A Study of Lament: The Solution

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

The previous posts can be condensed very generally into three statements:
The need in pain = His presence.
The problem = where is His kindness?
The solution = I  You (My problem  who He is).

If the answer is the presence of God, there is a sense in which we can do nothing, only wait for Him. However, there are still things that can be done, especially in the time of “waiting,” before the vav comes, before change happens. It is a season of waiting, and yet it is not a season to be idle. Many all you can do is go to a counselor or just “get over it.” And there may be times when that is the wisest counsel. But first we must go to Him and to His word.

I know that when we are sorrowing, we cannot imagine helping others because we are overwhelmed by our own struggles. But I also know that it is often a good thing to do, because it brings us out of ourselves. Not only that, but Isaiah 58:9-11 makes it clear that in pouring out for others, you will be filled. You may not have much to give at the moment. Or you may find that already God is using what you have been through to help others, and in the process, bring you joy.

But there is one thing that is greater, and that I have seen at work in myself, others, and the Bible. We remember the sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah, and of David, Jesus, Job, and others. But often overlooked is is Elijah, who in 1 Kings 19 was so depressed he told God that he wanted to die.
Elijah is despairing. God comes, but He doesn’t answer Elijah’s questions. He doesn’t ease Elijah’s burden or say anything to soothe the turmoil inside.
He simply shows Elijah Himself.
And there is the answer, for what we do while we wait for the Holy Spirit to bring us to the vav, to a point of change.
Be still, and behold your God.

Even when you cannot feel Him, you can seek Him out. Remember what He has done in the past, seeing His faithfulness and love. Remind yourself of His mighty deeds, and there find His power to save. Read Isaiah or Ephesians, filling up on who He is. As you behold Him, you will find strength to hang on, perhaps still wondering at and questioning the mystery of your suffering, but trusting Him.

Even when you cannot believe it, remind yourself of truth. Truth will set you free from the lies of the devil. Truth will be your belt, holding it all together. Truth will allow you to have faith in God, because you will know even when you cannot see it, that God has been faithful in the past, and if God does not change, then that means He will be faithful again. And then that faith will be your shield, to extinguish attacks of the devil.

It seems so simple, and yet it is so powerful: Behold your God. His love, His power, His beauty, His faithfulness. The place I see all of that most clearly is Isaiah 40 – but I have written about that before.
Draw near to Him. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Don’t be so busy you don’t have time to see Him.
Be patient with yourself. Let God work – wait, don’t rush it.
Lament, and find joy again – find Him even in the darkest night.
Remember that He was forsaken to. He understands. And not only does He understand, but He intercedes for us before the throne of the Father.

And what can I say to those of us for whom suffering is far away? Two things:
First, be prepared. One day you will be dealing with it. Know God well now and you will be well-equipped for later.

Second, care for those who are depressed and suffering. In his book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, Piper writes about John Newton, who cared for William Cowper. Newton said that he had drunk deeply of God and was overflowing with joy for those who weren’t. Newton was able to invest in Cowper, reminding him of truth when Cowper couldn’t see it himself.
We may wonder if our “easy joy” rubs those who are suffering the wrong way. At times, I’m sure it does. But more often, I think it is something that can overflow from us into them. I have seen it happen, and have been told it was happening even when I couldn’t see it.
We may not always be able to persuade them of the truth, but we can still stand by them and not let them sink deeper into depression.
Those of us who find joy easy and suffering lacking may not be that way so that our lives can be easy, but to allow us to pour joy into those who cannot find it themselves. The length to which we are willing to come alongside them and share in their suffering shows our level of commitment and love for them, how much and how deeply we care for them.
Do be careful not to turn God into plain theology or try to reason out the suffering as Job’s friends did. Don’t speak just to speak. Be silent if you need to, but be with them. Remind them of truth, and hold them up when they are sinking. Tell them who God is when He seems to be gone from them. Love them in every way you can, be it meals, phone calls, hugs, babysitting, silence, or anything else. Give hope to them when it seems to them they have none. Be patient with them. Let them talk. Don’t bash their feelings, but help them focus on the truth.
Behold Him, and then help others behold Him when He seems far-off, just as God did for Elijah, and Newton did for Cowper.


