Trying Times

girl-cropped  It seems that we daily read of another terror attack somewhere in the world or some measure of strife between people groups. From the Orlando nightclub attack to the most recent attack in Nice, France and the growing unrest between the Black Lives Matter movement and police here in the US, there seems to be increasing tension around the world. For those personally affected by these attacks, our hearts ache for you; our prayers go out for all the victims, their families and friends, and all those whose lives are forever changed.

With each and every incident, regardless of our individual political viewpoints, we collectively feel sadness, anger, and uncertainty. We long for peace in the world, some of us labor hard for it, but despite our deepest desires and best efforts, the feeling of increasing distress is often inescapable. We ask ourselves what can be done and we begin to wonder why our leaders can’t solve the issues. It seems there are no easy answers, and there probably aren’t.

But there is one thing we can do, and we can all do it right where we are, without delay and without hesitation. And that is to seek God, to submit ourselves to him, and offer our prayers with all the earnestness we feel in our hearts. In Isaiah 62:6 we read: “O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually. Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.” And in 1Thessalonians 5:17 we are instructed to “Never stop praying.” In fact, all throughout the Bible we see examples of people turning to God in prayer during difficult times.

pray-1492816_960_720  In his second letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul wrote: “Pray, too, that we will be rescued from wicked and evil people, for not everyone is a believer.” (2Thessalonians 3:2) So we see, even in Paul’s time, there was evil in the world, and Paul’s response was to ask for prayer, for he knew God is (as he notes in verse 3) “faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.”  For Paul knew, as we should, that while it is people we see committing these atrocious acts of violence and fostering growing levels of animosity, the Bible reveals that underneath it all is a spiritual battle. And to win a spiritual battle we must fight on a spiritual level.

Paul wrote this in his letter to the Ephesians: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18)

When Judas betrayed Jesus, the Bible tells us that it was Satan who entered into him and caused him to commit this heinous act (Luke 22:3; John 13:27). And Peter cautioned us to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8). Indeed, what we see happening around us in the world today, all the tension and terror, has roots in the spiritual realm and represents the work of the evil one in this world. Jesus called Satan the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and we are wise to recognize this fact. But in Jesus we have victory, as he said in John 16:33: “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.”

So let us now turn to the Lord, let us seek Jesus with all of our hearts. Let us pray without ceasing. For Jesus is the answer.

And in these trying times, as you seek His face, may God bless you and keep you. And for those who have been personally affected, may you find comfort in Him.

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