This is my last week to write the devotions for my church about the book of Acts. (See this post, this post, and this post for previous devos.) You can listen to it as a podcast here.)
When we think about an earthquake, we tend to think about this geological phenomenon from the outside: the amount of shaking it results in, the buildings it tears down, the deaths and damage it causes, the havoc it wreaks. But there’s another side of the story too: what’s happening under the surface of the ground.
Geologically speaking, an earthquake occurs when there is a sudden release of energy in the Earth’s crust that creates seismic waves. Although we’re unaware of it, the earth is constantly pulsing as the crust is being recycled. Some experts refer to these regular blows—which amount to hundreds a day—as the planet’s heartbeat.
When the pent-up energy within the earth becomes too great, the tectonic plates, which have been storing up elastic energy, release it in a large burst. When this happens, there is a rupture in the fault lines—an earthquake. As destructive as this process can be, the shift is actually necessary to keep supporting human life as we know it on this earth. The earth has to shift in order to remain stable and relieve pressure.
When it comes to human relationships, there are times when seismic shifts are necessary as well. The fallout can be painful at times, but God can use these relational earthquakes to move people to where they need to be.
When Paul and Barnabas had an unresolvable conflict in Acts, it was a relational tremor that pushed them in different directions. But there were upsides to this split. Without this division, John Mark and Silas might not have had an opportunity to rise to the occasion and use their gifts to serve God in the early church.
Silas was already a leader in the early church when Paul chose him to accompany him on his second mission. But when this split occurred, he was given the opportunity to speak to believers in a larger area of the known world. It was during this journey that he and Paul were imprisoned in Philippi, when an earthquake broke their chains and opened the prison door. Without the conflict between Paul and Barnabas, Silas likely would never have experienced such a miracle.
We don’t know why John Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. But as a result of the split, Barnabas took John Mark to Cyprus with him. He gave him another chance—an opportunity to restore trust and redeem what had been lost on the previous trip.
As painful as endings are in the moment, good can come out of these final chapters. In his book Necessary Endings, Henry Cloud talks about how we need to listen when God is bringing us to an ending in our lives: “In the language of Ecclesiastes, are there situations in business or in life where you are trying to birth things that should be dying? Trying to heal something that should be killed off? Laughing at something that you should be weeping about? Embracing something (or someone) you should shun? Searching for an answer for something when it is time to give up? Continuing to try to love something or someone when it is time to talk about what you hate?”
It’s hard to say good-bye to people or things. But there are some things God intends to give us for a season, and we need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to show us when that season is over. Henry Cloud goes on to say, “Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.”