A Study of Lament: Pour Out Your Heart

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

We try to hide our pain and sorrow. We see it as embarrassing, or even wrong, for the Christian. After all, we’re supposed to rejoice always, aren’t we?
Yes, but I don’t think that rejoicing in the Lord equates a “happy smile,” and I definitely don’t think that Christians cannot go through seasons of sorrow. That’s not to say a Christian should remain in a state of depression. We are commanded to be joyful – but I think we forget that there is a time for sorrow and mourning. Tears – whether of the eyes or of the heart – are a normal part of the Christian life, used by God for His glory.

Jesus was a man of sorrows, and in Romans 8 it says that we are being conformed to the image of Christ. That brings me to believe that weeping has a place in the life of the Christian. It also causes me to think that the embarrassment we have at our tears and sorrows is wrong, because Jesus wept openly.
I also know that God doesn’t look with disdain upon our tears. In Psalm 56 it says that He takes account of our tears, even putting them in a bottle. In the Sermon on the Mount, we are told that those who mourn are blessed. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul writes not that they are not to grieve, but they are to grieve as those with hope. Ecclesiastes 3 states that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh. Those aren’t the only scriptures about it, though.
The Psalms are full of examples of lament. Just a quick read-through of the book turns up many: 6, 13, 17, 22, 38, 55, 56, 42, 51, 60, 62, 63, 74, 77, 88, 89, 102, 109, 130. They are laments for various reasons: sin, enemies, judgment, physical suffering, and abandonment. I encourage you to read them, pray through them, think about them, let inspire your own laments, even if there is nothing troubling you now. There will one day be mystery, unanswered questions, sorrow, in your life. Our lives begin in pain and tears, and they will most likely end in pain and tears as well.

When you feel that things are not right in the world, or when your sin is weighing you down, or when a loved one dies, or your body is racked with pain – when His presence is seemingly broken, His hesed – His mercy – gone, and you ask “Where are You? If You love me, then why?” When the curse of Genesis 3 that life is now toil and pain and sorrow seems more real than ever before – what will you do?
When it seems that God is gone from you and you have to decide whether to press on even when His face is hidden, asking yourself “What is God worth to me? Will I stay faithful to Him in the pain, or will I walk away?”
When you’re in the wilderness, or grieving over sin, suffering at the hands of enemies – will there be faith?

To some, lament seems like despair, not faith. It seems like yelling at God. But even though lament is honest with God, it refuses to let go of Him, asking questions of the mystery but refusing to doubt. It keeps us connected to God even when God seems so far away. Michael Card calls it the path to true praise. It empties self of self so that we can praise, so we can look beyond the pain right now and focus on who God is, learning to love Him not for His benefits but for who He is.

But how do we lament?
The simplest answer comes from Lamentations 2:19, where it says “Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.” Tell Him everything, even the things you feel you shouldn’t (you’re already thinking them; He knows). Acknowledge your pain – you can’t heal a wound if you don’t admit it’s there. Don’t be idle as you wait for God. Remind yourself of truth, even when you can’t see it. You may have to do it over and over and over again, mixed in with crying out to God, before there is any change. Ultimately, the vav, the change, is something that only God can bring. Often in the Psalms it seems random and out of place, sudden and unexpected after seasons of lament. You can remind yourself of truth, but true change only comes from God.
Because of the vav, lament is no longer bitter, but sweet (Ezekiel 2:9-3:3), much sweeter than holding onto and hiding sorrow. Because lament doesn’t end in feeling forsaken, it doesn’t end in sorrow. He calls us to remember His love. Something great comes – the cross, and we look ahead to heaven, when we will part with lament.

