Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Trusting God in Suffering

I remember a day when kids were encouraged to dream big. There was a time when one could hope to do well enough to be the President of the United States. The American Dream was that anything was possible. We had hope. In many ways, we still do. However, it's waning.

I'm sitting here glancing at the photos of past trips to Venezuela where we've played with the children. Our hope is to share the gospel with them and plant seeds of spiritual growth - the hope of the gospel. Some dare to believe and come right up to greet us. Others are tentative, only daring to hope after a while. The pictures I see are of children with varying degrees of hope in their eyes.

I ask myself, what hope do they have? Could they grow up to be the president of Venezuela? Do that have hope like that? Is their environment one that encourages people to dream big? Do they see people who work hard and create wealth for themselves and the society at large?

But there is a greater hope. President of any country is a small thing compared to being a child of the Creator.

Last night I read Exodus 1 and Psalm 79 with my kids. I don't plan our readings ahead so much as we just go through the Bible systematically. We got to the end of Genesis. Psalm 78 was a good overview of the OT history to come, so we went on to Exodus instead of bouncing up to the Gospel of Mark, which was the other simple option.

In Exodus 1, the Hebrews have a bad turn of events in Egypt. Formerly they were honored guests in Egypt. Now, they are enslaved by the Egyptians under the control of Pharaoh. Pharaoh feared the Hebrews who were growing in number. Through Joseph's leadership, he inherited ownership of the Egyptians. Perhaps he also feared the foreigners in his land who were not his to command. In any case, things got bad for the Hebrews. Pharaoh ordered newborn boys killed at birth, which the midwives disobeyed.

In Psalm 79 we read about how Israel was destroyed and Judah taken into captivity. Jerusalem was reduced to rubble in the first verse. The overall message of the psalm is that God is our deliverer and avenger.

I like to make things real for my kids. It's one thing to say that Jerusalem was destroyed, many people killed, and most of the rest enslaved. It's one thing to say that your unborn brother was to be killed when he was born. After all, it's just a piece of boring history. Things aren't like that today, we are tempted to think. It's another thing to realize that China has forced abortions. How can the Chinese government do this? Simple: They own the people.

How about entire villages that are leveled and infrastructures that are destroyed? People killed? Many taken into captivity? Where is this happening today? Sudan. So I bring it home to my kids. An enemy comes and destroys much of the United States. Our house is burned to the ground. Our church is reduced to rubble. Our town is a pile of smoldering debris. Many of the people we know are either dead or captured and taken away never to be seen again. How do you feel? Where do you turn? There is no hope. All the things we place our trust in, like the safety accorded us by the presence of the police department, fire department and ambulance service, are gone. We can't even pick up the phone to call a friend.

We must be comforted by the fact that these things are only reliable for a season. The message for the Hebrews then is the message God gives us in the Psalm. He is the only one worthy to be trusted for all things. Even if we lose our life, we gain it through the One who created it to begin with. He is never surprised by our suffering and He uses our suffering to turn our hearts to Him. May we do so.

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