Churning is not a word that most of us in daily conversation. When’s the last time you heard this:
“Hey, Bob. What’s you got churning?”
And that famous old song, Proud Mary encourages the “big wheel to keep on turning and Proud Mary to keep on burning” as the old paddlewheel travels down the river. It doesn’t say keep on churning.
What is churning anyway?
According to the Cambridge dictionary, churning means to move something, especially a liquid, with great force. Dairy farmers know it also means mixing milk until it becomes butter. If your stomach is churning, you feel nauseated or ill. Churning means to work up or to agitate.
Did you know it is also used on the Bible? Nehemiah, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Habakkuk, and Jude all mention it. Perhaps the one that is most well-known is from Proverbs 30:33. “For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.”
Churning is not fun and it can be frightening to watch. When we are being agitated or when the peace around us is being disturbed in some violent way, our lives become uncertain and we become frightened. When nature churns, we have thunder storms, tornadoes, hurricanes monsoons, earthquakes, and volcanoes. All have devasting power and are both frightening and awesome to watch. You can’t miss them.
Yet when God, who is infinitely more powerful and awesome than all of his creation combined, churns our world we fail to see it for what it is. When people dare to say that the COVID pandemic is a move of God, they are shunned and ridiculed. When God uses the military might of the American armed forces to take down the enemies of Israel, we credit the US and their might.
We forget about God.
We say: Storms are forces of nature. War is won by the strongest. Worldwide disasters are just that, disasters.
But what if God is churning us up? What if he is twisting our noses to correct our direction? What if the waters are being churned by God coming to rescue us from the darkness that surrounds us every day? What if God is doing something new?
There are many people who claim God doesn’t do these things. God is love and a loving God won’t cause hurt or pain. For those of us who are parents, do you not discipline your children? When you do, is it a pleasant experience for them or even you? No, both the child and the parent get churned up inside. But that churned up feeling causes the child to grow and caused the parent to pray and to commit to help their child do better.
Churning is not pleasant but to say that God doesn’t churn the world and our hearts as needed is to ignore the Bible. God often used disasters or invasion as a way of disciplining Israel. How many times in your life has God closed a door or let you suffer the consequence of your own sin?
God lets us suffer the results of our decisions and actions for our own good. There are times in which he will let bad things happen to bring about good results as well. Proverbs 16:4 says “The Lord has made everything for his own purposes, even the wicked for a day of disaster.”
All the natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and terrorist threats and even the COVID pandemic may very well be God churning our world. He is either starting something new or he is rescuing us from our path away from him and right into the lair of Satan.
If this is true, what are we to do? Proverbs 16:3 had the answer. “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.”
The nations have sinned. We are willingly following our own path of destruction. Just as each person who has walked away from God has to turn from their path and back to God in order to experience the blessings of a relationship with Christ, nations must as well. This move away from our sins is called repentance. Sometimes God churns up our world to get us to this point. Is it really inconceivable that God wouldn’t churn our world, just as in ancient times, to get us all to that place?
Andy Becker is a pastor, retired counsellor and former CEO of a Hospice organization. Currently, his wife, Stella and Andy, lead both Lighthouse ministries and Bread of Life ministries in North Central Regina, one of Canada’s poorest and roughest neighborhoods. His book, The Travelers, is available at Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.