Ezekiel 3:15…I was overwhelmed and sat among them for seven days.
Have you ever been so overwhelmed with life that all you can do is sit in stunned silence, wondering what in the world just happened? I doubt anyone gets through life without experiencing this kind of emotional pain at least once.
Some years ago, my best girlfriend died. She had a transplant that would save her life, and then sepsis set in without warning. Her organs shut down, and she was gone by the end of that horrible day. I can still feel the sting of the next few days. I sat for hours in stunned silence, rocking back and forth in an old wooden rocker and staring out the window. It was too much for me to take in. Since that day, I have experienced a few more tough days- when I have been left to wonder if I will ever breathe again. Death is like that- it takes your breath away for a bit.
The prophet Ezekiel was so stunned as he began to understand the plight his people would soon be experiencing that he sat overwhelmed for seven days among them. He must have been silent, stunned into utter and hopeless silence! The pain of what he saw was excruciating.
I wonder if this wasn’t, in a sense, a momentary PTSD experience for Ezekiel- the pain of seeing his people’s suffering overcame him, and all he could do was withdraw inside. Emotional pain is like that, isn’t it? Especially the emotional pain that isn’t visible on the outside but is a blaring red warning light on the inside, a light that no one else sees or perceives. A light that is so loud and obnoxious to the pain owner but means nothing to the outside world.
The word overwhelmed here in the New Living Translation can also be translated as consternation, stunned, awestruck, appalled, and “too much to take in.” I think “too much to take in” really nails the feeling Ezekiel must have had.
Ezekiel would be asked to do some tough things as a prophet. He was asked to see some things he never wanted to see. And he was the one prophet repeatedly asked to illustrate what God would do. His job was to call the people to their senses, to try to get them to see the reality of the devastating life they were marching straight into; like sheep to the slaughter, the people of Israel were heading for a life they never wanted, a life of captivity where their freedom would be gone for seventy years. Of course, his warnings were unheeded as the people became captives. Ezekiel watched in stunned silence as he was transported to sit among them.
Okay, so what do we do with all this pain? Where do we turn when the red warning light of our soul is blaring?
One interesting thing we need to see is what happened to Ezekiel immediately after the seven long days of being overwhelmed. Ezekiel was commissioned. God commissioned him to use that overwhelming pain he experienced to help God’s people. God didn’t throw Ezekiel away and say you are too broken to be used by me. No, God commissioned him for his use.
Maybe this is a clue to us about what we do when God allows pain in our lives. Maybe we surrender our lives to God and allow him to pick us up and use our pain to help others. Perhaps we have experienced this pain for the betterment of the church. Just maybe it wasn’t all about us?
Psalm 34:18- The Message
18 If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.
Psalm 61- The Message
-2 God, listen to me shout,
bend an ear to my prayer.
When I’m far from anywhere,
down to my last gasp,
I call out, “Guide me
up High Rock Mountain!”
3-5 You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.