Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Rock

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

-- Revelation 21-24

It was a place of suffering known to this day as The Rock.

It's Alcatraz, the infamous maximum-security prison situated in the midst of San Francisco Bay. Originally a pre-Civil War-era military outpost and later a military prison, Alcatraz became the last stop for society's worst-of-the-worst when it re-opened in 1934 as an escape-proof penitentiary.

The Rock's ultra-strict code of discipline Alcatrazhelped the facility earn its nickname of Hellcatraz. In its notorious "D" block, prisoners lived in 4' x' 8' cells and were allowed out just once per week for a 10-minute shower. "Harsher punishments," reports the Legends of America website, included "solitary confinement, in total darkness, for days without any release, or confinement in the dreaded steel boxes."

Alcatraz finally closed its doors in 1963. But today, there are still millions of people suffering through a different type of solitary confinement: loneliness. Even in our crowded nation of more than 300 million residents, too many people are on their own without close friends or family. They know all too well that it's possible to be lonely without ever being alone.  

This was never God's plan for his people. But we all to some extent have trouble forming relationships, whether it's with each other or with God. If you go back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God put the original man and woman in a perfect, care-free existence called Eden. There were no job deadlines, traffic jams, illnesses or broken marriages. It was a place where God literally walked with his creation. But when the man and woman intentionally disobeyed God's instructions and sinned, things were never the same. Adam and Eve's eyes were opened and they realized the damage they had done. Then they tried to hide from their Creator. Their sin had built a wall between them and God.

Some things haven't changed over the centuries. In addition to running from our sins, we also run from relationships because of what others have done to us. We're determined to avoid being disappointed or hurt again. It's too easy to be let down. And it's much easier to flee.

The good news is that God has a two-fold solution to this problem. First, he re-established our relationship with him through his Son, Jesus. That means as Christ-followers, we're considered to be God's sons and daughters. And second, he built the Church, which is composed of all the Christ-followers around the world. It's a body of imperfect people like you and me who are all looking for the same thing: a safe place to rest from the world, heal our spiritual wounds and make life-long relationships.

Are you suffering in a spiritual solitary confinement? You're never alone through a life-giving relationship of faith in Jesus.

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