on hope in the midst of suffering and a fallen world pt. 1

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“take heart! For Christ will come again and make all things wrong, right.”

Hardship, devastation and heart wrenching situations have always been something that comes with this world. Suffering is not new to us, to this world. Perhaps I am just getting older and therefore more aware of this… or, it truly is what it seems to me… and it is becoming more and more frequent. A day does not seem to pass lately where I am not shaken with grief as I watch stories unfold on the news of violence, unnecessary loss, evil taking the spot light and families going through unimaginable heart break as they very unexpectedly lose loved ones on a day that was suppose to be just like any other.

As I learn about these devastations, even as someone who is not immediately affected, I begin to experience loss of hope, doubt, immense disappointment and a loss of faith in humanity. I feel as though everywhere these days there are loud screaming news stories proclaiming yet again that evil has won. Evil seems to be ever growing and completely unnecessary acts of evil are taken upon helpless innocents leaving un-repairable rubble in its wake. This leave us not knowing where to go from here, what to expect next and as those we are helpless and unable to navigate forward. Most of all there is deep rooted fear. I am slowly losing hope that there will ever be an upslope to this continual steep graded down and that we will ever see less and less evil with more and more goodness in its place.

With this, the question of “why?” always seems to follow, and when you enter Christianity into the conversation the question is “Why would your God, your supposedly good, good, almighty God who you so lovingly call Father and preach is in control of all things… why would He allow such things to happen!? Why would He just sit by and not stop it?”. This is always a hard question that we who believe in God, Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit are faced with. Especially when we stand before someone who has experienced an insurmountable tragedy. And I am here to say I do not have the answer.

I am not here to say everything happens for a reason, some good will come out of this, or it is all in God’s plan. Because I do not believe those phrases do any good or provide any relief, peace or healing. Rather I think they are our “quick-fixes” / “insert here because I don’t know what else to say and I feel uncomfortable” sayings. Though I do not have the answer I have mulled through this over and over again ever since I was a young girl, new in my faith, asked this very question, and then an older girl somewhat deeper in her faith who held her best friends hand at the age of 17 as she lost her mother unfathomably to soon to cancer, and now a 23 year old believer in God who watches with a lump in her throat as innocent cops go out for the night to fulfill their duty to protect and serve on a new years eve night in San Francisco but instead are bombarded by violent protestors as they yell and spit at them because some far distant cop very wrongly took the life of a black man, and as I drive to work with tears welling in my eyes as I watch cop car procession after cop car procession drive by me as they honor the life of a young, male cop whose life was taken at a CO shooting as he came to rescue but instead laid down his life, and turn on the news only to see a massive attack shake Paris and cling to my phone as I await to hear a response from one of my best friends abroad over in Paris to hear she is safe, or turn on the NPR on my commute only to hear about yet another mass shooting currently affecting San Bernadino, CA.

As I said, I do not have the answer as to why… but I do have some words that I believe God spoke to me, somewhat out of nowhere, that offered me some peace of mind, some grasp on suffering and offered me some hope in the midst of it. I have held onto these words for awhile now but in the shambles of what our world is currently facing I feel a need to release them and put them out on this little blog of mine.

Our God is great. And by great I do not mean the shallow term we use when we want to explain something was really fun, or that plan sounds like a really good one and anything that is better than good but not amazing. No, I mean He is unfathomable, unattainable… His ways and thoughts are far, far above us and way too intricate and grand to be known or grasped. We cannot know the workings of God and we cannot fathom His ways. Our mere human minds just cannot get it and we are not expected to. Yet we want answers, we want answers to everything and without them sometimes we find it hard to trust, believe and hold onto hope. Yet God did give us some answers and where there are not clear answers because we are not able to know them, there are little clues. God expects us to hold to these answers we have, hold to Him and what He has promised us. And this is what I have come to…

There is a purpose behind why we are on this earth.

