These things are terrible. While "God works all things for our good," is ultimately true and seeks to steady my gaze, it doesn't always ease the pit in my stomach when I see and hear the things so unsettling. And it shouldn't. Sin and suffering should grieve me. Sovereignty is not meant to extinguish empathy. My neighbors need someone to weep with them.
All of this turmoil leaves me thinking in desperation, "What can I do?" Because we all want to do something. I have heard a lot of opinions, none suggesting the state of the world and it's challenges be ignored. Yes- there is a lot to read. But words and opinions left on the open space of twitter and Facebook don't cost me anything and leave me feeling unsatisfied. As I sit in the quiet, safe and warm, wondering if anything I do from these walls will matter anyway, I remember that God works in upside-down ways. There is a quiet confidence in His manner that is executed in the unexpected. When the world wanted a king, God sent a baby in a manger.
I hesitate to make this so formulaic, as we all find ourselves at different places on the journey. I certainly am no one of importance--- except for the fact that God loves me and keeps showing me the depths of His affection. I am a housewife, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mother. Many of these things I have said before--- But are worth repeating. They are the constants God continues to use to take a hold of me most distinctly right now. They weave in and out of life, increasing our knowledge of God and His Law, and bringing to us the Good News.
The God of this part of history is the same as the portions before. While the canon of scripture is completed, God is still moving. We haven't exited the story He is writing through the ages. He still preserves His word and hearing it still brings about faith.
I think of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 in light of the revelation of our One God, revealed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Speak of the salvation of the Lord. Tell the Old Story. This is the perfect season for it.
For unto us a child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder,
And His name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The kings and judges of this age will pass away. We wait, as those first listening to Isaiah (above ref. ch. 9) hope set outside us, not among us. Point to Him. Confess Him.
The quill still rests in the hand of the Author of the story of redemption. Sinners are still brought in by the blood of His Own Son and in the power of His resurrection. He makes His enemies, His friends. He makes orphans, sons and daughters.
In life, all sufferings confront me with my own failings. It is true that the state of things on the whole grieve me, as my groans join those of the earth longing for redemption. But I haven't only been grieved as a person looking at all those other people---God speaks to my soul too.
I think of all the times I haven't functionally valued all human life as reflecting the image of God. I haven't always loved all my neighbors in a way that would seek their good above my own. Sometimes I don't even know how to do it. I get caught up in the broader debate rather than see those closest to me.
I have looked for men and women, money, comforts, and peace to satisfy my soul as only God is able. Comfort is an idol. An easy life is too. Sometimes I am afraid.
There is enough in me that warrants my own returning the Justifier and again, hear the Good News, and be humbled as the justified--- every day. I literally need mercy every morning.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
I pray for mercy as I feel the pressing in of the brokenness around me. Even if just for a moment, to be reminded that I have a place to go with all my thoughts and fears, and remember that Jesus is praying for me.
In the context of the moment, I also pray for love for my neighbors. There may or may not be ways I can influence a vote or ideology but I can always ask for eyes to see my closest neighbors should a need arise. In some ways, it is easier to talk about policies rather than within my own sphere of influence. I have heard over and over again, "Jesus would..." Well, He might. There are certainly stories of the ways he dealt with his neighbors and enemies. It is true that He always had their best in mind. He rebuked and healed and always loved in ways that were appropriate. He still continues today. But we, friends, are not Jesus. He did not come to primarily be an example for broad political policies. He came to save sinners. When I try and value all those who need Him and their good (both the attackers and the attacked), someone will always be left out. When it is my turn to love, I need wisdom. I need the Omniscient One. He always hears me when I ask for help.
I forget these things mentioned here more often than I care to admit! And I am always led back to the Good News. The Gospel ensures that the success of all of this does not rest on me. Phillip Cary says that the Gospel is a story, that contains a promise, that is for you. It cannot be undone. His book, Good News for Anxious Christians is a great read, by the way.
If I can ever presume love at all, it is in being reminded that I have been loved in ways that are illogical and unfathomable.
In the face of the darkness, I look for the light as I have been given a glimpse of the end of the suffering (that doesn't arrive in the completion of another election), especially during this week of gratefulness. Andrew Peterson has written a very timely album, The Burning Edge of Dawn and I cannot recommend it more. It looks bravely at reality but never without hope.
I've been waiting for the sun
To come blazing up out of the night like a bullet from a gun
Till every shadow is scattered, every dragon's on the run
Oh, I believe, I believe that the light is gonna come
And this is the dark, this is the dark before the dawn
(The Dark Before the Dawn)
So set your face against the night
And raise your broken voice
Lord I believe, continue to help my unbelief.