Be Still and Know

This is usually my favorite season of the year. New life breaking forth after a long winter’s nap, some days nice enough to get outside to work and play, and my favorite sports—golf and baseball—on the TV to distract me from all the bad news in the world. The latter isn’t working well this week as the news from Syria, N. Korea, and Washington DC just keeps going from bad to worse. As I pray hard for wisdom and reason to steer our nation and world through very troubled waters I am reminded by ancient Scripture that we are not the first to experience such times as these, and for just a moment my soul is still and knows the tumult of humankind will not have the final word.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved; God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter; God utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob (and Rebekah) is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord; see what desolations God has brought on the earth.
God makes wars cease to the end of the earth; God breaks the bow, and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of (Rebekah and) Jacob is our refuge.” (Psalm 46)

Prayer for the Discouraged and Fearful: 13th Sunday after Pentecost

O God, these are times that try our souls and our faith. Our world is full of assault weapons and political insults. So much violence on our streets, in the news, on our small screens and big screens makes us want to buy AK 47’s instead of putting on the “full armor of God.” Taking up a cross, turning the other cheek, forgiving mass murderers and terrorists – those things seem so hopelessly naive. No offense, Lord, but Kevlar vests seem like a better bet against an active shooter and the arrows of evil than the “breastplate of righteousness.” (Ephesians 6)

We’re afraid, Lord, afraid for our safety, our freedom, and our future as a nation and as a human race. We’re afraid for our children, for those who try to keep the peace, and for those trapped in an economic system where the deck is stacked against them. You’ve taught us that perfect love casts out fear, O God, but our love is imperfect and our fear threatens to cast out love, especially for those who need love the most.

We pray for victims of abuse and hate who become abusive and hateful. We pray for the victims of violence and other traumatic life events that drive them to flee from their homelands illegally or legally, for those who seek refuge in drugs or other forms of harmful self-medication, for those so desperate to escape the prison of poverty that they resort to crime. We pray for spirits and relationships and health broken by the burdens of unjust life circumstances, for the bullied who become bullies and their victims, for the homeless and the hopeless, for those trapped in ideologies that prevent compassion and understanding of other beliefs and believers. Lord, hear our prayers and our desperation in the face of so much fear and misery.

We see so many others lose faith and hope and turn away from you, Lord. When Jesus asks, “Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6:67) we are sorely tempted to say, “Yes, Lord, being a Christian disciple is too hard!” The strong and ruthless, not the meek or the peacemakers, seem likely to inherit the earth if there is anything left of it when the plundering and bloodshed are over.

Fear and faith wrestle for our souls, and even though it makes no sense to us or the world we hear ourselves saying with Peter, “We will follow you, Lord. You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the holy one of God.”

Thanks for giving us moments of courage we did not know we had, for assuring us that our “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Ps. 30:5). Help us hang on through the night, O God of promise; hear our prayer. Amen.