There is a purpose behind why we have to struggle here why we have to endure stuff. Maybe there is not purpose behind distinct, exact situations that happen on this earth, maybe there is not an exact reason behind slavery, famine, acts of terrorism, good people experiencing bad things, loss, tragedy, and the list goes on, but there is purpose behind why God has not ALREADY redeemed us from this earth. There is purpose behind why He has not saved us YET, and we need to rely on His promises, we need to trust in these promises and look to these promises that He has promised to us.

The promise that He WILL come again, He will save us from this world and all its evil, tragedy and weeping. He WILL save us from this pain and suffering, and He WILL raise us from the grave. HE WILL SAVE US. In due time. And we need to trust in that and look to these promises and find hope and trust in them.

We need to stop trying to seek exact answers for why we experience pain, why we endure hardship. Again, there may not be purpose behind exact painful experiences but there is purpose behind why we are still on this earth, why we still have to endure pain, hardship and heart wrenching situations and why God thinks it is a better system to leave us here for now, and for us to live in a fallen world rather than just instantly save us from it. There is purpose behind that and we need to trust that He has a purpose in it. That He has a vision, that He will work all things out for His good (and therefore out for our good as well since His ways are good and pure), that He does hold it all in His hands but that we do live in a fallen world.

Maybe His hand is apart of every little thing/detail and maybe it is not, but we do know the promises that He has laid out for us to know, that we can lean into and find hope, rest and peace in. He has given us the knowledge of what we do know and need to know, He has entrusted to us the knowledge of what we need to know in this time frame and that is the knowledge that He has equipped us with to take on this world, that with which He has entrusted to us because of our need for it.

The rest we do not need to know because the rest is too lofty for us, the rest we are not able to know. It is ok to struggle with this, it is ok to wrestle with it but I believe what needs to happen is that we need to come back time and time again to what we do know, what has been promised and what He has entrusted for us to know already and to finding hope and trust in that. And to remember that in the midst of it our God is a good God that can provide and comfort in the midst of trial and work through it.

There will be suffering because we are living in a fallen world. In this we need to remember to come back to His promises. Not hold Him to what He never promised us, not hold Him to what He has never laid out before us but rather hold Him to what He has promised us and remember that we can hold Him to those things and His character is genuine and true… it does not change and He does not go back on promises. And unfortunately we were never promised this world would be easy or good but rather that we would, for the time being, reside in a fallen world that would be filled with trials, hardship, heart break, devastation, and everything that is a result of evil. We were told to take heart as a very commonly used bible verse states, so overused that I believe we have unfortunately stopped seeing the significance and promises that lie within it, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We are informed and promised that we will have trouble, it does not say we may but that we will, however we are left with the hopeful promise of the fact that it does not end there. Christ has overcome the world, meaning He overcame it to one day rescue us from this trouble. We are shown that though we reside in this trouble God is bigger than it, He is able to and already has overcome it in order to one day provide the way for us to do so as well.

In this promise we are shown that He will bring about healing and justice. That He will fix all and right the wrongs. He will restore and renew and there will be NO MORE. We endure all of this unthinkable evil for this… for this promise of a renewal and then no more. God is with us now, but His promise to unite us with Him fully has not yet come to fruition yet. But we can trust that it will and find hope as we await it with eager expectation. And find peace in the fact that this earth is not our home, it is not what we are meant for and it is not where we are meant to find our happy ending.

In the mean time I encourage you to seek Him in our midst, as our stronghold in these trying times, as our guide and source and provider. Pray for ears to hear and eyes to see Him, His heart and His desires. Anticipate His coming and fulfillment of NO MORE of this, but seek His presence here. Know that though this world is not the end of the story, that God has not given up on it, and we are not suppose to either. Wait for Him, trust in what is coming and know we will not be put to shame. I do believe His heart breaks as He watches children of His choose evil over Him, as His creations choose evil acts against one another over love, as hate, racism, pride, hierarchical thinking, and us vs. them mentality ruins and destroys. And I not only believe but know we are promised to be rescued from this… but not yet. And I trust that there is purpose and reasoning behind that. I know God has not left us here to rot, to weep, to struggle, to mourn and fall prey to evil.

We live in a land in a constant clash between Hell and Heaven, therefore we are bound to experience each during our time within it. And unfortunately, as the bible illuminates, Satan was given the reign and the upper hand over this world as we as a human race choose the evil ways of Satan over the pure ways of The Lord.

