by Dr. Lani Wilson
Good day, faithful prayer and fasting partners. Regardless of one’s race, color, ethnicity or culture, being mowed down at a music festival is still barbaric. African-Americans lived this history in our 500 or so years here in the New World: We know terrorism. And it is still barbaric. What a challenge it is to be a Christian now! Disaffected Americans look at us and query, “So where is your God now?” Our faith is challenged on every side. “Explain how you can believe in a god that allows this” or “What kind of a god would permit this slaughter?” are not uncommon but mostly respectful nudges. “How can you believe in a god who seems not to care about mass murder?”
And there it is: Belief. How does belief intersect with faith? Can one believe in the Judeo-Christian God and not have faith? Is it possible to have faith and not believe? