyone knowing it, even those who have succumbed.
You may be able to spot it through speculation, although there is no way to see for sure the state of someone else’s soul. It may appear as apathy, bitterness, fear, anger, hopelessness, or obsessiveness. It could take the form of an –ism like workaholism, alcoholism, or rageaholism. You might see it in a shopaholic or a drug addict, the soccer mom across the street or the pastor at church. It doesn’t cater to rich or poor, young or old, churched or unchurched. It is pervasive, ruthless, and tricky to identify because it poses as characteristics like depression and fatigue that even those with healthy spiritual lives experience from time to time.
Lying to its victims, this death tells them their exhaustion is a part of life… sometimes it attempts to fake true life with coping mechanisms of busyness and material wealth, all the while, cheating people of joy and peace. When it has them by the throat, it deals a final blow by robbing them of God’s truth that holds the power to save.
God spoke to Ezekiel about spiritual death and illustrated with extraordinary creativity how He would restore His people. Anyone who hadn’t experienced His ability to conquer death might find the whole vision unbelievable, but God’s resurrecting power is that miraculous!
All our good efforts cannot make up for the dead state of sin we inherited as humans. A lifestyle of sin isn’t the only identifying factor of spiritual death, which is why even someone in ministry is just as susceptible to it as a death-row inmate.
Only a saving relationship with God can conquer spiritual death. God’s breath that gave us life at creation also restores us to eternal life. Our role is simply to breathe Him in and accept the salvation He offers!
In closing, I continue to reflect on the life of the individual who offended me and how I have offended others. And I’m left wondering… how do those who don’t know Jesus make it through life? I mean, this life is hard! I can’t imagine what life would look like without Jesus in it! God continues to offer amazing insight in His Word… particularly in 1 Corinthians 15:10… “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Brothers and sisters… we so need to seek Him in all things… and when we do, oh, the joys and peace that surpasses all understanding He will provide!
Lord, while I appear healthy and whole, I still need Your life-enriching breath every day to overcome the burdens in this life. Thank you for Your never-ceasing ability to refresh. Amen!