You may notice a lot of maybes…

But you may also notice all capitalized ‘alreadys’, and ‘wills’ and ‘yets’… this is where the hope comes in.

Maybe we need to experience a little hell to reveal in the stark contrast of heaven when that sweet time comes. I am not sure. I never use to be someone who longed for heaven and I thought those that did were morbid, depressed, hated their lives or were weird. But now I get it. Longing for heaven, longing to be saved from this world is clinging to hope and the promises of God. It is not giving up on this world or the people in it, but seeking to bring as much of heaven here as possible while knowing so much unimaginable goodness awaits us. It is choosing hope, joy, trust and peace in the midst of the strife, pain, and numbing, immobilizing sadness. It is clinging with both hands to Jesus knowing only He can rise us out of this, and that He will.

This is not what God wanted for this earth, or for us. And we are not to abandon it to evil while we are here still. Rather, we are to cling to hope, rest in peace, spread joy, love deeply and be in continuous preparation the future second coming of Christ. Come into His presence now and be in eager anticipation. I hope you can find some peace and hope in the fact that this is not the end of the story and our God is good, He is an all loving father and He is not just idly sitting by with a blind eye to all that is happening. God is not absent from this world… from us, His power has not diminished, and His promise has not lost its strength. He has a rescue plan and in the mean time He has granted us this promise to cling to and His presence to rest in.

Do not give up hope. And remember … hold God to His promises, not the ones we made up to make our selves feel better but the true, repetitive, final promises that the bible lays out for us to know. Advent is about waiting, but in hope, for Christ’s coming, and I cannot think of a time more so than now that I have needed to rest in hope and have longed for the coming of my Christ more.

And remember…this can never be taken from us.

 

I am that I am

I am the beginning and the end

I am the first and the last

I am light; in me there is no darkness at all

My hand laid the foundation of the earth…

My right hand spread out the heavens…

When I call to them they stand up Isaiah 48:13

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear much fruit and that your fruit should abide,

Whenever you ask in the Father in my name, he may give it to you John 15:16

I am He who blots out your mistakes

I will not remember your sins Isaiah 43:25

All who receive Me, who believe in My name, I give the right to become children of God

John 1:12

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and the God’s Spirit dwells in you? 1 Cor 3:16

My Spirit is with you, Ezekiel

I will not leave you, Deuteronomy

I will equip you for every good work I’ve planned Hebrews 13:21

I did not give you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control 2 Timothy 1:7

I will build My church through you, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it Matt. 16:18

I will comfort you as you wait Isaiah 66:13

I will remind you that this is all real John 14:26

I am on my way Rev. 3:11

My steadfast love endures forever and ever Psalm 138:8

In just a little while, I am coming and I will take you to the place I am Hebrews 10:37

You will inherit the earth Psalm 25:13

You will be with me..

I will wipe every tear from your eyes and death will be no more

Behold, I make all things new Rev 21

My Kingdom is coming

My Will will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Matt. 6:10

 

 Prayers to pray over this season & verses to look to where the bible confirms these truths: (As we dance through these minefields remember that is what the promise is for that God offered us)

 

Heavenly Father, today we look with anticipation for the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. Wherever life finds us today, from the darkest valley to the highest mountain, we invite Christ, our merciful King, to meet us there. As we wait expectantly, would You set our hearts alight with the lasting joy that only You bring? Today, we join with your people throughout the centuries as we proclaim, Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen

Laboring God, with axe and winnowing fork 
you clear a holy space 
where hurt and destruction have no place, 
and a little child holds sway. 
Clear our lives of hatred and despair, 
sow seeds of joy and peace, 
that shoots of hope may spring forth 
and we may live in harmony with one another. Amen

 

O Lord, How Shall I Meet You Hymn                                                                                       O Lord, how shall I meet you,
how welcome you aright?
Your people long to greet you,
my hope, my heart’s delight!
O kindle, Lord most holy,
a lamp within my breast,
to do in spirit lowly
all that may please you best.

