Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hear Us, Lord

It's the sort of catastrophe that even sporadic news-viewers like myself hear about within twenty-four hours. Unless you've been in solitary confinement for the past week, you, too, know the answer to the question, "What happened in Haiti on January 12?" The capital city virtually leveled by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake. Perhaps as many as 100,000 fatalities. At least 300,000 people left homeless. Relief attempts hampered by looting, by frustration expressed in violence, by poor organization, and by the sheer volume of damage. And the repeated observation that the country already had more than its fair share of problems in the political and economic categories.

Whether they make the international news or not, most people have had the experience of feeling that life has become nothing but one disaster after another. The sequence may last only a single day or continue for years; our problems may be genuine tragedies or mere frustrations; but nearly all of us occasionally want to scream, "God, I can't stand this world any longer; take me out of it before I give in to the temptation to do it myself!" At such moments, the Biblical plea for Christ's return, "Come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20), becomes more a cry of despair than of hope.

While this may not be the most Christlike attitude, it's probably closer to what God wants of us than the shrug that dismisses everything as "God's will" or the corresponding fear that reacting with anger or tears is invariably sinful. Jesus Himself was a Man of deep emotion: letting His heart break for others' pain; mourning for those who had so hardened themselves that they would rather go to hell than choose God's will over their own; and (scholars agree this shows clearly in the original Greek of the New Testament) regularly mixing His compassion for the suffering with anger at how suffering permeated so much of God's world. That alone should make it obvious that God does not "will" the mess the world is in and that He certainly is not indifferent to its pain. Why He nonetheless lets the pain occur as frequently or continue as long as it does is a question no human being has the wisdom to answer. But it does give us cause to state with confidence that someday He will remedy it forever.

In the meantime, one trap we must watch out for is the tendency to make relief from our problems everyone's highest priority. While humanity retains enough unselfish compassion that the world rushes to help relieve a disaster on the level of the Haitian earthquake, within two months ninety-nine percent of us privileged types will have forgotten the island nation and gone back to whining, "Why me, Lord?" every time our computers crash or our cars stall. Jesus was never angry or sad at the world's problems because they interfered with His personal comfort--only because of the pain they caused others.

And He didn't just cry over others' pain; He always did something about it. While you and I can't raise the dead, perhaps can't even rebuild one home in Haiti, we do have direct access to the One Who "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Eph. 3:20). Even if He doesn't promise to "fix everything" instantly, He does promise to do it ultimately.

And in the meantime, He promises to give full attention to our every prayer.

Our God is a God of pure love and peace,
Yet our world is engulfed in war,
And in violent acts born of desperate hate,
That mock all that our Lord stands for.
Hear us, Lord, as we cry for the end of strife,
And for all of earth’s wars to cease;
Work Your will in those hearts that wish others harm:
Let us see a new age of peace!

Our God is a God Who restores and heals,
Yet our world is engulfed in pain,
From the weeping of those at a loved one’s grave
To the bodies grown old with strain.
Hear us, Lord, as we cry for Your healing touch
On each body and hurting soul;
Bring new life, and give back what our hearts have lost:
Let the sick stand restored and whole!

Our God is a God Who does only good,
Yet, as long as this world shall be,
Still the forces of evil will work their way,
Till Christ comes to set all things free.
Hear us, Lord, as we cry for Your day to come,
Your return to make all things new:
And till that day arrives, give us strength to stand,
And to hold to Your Word so true!

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