Doing the laundry seems to be an incessant task in our home.
Thanks to modern conveniences like the washing machine, it’s not as difficult as it used to be. But washing machines have their downside. They certainly make their presence known. If you happen to be showering, you’ll notice a sudden loss of water pressure as the washing machine draws water for each of its cycles. And if you’re reading, writing, watching TV, or napping then the washing machine’s noise may tend to get on your nerves.
Today, for instance, as I try to clear my soul of all this world’s agitation and prepare a spiritual meditation, there’s a sound that penetrates the walls of my office to my ear drums. It’s the big agitator in the center of the washing machine. The constant splashing of its paddles seems so purposeless. The paddles of my kayak propel me along. The propellers of a ship or an airplane beat the water and air, but at least they provide forward motion. But the agitator’s back and forth pounding does nothing but stir up the water, rough up the clothes, and make a lot of noise.
Of course, that’s not true. The agitator does have a purpose. It does the job of beating dirt out of the clothes and making them clean.
I don’t like agitation. I’m weary of all the noise and agitation from this world. I yearn for escape from all its rattling forces. But I have to admit that the very same agitation which unnerves me does have a redeeming effect in my soul. It beats the crud out of me, drives me into God’s arms, and makes me long for heaven. From God’s perspective, that’s a highly desirable effect.
How does the world’s relentless agitation do a redemptive work in us? I don’t really understand how. But the Bible has a huge example of how God-ordained trauma can accomplish our redemption.
Consider the nation of Israel. It was birthed through the baptismal waters of the Red Sea and experienced God’s miraculous provision for forty years in the wilderness. Israel received God’s law and displaced the wicked nations in Canaan to take possession of the land. But for nearly 900 years Israel lost the battle to a life-controlling problem that destroyed its relationship with God—idolatry. God faithfully proved Himself to be the living and active God in their lives. But the Israelites continued to shower their devotion, adoration, and worship on false gods made of wood, stone, and metal. Everything the living and loving God wanted from them, they wasted on fantasy gods.
God sent prophets to Israel to continually call them back to Himself. But all their pleas to forsake their idols and return to God went ignored. So, after nearly a millennium of idolatry, God did what He had warned He would do long before (Deut. 28:64–68). He punished Israel by destroying their cities and sending them into exile by the hands of the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:1–26).
Yet something strange happened during Israel’s exile. Through this most traumatic event of their history Israel turned to God and was forever cured of their idolatry. And they have been idol-free ever since. What all the instruction of the priests and preaching of the prophets could not do, the pain of exile accomplished. It cleansed Israel of Idolatry.
Christian believers routinely undergo agitation and battering, but not as punishment. God allows believers to suffer a steady pounding from this world as part of His discipline and training (Heb. 12:4–11). The Bible concedes that this rough treatment is not pleasurable, but painful. But the Scripture assures us that it produces the fruit of righteousness in our lives and makes us fit for heaven (Heb. 12:11).
Dear Father in heaven, help me to submit to Your discipline and training, regardless of the means by which You bring it into my life. Help me to yield to its cleansing and sanctifying work in my life. Amen.