But until then, there is suffering, and much of it.
Richard Baxter wrote that “suffering unbolts the door of the heart, that the Word hath easier entrance.” When all is going well, we lean too hard on things other than Him. Suffering causes us to lean only on Him, revealing how much we need Him, and how often we smother our need for Him in the things of this world. It makes us see God for God, not as theology we talk about, but as One that we can be with and talk to.

That is one “reason,” and yet it is often not enough. We find suffering unfair. We want to know why us and not another. We wonder how God can be good and bring this evil upon us.
We can seek answers, but still must acknowledge the mystery of God’s sovereignty, especially His sovereignty in conjunction with man’s responsibility when we are harmed by men. God is never an accomplice of evil. C.S. Lewis notes in The Problem of Pain that pain is only a problem if there is something greater out there that claims to be good. He writes that our view isn’t whole, so while we may see a contradiction there isn’t one. I won’t write more about it here, but Lewis’s book is very good, as is D.A. Carson’s book, How Long? which also addresses those questions.

As for fairness, there isn’t a lack of fairness on God’s part. There is the mystery again, what we don’t understand or see in what God is doing, what is going on behind the curtain. Lamentations 1:18, Deuteronomy 34:2, and Habakkuk 1:5 make that clear.
There may be times we understand, but there may be times that we never know why this side of heaven. D.A. Carson asked in his book, “There will be mystery – is there faith?” Are we ready to trust, remembering what is behind us, when we cannot see the way forward? William Cowper, a hymn-writer much-acquainted with depression, wrote:
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

A Study of Lament: The Man of Sorrows

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

Whether we are suffering because of judgment or in innocence, God’s purpose is for His glory. The greatest example of innocent suffering is Jesus, and like the sufferings of Job and Jeremiah, Jesus’ suffering is also for God’s glory.

Perhaps the greatest comfort to me in seasons of sorrow is that Jesus understands. Isaiah 53 says, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows.” And in Hebrews 2, the author notes that Jesus was made like us in every respect.
In the incarnation, He entered our suffering. He stepped into the sin-cursed world. In His perfection, He was more aware of things “not being right” than we are. He understood the fullness of the brokenness of our condition. He was tempted, like us.
He suffered, like us. Injustice, pain, spiritual torment. He was innocent, like Job. He wept over Jerusalem, like Jeremiah. And he was forsaken and alone, like David.
He was born, like all of us, in pain and tears. But it didn’t stop at His birth – the innocent were slaughtered as Herod sought to destroy Jesus. And so there was weeping yet again.
Then He Himself lamented for Jerusalem, longing for her to come to Him, weeping for the coming judgment, but ending with hope: “you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” There was devastation coming, but Jesus knew that one day there would be repentance, and so His lament contained hope.

But even more than identifying with our pain, Jesus shows us what the answer to our suffering is. He came down and joined our problem, but He didn’t leave it alone. He pronounced blessing and future joy for those who are mourning, but it didn’t come in the way everyone thought. He showed us that the answer to our pain isn’t a solution, but His presence. It’s not what we asked for, but it’s what we need more than anything else.
Jesus became Immanuel, so that Immanuel, God with us, can be forever. He offered His hesed, His lovingkindness, in a way that can never be lost because it is based on Jesus and not our performance. He came to free us from chains of sin that weighs us down. He came to fill our need, and to bring us to God – who is worth every pain, who makes it not about us but about His glory, which is far greater. He doesn’t take pleasure in our pain, but allows it because it results in His glory.

While He was God with us, there was a time when He was forsaken by God. Condemned and separated, He suffered the darkest night a soul has ever known. He was accounted as sinful and judged by His Father, cut off from the most intimate relationship anyone has ever known.
“The Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief… As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied. By His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:10-11).
It was when Jesus was forsaken that God was using Him most. Like a lament, the suffering and questioning of God turned to rejoicing for His love and mercy.
Jesus conquered the root of our suffering – our sin, and so now in lament there is a certainty of a change from sorrow to joy. There is a certainty that the sorrow will end for His children and result in great rejoicing, because there is a promise of an eternal life of knowing the Father.

