Just before midnight on Dec. 29, with our little ones nestled snug in their beds, the earth shook. While earthquakes happen all the time—there were more than 40 in Canada in the past 30 days—this was the first we really felt while living in British Columbia. Our house popped as if one mighty gust had blown against the back of our house. It was confusing and unsettling. Googling “earthquake kits” suddenly became relevant.
Just after the dinner hour on Jan. 1 our family wearily wandered through the doors after a glorious day of skiing. It was a day with spectacular views of rolling seas to the west and rolling mountains to the east. My heart was full of song and praise. Suddenly another shaking took place. One of the kids bolted down the stairs in panic: a window had been smashed and we had been burglarized. It was confusing and unsettling. Googling “security systems” suddenly became really tempting.
What do you do when everything shakes?
The Scriptures often use the imagery of shaking to describe God’s activity. Through Isaiah the Lord declares an end to the arrogance and pride of the nations. When God is moved by righteous anger, things shake (Isaiah 13:13). We would be wise not to leave these words only for ancient kingdoms and peoples. When things shake, sometimes we are called to repentance and awakening.
When the Jews look despairingly upon the post-exilic temple they had mustered resources to rebuild, the Lord speaks hope: “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory.” (Haggai 2:6-7). When things shake, sometimes it is a call to hope and expectation despite appearances.
When Jesus, the desired of all nations, is crucified, the moment is marked by an earthquake. The veil in the temple that separated humanity from God was torn from top to bottom, and very peculiar things western churches don’t preach at Easter occurred—once-dead holy folk rise and reintroduce themselves (Matt. 27:51-53). When things shake, sometimes it’s a call to wonder at what is really taking place and what foundations are newly being established behind the headlines.
This “shaking” image continues in the letter to the Hebrews, who are needing encouragement to live as followers of Jesus in confusing times. When God shakes things, says the writer, it is purposeful, revealing, and in line with how the Lord always works. The shaking and quaking that disturbs us is to remove the stuff that won’t last and to call us back to what will. Christians “are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28) and so we rejoice when the shaking reveals what really matters and causes us to rediscover our place as worshippers. In other words, when things shake we are called to remember who we are, who God is, and what that requires of us.
Have you been shaken lately? Has your church community been shaken? Has it brought you back to the kingdom that cannot be shaken? Has it made you more sensitive to the Spirit of God? Or has it left you googling for answers?
Phil Wagler serves the development of global workers from B.C. He’s ready for the shaking to cease but is thankful for what has been revealed (firstname.lastname@example.org).