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How to Be Gentle in a World That Is Often Harsh

How to Be Gentle in a World That Is Often Harsh

How do we fight for truth and love in a world of hurt and rage? Be subversive. We need fighters but not the kind that burn down the nation. We need people willing to keep doing good. Yes, overthrow the culture with good. We need warriors willing to do good to their neighbors — as Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor. This is part of the common good for all of society — for Blacks and Whites, for men and women, for conservatives and liberals, for citizens and the undocumented. For our friends and our enemies.

Don’t grow weary in doing good, if indeed you are doing good (Gal 6:9). Don’t let fear cause you to grow faint. Don’t lose heart. The world today does indeed look grim, but has there ever been a time when the world didn’t look grim after sin came in? If we look back over the course of history, we see the same divide and war and terror that some are experiencing now. Other eras weren’t as connected; they couldn’t see what was happening two thousand miles away within a second of it occurring. But we know from history that the nations have always raged, governments have always been corrupt and people have always been divided.

But there is reason for great hope. It isn’t hope in you or me or our strength. Or in our ruling authorities. Or in our churches, pastors, or fellow congregants. No, we hope in the faithfulness and power of Christ. And we say with King David, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Ps 20:7).

Lift your weak knees, unless they are bowed down in prayer to the One who saves. God isn’t asleep; He’s awake and active in our midst. If every person leaves the church and we divide in every way possible, we still have a great mission to go and make disciples of all nations. If every social issue that seems to smack Christian ethics in the face becomes law, we continue to preach the truth in love and serve our neighbors. If a radical religious group begins to persecute the church, we can say with faith, “You can kill the body, but you can’t kill the soul” (see Mt 10:28).

To endure in our culture, we need the faith that only God can give us. I want to fight the fight of faith with a foundation that is strong and firm and otherworldly. Yet God is not a genie in a bottle, ready to grant all our wishes. We don’t shake a magic ball to learn all that he is doing. We wait and trust. God is always working, whether we recognize it or not. And one day our faith will become sight.

God is not wringing His hands, hoping we get our political act together so things can be fixed. God hasn’t given up His rule and authority. You and I can resist anxiety and fear by remembering what is true about God. We have a different and better allegiance, and it isn’t to any ruler or authority on this earth. We must remember that our kingdom is of God and is of heaven. We aren’t entrusting ourselves to a wimpy, powerless God.

God is also our loving Father, and He invites us to come to Him and find rest in our Savior, who died for our fear and anxiety. He is our peace. As Paul wrote, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:57).

In chapter fifteen of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells of three lost things: a sheep, a coin and a boy. Apparently the Savior wanted to make a point about the terror of being misplaced and the sheer joy of being found. Recently I hosted an event with about two hundred good friends and other folks from our community, including children. Somehow in the chaos, the daughter of one of my friends was separated from her mom. When the young girl saw me, she ran toward me, tears rolling down her anxious face.

Through sobs she explained that she couldn’t find her mother. I gently asked her if she’d like to stay with me until we found her. Looking up into my face and gripping my hand tightly, she nodded an anxious yes. Not a minute later, her mom came up and scooped her daughter into her arms. She had never been far away. In fact, she had been only a few feet away. The little lost girl simply couldn’t see her.

We can relate to this little girl. There are moments when the cares of our hearts, our sorrows and our burdens cause us to wonder where God is. We feel lost and alone. Abandoned. And like that tearful child, we go searching for help in other places. The girl found a good and safe place — a friend to comfort her —  but that friend was no replacement for the real thing. She needed her mother.

We read in the psalms that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). Some translations say God is an “ever-present help.” This means God isn’t sort-of present, halfway present, distracted or distant. He is always present. God is with us in our lostness and trouble.

Over the years I’ve noticed something about fear, sorrow and trouble. If I’m not vigilant to speak this truth found in Psalm 46 to my heart and mind, trials have the potential to cloud my vision. If I’m worried and anxious, I may not be able to remember where my help comes from.

As pastor Anthony Carter wrote, “By the precious blood of Christ, we belong to Him. Consequently the promise and hope for the Christian is not that there will not be bad days. Indeed, trial is eventually the portion of all born into the world (Job 14:1). Yet, if we are born of God the comfort is that the Lord, who holds the world, holds us, too.”

In a society where voices are loud and it feels like chaos reigns, we need to find a refuge in the God who holds us. Like the little girl, I can anxiously search and wander around, forgetting that my Help is right there beside me. Of course, God isn’t physically present. We can’t touch him or hold his hand. But He is there just the same, guiding our steps and counseling our hearts according to truth, if we’ll only listen.

Adapted from Sacred Endurance by Trillia J. Newbell. Copyright (c) 2019 by Trillia J. Newbell . Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.

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