God’s Love in Suffering
This week God’s children have groaned in the pain of violence, war, and immigration. The Bible speaks about two kinds of groaning: the “labor pains” of creation longing for freedom and the groaning of believers longing for the adoption to be completed (Romans 8:21-22). This past week, one echoes the other in the voices of children from Israel, Gaza, Central America, Maylaysia, and the Ukraine who cry helplessly as victims of war, migration, and hatred. Each one of these is human-induced suffering. Each one is preventable, but we need help from Jesus Christ to solve them. In fact, he has already intervened.
Paul explains why in Romans 8. The forces of evil do not determine our perspective on the present. The cross and resurrection determine our present; and through the power of the cross, God has already intervened in these tragedies; and the forces of evil lost again. Facing even worse circumstances than today’s violence, in the first century, God stopped evil in its tracks through his suffering on the cross. God entered a world through Jesus’ death to engage in a love that conquers all forces of darkness. Through the cross, Jesus suffered with the pain of this world that continues to this day.
This is not a love limited to the first century; God’s love suffers with us today. Through the pain on the cross, God demonstrated that he suffered with the children of Israel, Central America, Gaza, Malaysia, Ukraine, Russia, and Leon County.
Through the cross, God works continually to redeem the world. When God could have given up on this world, he sent Jesus to work beside us to have help, hope, and healing in the midst of the darkness. Jesus’ presence is felt in Christian believers and missionaries scattered in these regions of the world working side by side with their neighbors. Believers from every denomination, including Texas Baptists are ministering to refugee children. Christians in Israel and Gaza are standing in the gap with victims of war and hatred. Ukrainian Baptists are working with Russian and Ukranian congregations to provide eternal hope
Imagine what the world would be like without the church. Imagine a world without a house of prayer for all the nations. God does not necessarily just work everything out. But God does work with all things, even the worst things imaginable. He gives us a voice to speak into the echoes of the children’s groans. Our voices grow even stronger as we engage as salt, light, and peace in these difficult storms. Let me suggest five things to say and do.
- Pray for our leaders.
Our voices grow as we offer prayers for our national leaders and international enemies. As Paul suggests in Romans 13, we are responsible to pray for these who are working in these crises, even when we criticize their methods and question their motives. Encourage people leaders to sit together, work out their differences, and develop solutions.
- Welcome the stranger.
We serve a Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me.” As we long for immigration laws to be enforced and put to good use, God also calls us to welcome those children in our midst. We have a wonderful international ministry that does that every day. Pray for those on the border and throughout our country who will be used to minister to these migrants. I can think of no better use of the church than to share Christ with migrant children. If one of these children come to Christ before they return home, we would have commissioned a missionary to go back to Central America with the message of hope in tragedy.
- Worship the active, living God in Jesus Christ.
God’s work is not random. God’s work has a purpose of love that still triumphs over the worst of the forces of evil.
- Demonstrate peace through your life and relationships.
The only hope we have is for the Prince of Peace to intervene personally in our world. You are the sons and daughters of God who show that way of peace in your life and disposition. There is much to be anxious about; but in the midst of the storm, Jesus said, “Peace be still.” Become the Person of Peace that you long for our world to see. Reach out to Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab friends. Learn about their issues. Read Ari Shavit’s book My Promised Land; follow websites such as comeandsee.com; and learn about the work of the Baptist World Alliance, in these war-torn areas of our world.
- Live gratefully.
I had a pretty good week compared to most of the world, and still I criticized things that were pretty petty. When you compare my worries with Malaysian planes being shot down out of the sky, I should be ashamed. God has blessed my life, and I’m sure he has yours. Accept this as a gift, and give thanks for the blessings of the week.
Even in the midst of human conflict, nothing will ever separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, not even the groans.