He came and fixed our problems, not by taking them away, but by giving us Himself in them so that we will have everything we will ever need.
Remember that, when it seems you are forsaken. He is working even then, and He will not cast off forever (Lamentations 3:31-32).

Jesus of the Scars
If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.

If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.
– Edward Shillito

A Study of Lament: The Innocent Who Suffer

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

Proverbs makes it sound like everything will always go well for the righteous. The book of Job calls that mindset into question with the introduction of innocent suffering. Job knows he is righteous and doesn’t deserve this suffering, but his friends don’t believe him. We, the readers, get a behind-the-scenes look that tells us what is really going on, and because of that we can see that Job’s suffering is Satan’s doing, not a result of our sin. But it tells us much more than that. It tells us that innocent suffering, like that brought on by judgment, is designed to bring us closer to Him.

As Job suffers, his friends try to offer him counsel (lesson number one for those talking to the hurting: sometimes it’s better to be silent). Their counsel becomes repetitive: confess your sin and everything will be well again. In his book, How Long?, D.A. Carson points out that if we look deeper, they were asking Job to confess nonexistent sin just to get his wealth back. They make God into intellectual theology instead of the personal being Job knows He is.
Meanwhile, Job’s wife is telling him that he should just curse God and die. In other words, if God brought this upon you, He’s not worth serving.
Job fights against these pressures, tenaciously clinging to what he knows to be true.
We sometimes think Job’s response is wrong, because he questioned God. God says otherwise: “[Job’s friends] have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7). He knew who God was. Job was convinced of God’s justice, but was confused, and so in anguish he cried out to know God more. His attitude was sometimes prideful, but he always spoke rightly of God. How could Job do that in the midst of such pain?

He knows God is sovereign (3:23) and has brought this upon him: “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (2:10). He says this not to say that God does evil, rather, it is an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty even in the darkest of times. Job didn’t know what was going on between God and Satan, but he did know that God was in charge, and that God wasn’t guilty.
How do I know this?
Because if he thought God was guilty, he would have turned from God when there was mystery, but he never doubts God. Job wants to know why, but even when he’s begging God for answers he clings to who he knows God is. He’s tenacious, even audacious, in his asking as he waits for God to answer.
And God does answer.
He says that man can’t understand it. He could have told Job everything – how this was because God was proving Satan wrong – how then the suffering was an honor to Job. But He doesn’t. He just shows Job that He is much bigger and more powerful than Job.

God never promises answers. At first that seems cruel and unfair. But He gives us something far greater than an answer – Himself.
We can ask God “why.” Jesus did it. Jesus suffered – God even suffers to some degree, as shown in His laments in the prophets. He understands our pain, and He knows how best to help us through it. He speaks to us in it.
There’s never a promise that we won’t feel pain or won’t deal with deep suffering or seasons of no joy. But in His faithfulness, we will never walk through it alone, and in those times we will be closer to Him than we were before.

Suffering makes us worship God for who God is, not for our own gain. I read an article recently about how if we love God for what He gives us, then our relationship with Him is like we are prostitutes. We don’t actually want Him, only His gifts. Suffering takes away all the things we were relying on and leaves us with only Him. It forces us to ask ourselves if we want Him most or if we are only worshiping Him because it makes us feel good or because we receive blessing for it. Job comes to the point where he says “though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Can you say that? If God took everything you rely on from you, if you had no answers, if it seemed He was being unjust to you – could you say that you would still hope in Him, and that everything He does is right and just? Or would you turn your back on Him like Job’s wife wanted him to do?
When we grieve, it is because something good is gone. Turning our hearts to God doesn’t deny the goodness in what was, but puts it in its proper place and leaves room for us to be filled with the greatness of God. God in His goodness takes away our crutches – our addiction to the things of this world – and leaves us with something far greater, all we ever needed to begin with – Himself. If we had no suffering, we would love the world too much. There is pain as our hearts turn from our idols to Him, but the end is sweet.

