“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness…And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” -Jesus
Luke 21:110-11,25-28 (emphasis mine)
Come Lord Jesus. Our world is full of hate and fear. The darkness threatens to swallow us up. Terror and death lurk around every corner.
We can’t claim we know when you are coming, although I wish we knew the hour and the day. But you ask us to walk in hope. You ask us to “straighten up and raise [our] heads” when these terrors are all around us. You say redemption is drawing near.
Sometimes right now it feels like we are living from fear to fear. From terrifying event to terrifying event; both in our personal lives and in the world around us. There’s nothing we can say that makes it okay, or better. And my “warmest condolences” don’t do jack.
But you God, you use everything. As I teach my three year old daughter, you are so powerful, that you can take even bad things and turn them into good things.
You are better than all the crap this world has to offer, and even in the midst of all the evil that it throws at us…you show up Jesus.
I saw You that night that the ambulance came for me…I saw You giving me each and every breath that I kept breathing, my body taunt like a harp string and numb from my toes to my nose.
I saw You use a tragic accident to heal broken family relationships.
I’ve seen You in the hopeful smile of the child who was sold by his parents to be killed for his organs. After he was rescued he just couldn’t stop smiling when he thought of meeting his new family, who already loved him and were praying for him before they even knew his name…because they are worshipers of You.
I’ve seen You in the workers who are serving hurricane victims, going where no one has yet gone; and when asked who they are, they say, “We are the Church of the Living God.”
I have seen You use divorce to inspire in my husband a passion for seeing marriages restored, and children given a place to call home.
I’ve seen You in my friends opportunity to share the gospel as she waits for her daughter to wake up from anesthesia after her latest spinal chemotherapy treatment.
I’ve seen You in the words of faith spoken by people who have lost more than I can imagine, and yet still rejoice in your goodness and your mercy and your grace…
I’ve seen You in the midst of a terrifying shooting at my high school alma mater, where three of my siblings were attending; those you brought to faith in you that day, those you strengthened in faith that day, and those who were ministered to by the faithful forgiveness offered by parents who lost their daughter to yet another act of senseless violence.
I was broken; a child with innocence stolen. But you make the broken things beautiful, and even the sexual abuse of seven-year-old me has been made into something good by your mighty hand. Because of your work in my life, I wouldn’t even change it now.
That’s how good you are King Jesus.
And none of those things make sense to me, not really. They are hard and horrible and many of them a product of the evil in our world. But I know something the world doesn’t know. I know something the enemy refuses to acknowledge.
That you are bigger than this! That You, my King are still on Your throne!
That you work all things for the good of those who love you! (Romans 8:28)
That as this quote from Prince Charming in the season finale of ONCE UPON A TIME reminded me,
“DARKNESS DOESN’T WIN, IT JUST WANTS US TO THINK THAT IT DOES.”
I know that it’s true; even though it’s hard to see and believe it right now…the latest tragedy fresh in my mind. I keep looking back over my shoulder, wondering what just happened, and what on earth could be next.
Why does it keep shocking and surprising me? When it keeps on happening.
Jesus! We are sinful people, with ugly hearts of stone and we need you to make us new. We are evil, and evil has been done to us, and we desperately need YOU Jesus to heal us.
And I know you’ve been speaking that over me Lord, reminding me to have courage, like Lucy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In the middle of nightmare island, where everyone was being forced to face their most terrifying fears, she heard Aslan’s voice speaking, “Courage Dear Heart”. I know you have plans for me Jesus. I know I’m here, and not to have a spirit of fear, but to “do good and [to] not fear anything that is frightening.” 1 Peter 3:6
“Courage Dear Heart” Aslan, tattoo by Kelsey Knobel of Heart and Skin
But man, am I frightened God. And somehow, in my humanness I feel like if I could just pin you down, I wouldn’t have to be afraid. If I just knew you were coming back soon, maybe all this would seem easier… But you didn’t let the disciples pin you down either.
“‘A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.’ So some of the disciples said to one another, “What is this he says to us, ‘A little while , and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’? So they were saying, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.’ Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:16-22 [emphasis mine]
And I’ve asked you that question too Jesus…”What do you mean by ‘a little while’? And you don’t tell me, you don’t explain. You are teaching me that in comparison to the “eternal weight of glory” all this suffering and affliction will be “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
And for all this garbage to seem light and momentary…for this to all somehow seem worth it in the eternal scheme of things…That means it’s going to have to be pretty great. Greater even than the earthly redemption that serves as this foretaste of what your Kingdom is all about.
So today, I mourn, but not as one who has no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) For you make all things new.
And we ask you Jesus, Come back soon. My tears stand on my cheeks, waiting for your loving hand to wipe them away. But until then, I will remember this quote that I heard in a sermon once.