On a consistent basis, we are reminded that the world that we call home is broken and fractured. That while God’s original design and creation of the world was in perfect harmony in every way (Genesis 1-2), the world since Genesis 3 is most certainly not. The world is out of tune since sin entered it. Evil, suffering, and death are now ever present realities in our lives.
I’m writing this on a Wednesday. It is only day four in the calendar week. And in the past three days, I’ve heard of horrendous and horrific suffering and evil. From both near and far. From close friends, to our nation, to our world. And that’s just this week.
Imagine concentric circles in your mind, working outward from our personal lives.
- Personally (family, friends, church)
- Regionally (community and state)
As you and I work through those circles, we are all confronted with reminders of the suffering of loved ones, the fallenness of the world, and the evil that exists in the heart of humanity.
I’m currently watching my mom enter the latter stages of Parkinson’s and the terrible disease that it is, and my father losing his eyesight because of a degenerative disease. I’m praying with brothers and sisters in Christ who have lost and are losing loved ones far too soon. I’m interceding on behalf of dear friends who are battling depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts. And that’s the short list.
I’m praying with a local community who is walking with loved ones and leaders battling cancer and ALS diagnoses, and heart surgeries for a days old child.
Nationally, there is horrendous abuse in the church being uncovered, and horrific shootings occurring.
Globally, there are wars and crisis and pain.
And on and on. My point is not to give you a list of what is broken and suffering. You already have your own stories in your personal circles. And in the wider circles of our communities, nation, and world, we share in those.
How do we respond? When confronted with the realities of a fallen world, what are we to do? Here are some encouragements from the Scriptures.
It is a biblical practice, and one that is appropriate when confronted with suffering, loss and evil. Here are two blog posts to encourage and guide you more in this practice.
Love Your Neighbor
As Christ followers, we never move past the Great Commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is the ancient, yet timeless and relevant command for disciples of Jesus. Our triune God who is all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere in this world. We are not. And yet, access to the internet makes us sometimes think we are. Again, we are not. We were providentially placed into the world to be in it, not of it. To be a reflection of the Lord and out of the overflow of His love toward us, to go and love others. So wherever the Lord has placed you, love your neighbor well. In your home, in your physical neighborhood, with your friends, in your workplace and so on. And remember, neighbor includes those not like you (Luke 10:25-37).
Lean On Brothers and Sisters in Christ
Mutual community among the family of God is a thread throughout the New Testament epistles. The church is a family, a flock, a body, a house, a temple, branches, and so on. All of which reveal the togetherness that the church is to have with one another. Romans 12:9-15 says, 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Take the lead in honoring one another. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.
This passage is assuming there will be such things as affliction, persecution, and sorrow. In the midst of such temporary, earthly seasons (2 Corinthians 4:7-18), we are to lean on one another and be sources of God’s comfort to one another (2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and a corresponding message that I preached in early 2022.
Lead Others to Jesus (Disciple Others)
As much as we never graduate from the Great Commandment (love God and love neighbor), we also continually pursue the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:8). The One with all authority in heaven and on earth has commissioned us. The One who is eternal has promised to be with us to the very end of the age. And in between those two powerful and beautiful truths, we are to go, teach, and baptize. Romans 1:16 reminds us that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The good news of Jesus is the power that actually transforms a human heart and life.
Don’t underestimate the seemingly simple practices of teaching and modeling faith in Christ to those around you. The adage of ‘go change the world’ sounds great, but it is far too big for any one person to bear the weight of. Rather, let’s follow the words of Jesus that calls us to a disciplemaking way of life that ultimately and generationally, thanks be to His power, brings about gospel transformation and good in our world.
Lift Up Our Leaders in Prayer
As it relates to events affecting our political nation, we must be prayerful for our leaders 1 Timothy 2:1-7. Praying the Lord would give them wisdom, unity and humility. Praying that they’d be motivated not in self-interest, but in an other-oriented interest and for the good and flourishing of our nation.
And if I can also include this, I would encourage you to be prayerful for the servant leaders in your local church. Praying the Lord would give them Spirit-empowered endurance, godly wisdom, and a Christlike love and compassion as they shepherd fellow sheep in the flock.
Brothers and sisters, lift your eyes up to the Lord (Psalm 121). Don’t grow numb to pain, nor let a callousness, cynicism or hopelessness grow over your heart of flesh. In the midst of our groanings, the Spirit is interceding on our behalf, and the unchanging truths of Romans 8 are still precious anchors for us (specifically verses 18-39).
Titus 2:11-14 says, 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 instructing us to deny godlessness and worldly lusts and to live in a sensible, righteous, and godly way in the present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. 14 He gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people for his own possession, eager to do good works.
As we wait for the appearing of the glory of Jesus, may we live with living hope (1 Peter 1:3-9) knowing one sweet, sweet day, Revelation 21 will come to pass, including verse 4, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.
Come Lord Jesus, come.
A few final thoughts…
Remember the Wisdom Pyramid.
I touched on this idea in a recent message. It resonates with me greatly. You can learn more here:
Consider Luke 13:1-9.
- The crowds are asking Jesus about tragedies that are occurring in their midst.
- I preached on this passage in spring 2021. You can listen to it here (about 4.5 minutes in is where it begins).
Sing. Here are some songs to consider.