To those facing innocent suffering: wait patiently for the Lord. When we are frantically searching and moaning for what is gone (though it may feel not that something is “gone” but that something unwanted is “here”), we close Him off. Lewis notes in A Grief Observed that our cries overwhelm His words.
Remember who He is and delight in Him even when everything else is gone. You may need a friend to help you remember when life is very dark. But you will find He is enough. I don’t think we even realize how worthy and beautiful and awesome He is, even when we only have Him. Heaven will be glorious, completely worth all our groaning (Romans 8:20-25 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

“Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
– Job 2:20-22.

Bitter Sweet
Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.
– George Herbert

A Study of Lament: Sorrow & Depression

{I’ve been working on this since the summer and figured now was a good time to post this, maybe with breaks here and there for wedding posts}

Depression was never something I thought about much. I never had any reason to; there was never anything for me to be depressed about. Because of that, I’ve always looked on depression with a sort of puzzled curiosity. This summer I was talking to and praying for people who were dealing with it first-hand and others who were striving to help friends through depression and began thinking about it more – its causes, solutions, and how to help people going through it.
From what I have seen, depression is something that quite a few believers struggle with, though many are slow to admit it. I believe that sorrow is never without purpose and that God is always worthy of our trust. In the following posts, I hope to prove this from scripture and lay out ideas for how believers should approach depression.

“But depression and sorrow are not the same thing,” someone might say. This is true. I know people can be sorrowful but not depressed. And I know there can be people that are depressed but can’t figure out why. But they are often intertwined, whether because one leads to the other, or because the way they are worked through is very similar.

Before I say more I should note that I do think depression is sometimes caused by things like diet, hormone imbalance, and other physical circumstances. These are still very real causes and I don’t want to deny or ignore them, but my focus here is on depression that stems from spiritual circumstances, that can’t be fixed with lifestyle changes, whether it stems from sin, spiritual warfare, life events, or any number of other things.

Different causes require different counsel. And yet they have similarities, and so we can form a general view of depression even though our approach to working through it would be different for each case.
But what should that approach be?
Should the depressed plaster on a smile and “count it all joy,” quipping that we have no reason to mourn because all we have is in Christ so we must not have really needed it anyway? Should we hide hurt under masks because it’s not the kind of thing we usually talk about? Should we just ignore it until it goes away, and if it doesn’t go away be sent to a counselor, put on medication, or be asked if we are really Christians if we don’t have “the joy of the Lord?”
Should the friend of the depressed tell them to “get over it, Christians shouldn’t be depressed” and then expect them to just move on?
Or is there something else?

The more I thought about it and the more I read the words of scripture and wise men, the more I realized the way they handled it seems so different from how we handle it today.
Habakkuk, Job, Jeremiah, and Jesus all sorrowed. They didn’t ignore it or push it aside. In fact, it almost seems as if they dwelt on their sorrows.
In saying that, I don’t want to treat serious depression lightly or say it’s “alright.” But I do want to give some food for thought on how it should be handled, because the Bible treats it differently than we do.
The Bible says it’s okay if we ask God why. Even Jesus, using the words of David, asked God why – “Why have you forsaken me?” Lamentations is called “How” in Hebrew, asking how God could do such a thing.

Michael Card calls this asking how and why “the lost language of lament.”
But that begs the question: what is lament?
Lament is crying out to God. It looks at what’s happening and looks at God’s character and senses a disconnect. It asks God where His love is, but does so in a way that places trust in God. It’s not despair or denial, but a tenacious belief in God’s faithfulness, knowing that whatever He is doing, He is good and loving and that He will come. It’s not murmuring against God as the Israelites did, but an appeal to Him.
It’s a protest, reminding God of who He is – not accusation, but confusion. A cry for Him to be true to His character when circumstances seem to be inconsistent with His love. And then it stays until there is resolution, holding on to Him and Him alone.
In lament, there is total honesty with God. It finds you at the end of your rope, clinging to Him, refusing to turn away, pleading for His mercy. And then there is always a vav. A turn, a change. “But.” The tears turn to worship as we remember where we have seen His hesed, His lovingkindness.

