Sometimes the lifestyle and practice of charismatic Christianity demands instant answers to complex and painful problems. After all, the Bible is a book of mysteries and miracles. The very foundation of our faith remains forever as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It has stood firm and is deeply rooted upon this truth. Therefore when I petition God in prayer, I’m expecting dramatic intervention.
God’s ways are higher—even past discovering—as scripture tells us. However, my prayers in reality may not produce the deliverance that I want. Occasionally I feel they hit the ceiling or fall to the ground. Sometimes there is silence or delay. The hard truth is that answers to prayer, through human eyes, completely fall short.
This morning as I read my Bible, my heart grew heavy with thoughts of the war in Ukraine. The scenes of the slaughtered children, pregnant women, and elderly buried in mass graves echo scenes of World War II. I’m aghast watching these scenes on tv and brush tears away. I just want to close my eyes and hope that it will pass quickly or even that I’m having a nightmare.
Also let me mention the amount of prayer going up to heaven for the situation—thousands are petitioning God right now for peace and justice—for cessation. The Creator of all things and the Saviour of all mankind are big and able to stop this. Still here we are with the death-toll rising.
There is absolutely no justification for this bloody aggression. It did not come from God, but I believe that God can and will make good from this. I believe that God answers prayer, and time will tell of the personal and collective deliverances.
Because we lived in Ukraine as missionaries for three years, we have a lot of dear friends—some like family there. Some have fled and are safe in other nations, and some remain. This is so grievous and painful as we try to keep touch with them through social media or other means. They are writing to us and telling us of the miracles that are happening on the ground to save lives. These are real life stories that will never be repeated on the news, but they prove that God and angelic powers are at work in the midst of this horrific situation. That is why we do not stop praying although we do not see the intervention at this moment that we desire.
Truly, the best stance that I can take as I continue to pray in faith and expect miracles is to recognize God‘s presence in the midst of this darkness and His power to work the miraculous in ways I may never witness.
In the cross of Christ, I see all suffering. This is the measurement the world should hold up to the light. Jesus became weak and cried out for God to create another plan or another way, and yet the Father did not. He said no. Jesus kept his eyes fixed on the goal of salvation for all nations and every man and woman. In the garden, he lamented with great sorrow the loss of his own rights yet yielded his life unto death.
In the aftermath, the disciples were deeply shaken. They went home in deep sorrow. Every dream they ever conceived was dashed in the pounding of those nails and the stripes across our Lord’s body. They sorrowed and lamented.
In this moment of time of bloodshed and deep sorrow, we must be humble and go low. We must not turn our eyes away from the suffering. We must remember that our anger will not bring about righteousness. We must cry out to God for justice and peace. We must not stop. Let the pain wash over us, and then cry-it-out on bended knee before the cross of Christ.
In the last two years, it is easy to note that catastrophic things have happened not just to one or two people groups or nations but to we the people of the earth collective. God is speaking to us universally. And even now the whole world watches this war. Even now we are called as one blood to lament as one voice before God—to be undone in His presence and remember His death and resurrection.
Author and Pastor Matt Woodley says that there is something even greater than this in the act of lamenting:
“When we lament we stand with Jesus, the one who knew the power and the pathos of lament. When he cried from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ he entered into the depths of lament. Now when we lament, we’re never really alone. Sometimes we stand with Jesus at the cross and we hurt together. This can’t happen when we try to run from the pain of our losses.”
Yesterday as I walked around the park with my grandchildren looking at the beautiful first-of-spring pink and red tulips, this lamenting for the world situation did not leave me. I found myself handling two deep emotions. The piercing joy of being a grandparent and discovering the world with your grandchild and the piercing sorrow of the the Ukrainians that have lost their children or fathers or mothers in a needless bloody war.
Sometimes emotions hurt so deeply that you can’t breath. I believe God is using this to call the world universally into the arms of Jesus and find safety just as the ark was built during the time of Noah. There is a place of shelter in all this madness, and it is at the foot of the cross of Jesus. Come and lament the deep sorrow. Come and be comforted. Come for fresh hope to go on with your family and believe that the enemy meant this for evil, but God has the power to make it good.
For the Jewish people, today is Purim. It is from the book of Esther and a great and mighty story of how God used one woman to bring about deliverance for the Jewish nation. Yesterday as I watched president Zelinskyy of Ukraine make his appeal to the American Congress, I wept. I could not believe the bravery, courage and grace that I witnessed to withstand such an evil enemy. This is also true in the story of Esther. There was an evil enemy that was revealed and crushed because God raised up a deliverer. May it be dear Lord for the people of Ukraine. May it be!