"Be ready. ... In the same way that earlier I relentlessly pulled up and tore down, took apart and demolished, so now I am sticking with them as they start over, building and planting." (Jeremiah 31:27-28 The Message)
My basement is being remodeled. For the past week, some guys have been banging around down there. Hammers have pounded, saws have screamed. They've worked long, hard, dirty days. And guess what?
It looks worse now than it did when they started.
I'm not unhappy, even though walls have been torn down to the studs and bare concrete is exposed throughout the basement. We're in demolition phase. The really important work, the part that will make the basement look new, clean, and functional, hasn't even begun yet. However, that part can't begin until this week's work is finished. There are still some electrical repairs to go. The floor needs to be broken up so drain tile can be installed. A pit needs to be dug for the bathroom that is yet to be installed. In fact, this time next week the basement will probably look worse than it does today. That's the way it has to be, of course. A good remodel doesn't happen overnight. It takes time and hard work. A lot of debris has to come out before the new can begin.
In a couple of months, it should all be done. New drywall will cover the exposed studs and ceiling joists. The old florescent lights will be replaced by new incandescent fixtures. There will be new carpet and paint. The basement will be transformed from a dark, damp, catch-all for junk into a livable, usable space. First, however, the old paneling and ceiling tile had to be ripped out. A dumpster full of trash was carted away this afternoon. When you renovate, first you have to destroy. What you'd call vandalism any other time is improvement when it's intentionally followed by rebuilding.
Sometimes it feels like there's some vandalism going on in your life, doesn't it? Well-constructed plans end up demolished? Have your hopes been stripped down to the superstructure? Have your dreams been thrown away like outdated wallpaper?
Sometimes the destruction in your life seems to be of your own making and that's hard to face. Worse are the times when you feel torn down and broken apart, but you don't know why. Has God caused this, or just allowed it, you wonder? Then you realize that it makes no appreciable difference which is true. For all intents and purposes, it feels like God has taken a 20-pound sledge to your life. As a Christian, you can trust that if this is so, it is to rebuild and not destroy.
Life can be full of all sorts of destructive moments:
A marriage ends.
A job is lost.
A child gets sick.
You suspect your spouse of being unfaithful.
Your church lets you down.
You're caught in a lie.
You face the shame of having secret sin discovered.
The facade of your existence starts to crack and fall away in chunks. The ugliness under the surface starts to show through. But, what Satan intends for harm, God can use to begin remodeling. What others intend to hurt you, God can use to rebuild your life.
I met a man this week whose comfortable life was destroyed by a prison term. He violated his parole a year ago and was sent back to prison. Now he's out again, desperately trying to restart his life. He's living in his mother's run-down house in a dangerous neighborhood. Yesterday he had only thirty cents to his name. He's facing a Chicago winter with no heat, electricity, or job. Through a mixture of bad choices and bad luck, his life has been stripped down to the studs. His life, as it is, is unlivable.
Sometimes, however, he has to do some demolition before construction begins. Pride needs to be ripped out of us. Self-centeredness needs to be pounded into shards on the floor. Anger needs to be softened. Lust eliminated. The corrupt parts of us cut away. Demolition, make no mistake, is a painful process. It requires that we endure a lot of pounding, noise, and dust. It requires us to accept the idea that, for a time, things may look worse before they look better. It calls for patience and endurance. It especially requires that we trust in God's vision for what he wants us to be. It requires us to like that vision of ourselves better than we like our lives now.
Rest assured that God never tears down unless he has plans to build us up again. Understand that demolition is just the beginning of his work of renovation in our hearts, minds, and spirits. Do you think that the apostle Paul enjoyed his Damascus Road experience, that Samson enjoyed his Philistine prison, or that Joseph appreciated an Egyptian jail? Do you think that David enjoyed running for his life for all those years? Do you imagine that Jesus enjoyed the desert, Gethsemane, and Calvary? But they each endured. They continued to seek God in their crises. They learned to trust him even as he took a sledgehammer to their lives. In the end, they were transformed to match the vision that God carried in his heart long before he had begun his work in them.
Endure and seek God. Trust him even as his sledgehammer destroys your pretension, false idols, and bogus security. Trust him even as he strips you down and picks you apart. Trust that you go through nothing in his hands that won't add beauty, usefulness, and value to you for the long run. Trust that if he destroys something, then it needed destroying. Trust that he knows what he's doing and that he will get it done in his own time.
Hold onto your faith, worship God, and wait for the dust to clear. You'll be amazed at the renovation he's doing in you!