Hope in the Midst of Trouble – December 3, 2015

It’s easy to get discouraged with everything going on in the world today.  I’ve often asked myself, “Is it that crime is worse today, or just that we are more aware of it, thanks to satellites and 24-hour news coverage?”  I think it’s a little (or a lot) of both.

To an extent, I’ve always been aware of crime, as I didn’t grow up in the days where people could leave their doors unlocked, and where you didn’t have to watch your back to some degree.  As a kid, we were taught of “stranger danger,” and even had our parents check our Halloween candy because of news reports of candy being tampered with.   So, I can’t say that I was ever really naive of the realities of crime, but today, when I hear about the horrific realities of what happened yesterday in San Bernardino, I never fail to be saddened and wonder how people could be so cruel.

When I saw the headline above, of course as a Christian I was saddened by the hopelessness of the statement, but I can empathize and relate to the disillusionment and the questions surrounding the whys and how to stop all of the violence.  It’s easy for you or I to say, “God’s in control,” when it isn’t our child, or our spouse, or mother or friend that is a victim of some senseless crime such as this.  I get that.

I also know, and this from years of working in Tribal politics, that we can’t legislate morality and that the law can’t force us to love our neighbor and be decent human beings to one another.  This is not to say that I think guns are necessarily a good idea by any means.  But the root of the problem is with the condition of the hearts of those who choose to commit such violence, and with man’s inhumanity to man.

Where then do we find hope?  Or comfort?  Or help?  Jesus is still here, and He knows what it’s like to feel sorrow, pain, suffering and even to feel alone and abandoned.

Jesus told the disciples in John 16 that they would experience suffering.  He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.  But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them (John 16:1-4 NKJV).”

The Pharisees called for Jesus’ crucifixion too, deluding themselves into believing that they were doing God a favor.  They accused Jesus of blasphemy, but it was really to retain their political favor and status.

When He finishes letting the disciples know of His impending death and resurrection, He says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

Sometimes we ask Him the question, “God why aren’t you fixing this?”  We’re not alone in that either.  The disciples were confused too.  They thought at first that when Jesus said He was going to establish a kingdom, that He was going to establish peace and prosperity for the Jews here on earth at that time.  So imagine how they felt when He was beaten, mocked and ultimately put to death by crucifixion.

Luke  24  tells of how two of Jesus’  followers were traveling on a road to a small village just outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus met them on the road and began walking with them.  Verse 16 says, “But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.”

In verse 17, Jesus asks them what they are talking about and why they are so sad.  They are surprised that this man they are speaking to hasn’t heard the news about the “things” everyone is talking about, so they tell Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.  Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.  Yes, and certain women of our company astonished us.  When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive (Luke 24:19-23).”

Yes, the people were disappointed that it appeared that Israel’s victory didn’t come as expected.  But they still had a glimmer of hope because of the empty tomb…

So I guess I have to ask myself when ask, “Why isn’t God fixing this?”, what if the victory and the solution is just different that I imagined?  What if I am looking at the wrong “this”?  When He says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world,” He means that He, like us, had to walk through a lot of pain, but He overcame it.  Not only that, but He gives us hope that this life is not all there is.  We may suffer in the here and now, but not only does He promise to walk with us through it, He promises that it’s just a matter of time before we get to see the Promised Land (heaven), where things will be set right.

Now, I don’t claim to understand all of Revelation, but I believe that John is talking about Heaven when he says beginning in verse 3 of Revelation chapter 21, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people.  God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

I look forward to a place like that.  Jesus has promised us that we aren’t alone now, in whatever the world and our enemy may throw at us, and that we will be with Him when we pass from this world.  He tells us in John 14:1-6, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”  Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

What a comfort it is to know that Jesus is the Way and the Truth that lights our troubled world, and that there is a greater world to come.  I pray that we would all be comforted with this Truth, and know that even though we have troubles now, He is with us, walking beside us and in front of us every step of the way.  If we believe that He died to save us and that He lives today, we can also be confident that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

“Father, I pray for our troubled world.  I pray that those who are plotting evil in their hearts would be convicted of their sin and stopped from committing such evil, and I pray that we would all seek to do good to one another, rather than harm.  I pray most of all that everyone would know the Truth that will set them free, Lord, the truth of Your great love and salvation.  I pray that we as Christians may abide in the hope of Your promises never to leave us and that You will one day deliver us out of this present world into a heaven where there is no more sorrow.  I pray that if someone reading this right now feels hopeless or despairing, that You would strengthen and encourage them and let them know that You are right by their side and that You love them and want to heal them.  I pray that You would lead us as a country and as individuals down the right path.  Show us Your will, Lord, and help us to look to You for guidance and for the answers.  I pray for comfort, peace, and most of all, hope for those who have lost loved ones due to the terrible tragedy yesterday.  I pray for healing too, Lord, for all involved, from the injured, to the families of those injured and killed.  Thank You for the hope that is found in You, Your grace and most of all, Jesus’ gift of salvation.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”

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