In the next posts, my aim is to briefly look into the lives of Job, the prophets, and Jesus, before turning it to us, and then following the philosophizing with laments of my own.

If you have any thoughts on this, from study, observation, or personal experience, please comment and let me know, or send me an email. This is an ongoing thought process for me, one that has not had much application yet.

Give to the winds thy fears;
hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,
God gently clears the way;
wait thou God’s time; so shall this night
soon end in joyous day.

Leave to God’s sovereign sway
to choose and to command;
so shalt thou, wondering, own that way,
how wise, how strong this hand.

Let us in life, in death,
thy steadfast truth declare,
and publish with our latest breath
thy love and guardian care.
– Paul Gerhardt

Yea, Whate’er We Here Must Bear

There were moments on my flight back from the states in April that I was very scared.
It didn’t help that already I wasn’t so keen on flying again.
And that the turbulence were the worst I’d ever been in.
And that it was the day after Boston.

The turbulence made me feel like we were falling out of the sky. Then in the boredom of trying to fall asleep, my overactive imagination came up with all sorts of scenarios of trouble, whether terrorism or weather or health.
Add to that North Korea and earthquakes and Iran and Waco, and the world sometimes seems to be falling apart.
I miss being a child, when everything felt safe. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become increasingly aware of the evil and dangers in the world, and I’ve realized that if we let it happen, there are things to fear at every turn. I’m not sure where fear starts – inside us or from events around us. Maybe it’s how we handle the outside events inside of us.

Terrorists want us to fear. If we are afraid, we’ve let them win. I think flying by myself or flying in general has been more frightening lately because life has been so rich and full that I hate to think of leaving it, and even more, of losing or being lost to the people I love, whether by terrorism, cancer, accidents, war, or old age.
But we can’t live in fear. I have to return to having a right perspective, that puts God at the center. A perspective that remembers that God upholds the earth when it totters (Psalm 75), that God is the one who channels the heart of the king (North Korea, Iran, USA), that when this life is so good – heaven will be infinitely better, that God is the one who has numbered our days. I’ve found courage in the story of Stonewall Jackson, who stood fast in the face of war because he knew that nothing would kill him or even harm him unless it was what God had ordained – and then nothing would be able to stop it.

That doesn’t mean that we look for death at every corner, like I started doing. It doesn’t mean that when we feel our faith is great it means something terrible is about to happen. Knowing His sovereignty, while also knowing His love, allows us to live life more fully, knowing that death will come only when it’s time, that when we die there was nothing left for us to do on earth and that we are going away to something greater. He will help us through it when it comes – but not before. I find myself worrying that since I can’t bear to think of it now, I won’t be able to make it through pain or terrorism. But He gives grace when we need it, so the fact that I don’t “feel it” now doesn’t discredit that grace being mine in the future.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t prepare ourselves for those times. There’s a wealth of scripture and history to help us there. If our God is for us, who can stand against us? Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us, and He is the “one thing” the Psalmist asks for in Psalm 27 when he says he won’t fear even though war arises against him. If all we want is the One Thing, nothing will make us fear.

Ecclesiastes 3 talks about seasons. We don’t know the whens of those seasons, just that they come and go. Right now, we’re in seasons of mourning, and it feels we are on the brink of a season of war. But war doesn’t mean its the end – war is a season, just like peace. Nations rise and fall all the time in history – but it’s so different to be on the falling side.
Seasons also say that life is fleeting. Earth’s trouble has end – the longest, hardest day will pass and one day, our troubles will be no more. And to be honest, the more I think about it, the more I realize I’m glad this world is not my home. It’s such a frightening place, whether Dubai with its false security and safety or America where danger seems to be at every bend.

So what of Boston?
I have been amazed by the people who have not allowed the bombings to terrorize them but instead to bring America together. Many people have commented that Boston shows the worst of men and the best of men, with so many people helping in the trauma.
And the message it sends to terrorists is clear: we won’t let it make us afraid. That was a challenge to me – if unbelievers can be so bold, why was I so terrified in turbulence? Had I so little trust in God?

I’ve realized that a lack of fearful situations doesn’t grow our courage – knowing God remains faithful in those situations is what makes us stronger. To read of Paul’s sufferings in Corinthians and then to read him write in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God shows that Paul knows what he’s talking about. He’s been through a lot of suffering, but he knows from experience that even the worst of those cannot separate us from God. Heroes of the faith, the Judsons, Sarah Edwards, Jackson, and countless others, also prove this. It’s not just a random statement or hyperbole. Nothing in life, nothing in death can separate us from the love of God. Real, tangible stories of people living through fearful situations and overcoming them by His help grow my faith. This is one such story.

Some people think terrorism can be stopped with outward restrictions. I disagree. And in the process of allowing the government more control, we lose our freedom. We become like those subjected to Hitler and Mussolini, who gave up rights in order to be “safe.” Hitler used the “communist threat” to take away free speech.
But we do need to find balance and be wise, and I think some restrictions are good (like a certain level of airport security!), but others are over the top.

The only way to stop terrorism is for people’s hearts to change. Pray for their salvation and God’s mercy on them, as well as God’s mercy on America and the world. America has done many things that deserve judgment, so at times I wonder how we can even pray for His help. I think of Abraham pleading on behalf of the few righteous men, and do the same. But I know that even trauma and terrorism can be used for good and for His glory, as this writer points out. And so I trust Him, whether mercy or judgment (or proddings to repentance) is in store for us.

Be thankful for life. Every day is a gift, and eternal life is even more of one – but we must know whether or not we have it. He knows the day of our death; we don’t. Be ready to die.

Boston and a frightening flight were wake-up calls I needed. God was showing me my priorities were in the wrong place, that I forgot His “steadfast love is better than life.” The police officer who died in the manhunt was only two years older than Ezra. People who died and were injured in the race were of all ages. Death could come at any time.
And whenever it comes, I can’t have a hesitation to die.
It’s become the biggest test of idolatry for me. If I am asking God to hold off on my death or His return so I can marry Ezra, or get a book published, or counsel at Csehy, then my priorities are wrong.
For those who are in Christ, death just gives way to greater life. And so I don’t have to hesitate to die. I know if I die, those I love and who love me will mourn, but I also know they will be well in Christ.
The answer to tragedy and fear isn’t calm and peaceful pictures, relaxing music, or greater restrictions.

The only thing that can cure our fear is hope in God and relinquishing all earthly good for something we know is far far greater. When we hope in God, we don’t have to fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:6). So take captive every thought and behold your God – see His power and His sovereignty, His love and mercy, and His greatness that makes what is to come far better than even the best in this life.
Yea, whate’er we here must bear, still in Thee lies purest pleasure!
Where, o death, is thy sting?

In Thine arms I rest me;

Foes who would molest me
Cannot reach me here.
Though the earth be shaking,
Every heart be quaking,
Jesus calms my fear.
Lightnings flash and thunders crash;
Yet, though sin and hell assail me,
Jesus will not fail me.

Satan, I defy thee;
Death, I now decry thee;
Fear, I bid thee cease.
World, thou shalt not harm me
Nor thy threats alarm me
While I sing of peace.
God’s great power guards every hour;
Earth and all its depths adore Him,
Silent bow before Him.

Hence, all thought of sadness!
For the Lord of gladness,
Jesus, enters in.
Those who love the Father,
Though the storms may gather,
Still have peace within;
Yea, whatever we here must bear,
Still in Thee lies purest pleasure,
Jesus, priceless Treasure!