How much do know about nothing? Usually not much is said about nothing, but today I am going to say a lot about nothing. After all, we are all acquainted with nothing. In fact, nothing is largely responsible for most of the good in this world.
‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is You who have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for You.’ Jeremiah 32:17
NOTHING LIKE WINTER GARDENING
As Autumn fast draws to a close, Kim and I are considering what winter vegetables we should plant. Winter is a strange time for gardening. In winter, most flowering plants are flowerless; all deciduous trees are leafless; and pruned roses look like thorny sticks. In winter, what looks for months like nothing — just bare soil or even, simply, grass — may actually be a hive of daffodil activity. Spring reminds me that what often what appears to be “nothing happening” in winter was not the case at all. In fact, this is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn from nothing: what we can see (nothing happening) is not always the true picture.
NOTHING LIKE RECUPERATING
My son recently had surgery. Kim went down to Hobart to collect him so that he could recuperate with us in Legana. He was in a lot of pain after his operation and was unusually tired. He spent a lot time resting which he found frustrating. For five of the seven days that he was with us, he did nothing. But if we asked his surgeon if Tyrone was doing nothing while he recuperated, the surgeon might respond with a medical lecture about how, after surgery, the human body is very busy rebuilding muscle tissue, reestablishing blood flow, repairing skin cells, and producing sufficient T-cells as part of it auto-immune system to prepare for any resulting early-stage infection. “Nothing?!” he might retort, “A person recuperating from surgery is hardly doing nothing!” This then, is our second lesson about nothing: inactivity is not the same as doing nothing.
NOTHING LIKE A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP
A couple of years ago I was referred to a specialist pain clinic. The pain specialist examined me and gave me some not-so-good-news. But, he said, one of the best ways to reduce your pain levels is to get more sleep. Obviously he didn’t know how busy I was and just how impractical it would be for me to waste what little time I had in my day by napping and sleeping. Perhaps perceiving my unspoken reply to his suggestion, he went on to explain how therapeutic sleep was. While we are asleep, our body’s get to work repairing what it can, sometimes even rebuilding what it can, and helping stressed muscles trying to do what the spine is no longer able to do, he said. When you are always tired, he informed me, your body is having to divert its maintenance systems into sustaining you. This then results in further injury and pain. Despite my unwillingness to comply with this specialist’s directives, I soon found that my body was involuntarily complying (which is why my weekly Pastor’s Desk is now much later than it used to be). Since then, I have learned that despite sleep appearing like I was doing nothing it was actually an important part in my body’s recovery — not to mention that it was an invaluable occasional spiritual encounter (have you ever noticed how often God came to people in their dreams?). Thus, the third lesson we can learn about nothing is: sleep might appear as if we are doing nothing and that nothing is being achieved, when in fact, it is while we are asleep that we can sometimes see things more clearly and that some of our bio-systems are at their busiest.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for He gives to His beloved sleep.Psalm 127:2
NOTHING LIKE WAITING
I have mixed feelings about waiting. There are times when I don’t mind waiting. I especially feel this way at the moment about supermarkets. With the current social-distancing restrictions in place, waiting in the checkout queue is now even longer. But I’m OK with this as I consider that there are parts of the world where they either don’t have supermarkets, or their supermarkets are nearly bare. (But there are times when nothing bugs me more than waiting on hold to business or government agency. A week ago I think I was on hold for two hours before I eventually hung up.) It might surprise many though, who get to know me, to discover that I generally don’t mind waiting. This is especially the case when what I am waiting for has great value. I waited to get married. I waited for us to be able to have children. I waited seven years to complete my doctoral studies. Today I went into Koorong to find a book I need for some research I am doing. Laura told me that her store didn’t have it, but she could it from another Koorong store and sent directly to me. “How long would that take?” I asked. “About two weeks” she replied as her face resigned to the fact that I would baulk at such a wait. “Fine” I replied, “I’d like to order it then.”
I’m trying to teach Ruby how to wait. We bought her something for her birthday (at her request) which arrived a few weeks ago. When it was delivered she excited unwrapped the package and was interrupted by Kim who told her, “You’d better ring Dad first.” When she rang me she asked if she could start using it now as an “early birthday present” (her birthday was not for another two and half months). As any dad would who wants his children to develop sound character traits, I said, “No, you can’t have it until your birthday.” To which she replied, “But Dad!…” (you don’t need to know the … was). Because waiting for something is a measure of its true value, I know that when her birthday arrives she will appreciate it even more. This is the fourth lesson that we can learn from nothing is: it may appear that waiting is achieving nothing, but waiting fosters the virtue of patience and magnifies something’svalue.
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
NOTHING LIKE GOD’S PLAN
There are times when it seems like God is doing nothing. The Psalmist expressed this frustration in Psalm 10 –
¶ Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? Psalm 10:1
Even in the Law, it seemed like God was commanding His people to have sacred moments of nothingness –
Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Exodus 31:15
But the sabbath was never about doing nothing. The sabbath was about recuperating, resting, waiting, and worship. It is in the times when it seems that we can do nothing that the God who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4) is often at work on our behalf even though we cannot immediately detect His activity –
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14
And perhaps when we tie all of these lessons about nothing together, we begin to realise that our very salvation is based on nothing –
Nothing but the work and sacrifice of Jesus can save us (Hebrews 9:26)
Nothing can we add, contribute to, or bring to, the salvation that Christ offers us (2Tim 1:9)
Nothing did we do to merit, earn, or achieve this salvation that God offers us through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8)
Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:39)
Nothing can be achieved unless the believer remains connected to Christ (John 15:5)
Nothing more needs to be said except to make a correction to the title of this post. Rather than Nothing Is Powerful, I should correct it to read, Nothing Is As Powerful As God, but now I think about it, both titles are equally apt for these few thoughts about nothing.