how to take heart in these troubled times

What a way to begin the year, right? We’ve had a celebrity death among 8 other precious souls, taken too soon. The outbreak of Coronavirus. Controversial half-time shows and award show speeches. Our world is hurting – secretly hoping for Eden although on most days I think we would settle for Mayberry or Stars Hollow. That’s just the world at large. Each of us have vibrant, full, jumbled personal lives filled with deadlines, kids to raise, immorality, estranged family members, job trouble, affairs, mental illness… and just plain exhaustion. We have every worldly reason to be devastated at times. To be frantic and confused.

So what do we do?

If I check my Facebook at any given time, (for a “break”??) I will get a political view that goes against my views, a view I agree with said in the wrong spirit, a baby picture, righteous anger, a birthday greeting, and something about animal cruelty. We are surrounded by noise. And there IS a gift to this knowledge.  But we have to decide how to handle and contribute to it with care.

It’s not always running away from the noise. There are times to take a break. There are times to fast. But are we running away from the problems of the world to seek God’s heart or because we don’t ultimately believe that He is in control? 

As Christians we are to be the most hopeful people on the planet. If there is not peace cultivated in our hearts, there will be no lasting peace anywhere. Are we going to have a voice that’s discerning and joyful and compassionate in suffering? OR are we going join the chaos? If we don’t always have a hope to share in the midst of turmoil, how big is our view of God? 

How do we navigate, enter into conversations, without adding more noise?

When I was thinking about all of these things today on my drive home from school worshipping to the song Good Good Father, I remembered a similar season in high school when I felt the world coming down around my shoulders. From my inner circle, to my family, to the community, and world at large I was particularly, more-than-usual disturbed. My best friend in high school sent me a text with only the contents of Jesus’ words. He knew that I was heavily overwhelmed and needed to get out of my own thoughts and focus on eternity with God.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. — John 16:33

This reminded me that whatever was bothering my 16 year old heart at the time, I had hope. Whatever was happening to me was nothing in comparison to my life that was hidden in Christ.

Ending in good and glory.

Maybe that’s what you need to know today? Maybe the whole of these words will be a help to you, but if you remember any of it tomorrow, let it be Jesus’ words. A text bubble of the holy Scripture received in a waiting room, nursery corner, or office desk. “…in Me and only in Me you will find rest. You will have trouble – expect it. But listen, you’ve got Me. And I’ve got this world.”

We can look at the suffering in this world and cry and be angry – so far that it doesn’t lead to cynicism and anger. Somewhere that no true believer in Christ can camp for their lifetimes. Why? Because God’s Word says that our suffering is an indicator of our future glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer being is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

So we can look at our world and at the people around us living a kind of hell on earth and say THANKS BE TO GOD. If this injustice and troubling events are taking place and God’s Word is true, the glory will be impeccable. Beyond imagination, beyond words, beyond our wildest hope.

Jesus cried when His friend Lazarus died even though He knew that He had the power to raise him from the dead – and He would soon after. This is our answer. We allow ourselves to be deeply moved by grief. And we resolve to be deeply moved by the Spirit. (See John 11)

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. — Romans 12:12

That’s how we know we can move forward. We cry and scream and ache for all the ways this world is not like heaven, for the stark separation between humanity and God. Then, we use the power within us from the Spirit to make the next step in hope.

We feel exhaustion and trust Him for the strength to keep going. And we will find that strength when we realize that the battle is His. This doesn’t mean we don’t fight in His name – we just know that, just like our inherited salvation, it is not of our own works. We fight like no other, because we have the LORD OF HOSTS that no man-made thing can scratch. We still fight because He is the Christ who provides comfort AND asks “Where is your faith?” when a storm rattles our trust.

You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies — the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel!…. This is the LORD’s battle and he will give it to us. — excerpt from 1 Samuel 17, IMMERSE reading Bible

In Hayley Morgan’s last two podcasts, she talked about this uneasiness that comes at looking at the hurting world around us. In the most recent podcast “The coronavirus and telling ourselves a better and truer story”, she invited us to insert compassion wherever being frantic was formerly. Instead of worrying about coronavirus, could we focus on the reality – the real people infected, hurting, and scared – and show them compassion? Because, the enemy is not others, but the virus – either literally or figuratively. Our enemy is not our family member on Facebook who is against a policy we agree with or vice versa. The enemy is the virus. Whether it’s death, murder, hostility, anger – anything that separates us from others and God. That’s what we are fighting against. We waste a lot of energy when we focus on one person or post being the problem when the root of it goes all the way back to Eden.

We don’t become robots saying “Everything happens for a reason”. But our hearts that are shaped by this truth –  everything does happen for a reason  – become compelling, compassionate beacons of hope. We know that His glory will win and this propels us to love, not only to be right. Our soul can long and simultaneously hope.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. — Psalm 130:5

We feel the brokenness and celebrate. Because the feast is coming. Hallelujah! These temporary things and church being deeply moved by the Spirit will show the bruised, waiting world that the God of Israel is still reigning today! We turn our eyes away from the transient and look to what is unseen, our only security. Our eyes widen as we see the muchness of our God. This feast – where we will sit at the massive table, with a name for each of His kids on each place setting, unhindered from the tangles of this world and taste the fullness of God.

(As a reminder of our time together in the Word today? Take one of these reminders below if you’d like. Thank you, dear friend.)

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