In 2003 I had a new roof put on, and the roofer was careless with the flashings. Now I have never seen a "flashing" (Is that like saying I have never tasted a "grit"?), but I have it on good authority that the neglect of same is what caused, several years later, the collapse of my attic ceiling.
It started small (though by one's late 50s there is no excuse for ignorance of the trajectory of small beginnings-the first white hair, the first age spot, the freckle of mold in the basement wall). I make infrequent trips to the third floor, and one day I spotted a slight bulge overhead that was not there before. I ignored it and over time a bulge became plaster dust on the floor, and then a cascade.
There are felicitous small beginnings too. I like to press zinnia seeds into the soil and day after day squint for the first sign of a fissure that presages the birthing of a tiny crook-necked head, so much like a human baby's own debut.
But what I was thinking is that the slowness of things in nature-and in the supernatural-makes for strange earthly phenomena. Things appear the opposite of their true condition for a while. "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). When I have lived against God's law, I have often seemed to get away with it. The more time that elapsed, the more I was confirmed in my estimation-and in a general philosophical materialism. But the uneventfulness proved merely a gestation period.
The upshot is that there are people out there-right now-who think things are going well for them, when actually things are going quite badly for them, but they do not yet see it. The inner workings of their unrighteousness are knitting at the dizzying speed of a zygote, but all underground, as it were, so that acceleration toward disaster is not visible to the naked eye. They imagine they have finally hit on happy times, when they are in fact the Titanic at about 6 p.m. on April 14, 1912.
There are, conversely, people who think things are going badly for them, when actually things are going quite well, but they do not perceive it yet either. These include people who have obeyed the Lord and incurred immediate unpleasantness for doing so. Perhaps the entire world seems to be caving in, and there is no human logic that can envision a good outcome.
I know a man who walked in his integrity when his marriage and church life and friendships and health suddenly all failed him, the way the rafters of a house on fire will fall one by one. It was like the series of messengers in Job, each bringing a new telegram of improbable catastrophes. I could imagine no scenario that would make it right again for that man.
Then, like a magic that starts to slowly reverse a curse, I watched the hand of God reverse the fortunes of my friend. The proud were humbled and the humble raised. The law of God is a divine physics. Picture the law that keeps oil from mixing with water, so that you can shake the jar but only get away with the defiance for seconds at a time. Jesus broke free from His tomb by the third day because that was as long as the forces of hell could hold Him down: "it was not possible for Him to be held by it" (Acts 2:24).
This is all to say: Cheer up if your world is crashing at the moment and you are abiding in Christ's will. Tomorrow or next year will look completely different. (I recommend for your edification the book That's Good! That's Bad!, in the children's section of your library.) We see but middles. And if your past sins have made a mess of things, this present day's new obedience is the beginning of your movement toward a new destination, though you may have to wait a while to see it. The eyes of faith are more reliable than eyes of sight.