Love caused your incarnation;
love brought you down to me;
your thirst for my salvation
procured my liberty.
O love beyond all telling,
that led you to embrace
in love, all loves excelling,
our lost and fallen race.

You come, O Lord, with gladness,
in mercy and goodwill,
to bring an end to sadness
and bid our fears be still.
In patient expectation
we live for that great day
when your renewed creation
your glory shall display.

 

Prayer from the Book of Common Prayers:                                                             Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Isaiah 11:1-10 (Hope, restoration, peace, healing- there WILL be victory)(v. 6-9) The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
 and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, 
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
 and a little child shall lead them.
 The cow and the bear shall graze;
 their young shall lie down together; 
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
 and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
 They shall not hurt nor destroy all my holy mountain; 
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
 as the waters cover the sea.

(v. 10) And His resting place shall be glorious

note: He will come and destroy evil, and His judgment will be fair, pure and true. Only He can save and bring this kingdom of restoration, healing and perfection.

 

Psalm 25:1-10 (Look to God through it all)                                                            (v. 1-2) To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust.

(v. 2 cont. -3) let not my enemies exult over me. Indeed none who wait for you shall be put to shame, they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.       So as to not fall victim to evil and to do what we can to bring light into this dark world we must be active in pursuing the Lord.

(v. 4-5 /8-10) Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, / Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.

 

Rev. 7: 9-17 (A glimpse of what is to come, final and full healing of all and for all who stand firm in their faith through this great tribulation)              (v. 14-16) Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God,
 and serve him day and night in his temple;
 and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; 
the sun shall not strike them,
 nor any scorching heat.

(v. 17) For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,
 and he will guide them to springs of living water,
 and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

 

Luke 2:8-10 (The story of Jesus’ birth and of an answering of a long awaited promise to the Israelites from God)                                                         (v. 14) Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.

Note: The shepherds continue to work until the promised coming.               It is not just the birth of Christ and what He did for us through His life and through His death… there is more to this, more to our faith. There is more to come! The story does not end with Christ giving us salvation through Him. No, the story continues with what is to come… Him coming again and fulfilling the full promise, that we will be united with our God in perfect holiness. This is real! It is going to happen one day. Jesus is coming!

 

Micah 5:1-6 (He is the peace of His people and He will protect His people now and forevermore from their enemies. He has the victory)                      (v. 4-5) And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
 in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
 And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
 And he shall be their peace.

 (v. 6) He shall deliver us

Note: As Micah 5 begins; Israel is facing the possibility of siege by either of their enemies, Babylon and Assyria. In light of this siege, hope is given. Christ, the Savior is prophesied. He will be born in Bethlehem. He will be the ruler in Israel and is from the ancient days of old, everlasting. He will be born of a woman. He will shepherd His flock by the strength of God. He is the peace of His people. He will protect His people from their enemies now and forevermore. He has the victory.

 

Psalm 85 (Thanking for past provision and prayer to restore us again and for the paths to be made straight that lead to Him)                                            (v. 8-13) Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
 for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
 but let them not turn back to folly.
 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, 
that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; 
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
 Faithfulness springs up from the ground, 
and righteousness looks down from the sky. 
Yes, the Lord will give what is good, 
and our land will yield its increase.
 Righteousness will go before him 
and make his footsteps a way.

Note: The Lords steadfast love remains constant and He will revive us again

 

James 5:7-11 (Be steadfast, trust the Lord…suffering WILL end one day, Have patience)                                                                                                                  (v. 7-10) “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

 (v.11) Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 Note: We have not been left empty handed in waiting, but have been given guidelines, a promise, hope, and community through the bible. We were shown the ways in which to have God’s presence on Earth. And we are not to just wait idly by. There is purpose in our suffering, within it we can have patience and hope. Establish your hearts, be faithful, but know you are founded in Christ, not just found faithful. We long and wait BUT we have a book of promise to offer peace and hope and knowledge of what is to come. We have been told the promises we can stand on. Be steadfast, trust the Lord…suffering WILL end one day. Be patient, be steadfast, have hope and faith, establish your ready hearts, await…press on until the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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