Responding in Hope

A world on fire. Massively divisive political posturing. Constantly eroding moral ground. And on top of it all a viral pandemic is sweeping the globe. There is no shortage of blame, no shortage of fear, and no shortage of greed. The world is on fire.

Our broken world is subject to disease, violence, hunger and oppression. Ever since Adam & Eve made their choice in the Garden, those effects have played out in individuals lives, humanity and all of creation. Romans 8:21 (NIV) tells us that all of creation is in “bondage to decay.” Suffering it would seem, is as natural in this world as breathing. Yet, hope remains.

John 16:33  (NLT)

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

As believers our hope is in God, in the future he has planned and promised us. But that hope needs to work it’s way into our everyday present lives as well. We have a responsibility, as those who hold the hope and light in an ever darkening world, to hold our torches high and let that light burn brightly as a beacon for all to see. Our response to situations that are ripe with fear should not be based on what if’s and what could be, but on who God is and what he has promised to us.

Our response to suffering and adversity should look like this.

  • Realize God’s grace is enough

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

Our natural response to the unknown is to fear it, dread it, and to try and do everything to hold it at bay. It is in our weakness that God’s power is most evident in our lives.

  • Know that God is there to listen and respond to us.

Psalm 9:9-10  (NLT)

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed,
a refuge in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.”

God may already know your fears, your anxieties… share them with him anyway. He is your place of shelter, protection, and safety. The world may be in chaos, but our Heavenly Father is steady. While we shelter in place, don’t forget to shelter in God.

  • God has given us help, so that we may help others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NLT)

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Holding on to hope is selfish. We are dealers of hope. What we have received, we are meant to share. Check in on your neighbors, your family, your co-workers – use your phone and talk to people. Be light, be the hope, be the church.

Do we face uncertainty right now? Yes. Is everything changing faster than we can cope. Yes. Does fear have to rule our hearts and direct our lives? No.

Be wise, be safe, be smart, yes, be all of those things. We may have to practice social distancing, but we have an opportunity to practice spiritual closeness with God.

I leave you with this.

Psalm 34:4 (NLT)

I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.

    He freed me from all my fears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suffering & The Christian Response

A couple weeks ago in response to fellow workers recent loss, a co-worker said to me and those within earshot, “Humor equals tragedy plus time.”, a statement that I told him was probably one of the most ignorant things I had ever heard. I know that he was quoting Mark Twain, that doesn’t change the way it made me feel about what he said. Days after a co-worker lost a grandparent it was tasteless and rude to say. What bothered me the most is how un-shocked and desensitized he seemed to have become to other peoples sufferings.

Last Sunday I spoke about Nehemiah, specifically Nehemiah’s response to the destruction and ongoing state of Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been in a state of ruin for hundreds of years, but time didn’t separate the grief that Nehemiah felt when presented with the truth of it’s ruin. In Nehemiah 1:4 (ESV) it says

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Nehemiah was deeply affected by the tragedy of the city of his fathers, he wept, fasted and prayed for many days. He was wrecked by the grief and sadness. But his sadness would not fix anything in Nehemiah 2:5 he dresses the king and says

“If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Nehemiah didn’t stop at sadness, he took action. He asked the king if he could go and do something about it, and even asked for all the materials needed to complete the task. Nehemiah saw a need, was moved to grief by it, and moved into action about it.

Sorrow, tragedy and suffering are parts of everyday life, some more poignant than others, but all weigh heavy on God’s heart.

In his 1943 novel Perelandra, C.S. Lewis writes of a mans journey to Venus, where he finds a perfect Eden like environment, no death, no evil, no sin. It is all interrupted when another visitor comes with the express purpose of introducing sin and corrupting the Queen of this innocent world. The main character, Ransom, stumbles upon a horrifying sight. A frog, brutally injured and left to suffer. The first evil done in a sinless, innocent world, Lewis writes this of Ransom’s thoughts at the time:

“It would have been better, or so he thought at that moment, for the whole universe never to have existed than for this one thing to have happened.”

Ransom was so devastated by the brutality and suffering he sees, that he wishes that nothing had ever been created, if it meant that this heinous act could have been avoided.

Sometimes, I think the same thing. Sin has brought such pain and suffering into our world, sometimes it seems it would be better if God had never even created us.

In 2015, there were for 14 recognized military conflicts, and 396 recognized terrorist attacks. 783 million people on this planet do not have access to clean water. 795 million people do not have access to food to maintain proper nourishment. And now in 2020, we are in the grips of a pandemic, staying at home, many of us fearful of what could me.

Sin has brutalized this world, sin that mankind brought into it.

As Christian’s we have two possible responses to this. First, we can be sad and bemoan the state of the world and its godlessness, casting all blame on those who don’t believe, Satan, or even the government. Secondly, we can do our part.

In Perelandra, Ransom doesn’t stop and sit in a quiet puddle of his tears. He gets up and moves on, finding more and more of the same brutal work, until he finds the man responsible talking to the Queen, trying to convince her that his ways are better. Ransom steps in, and does what he can to remind the Queen that the innocence of life, and the wishes of her Creator are far better.

You don’t have to go around the world to know people are suffering and have it break your heart. Nehemiah had never even been to Jerusalem, yet he mourned over it. People are hurting in your nation, your city, your church, even in your own homes. What is your response going to be?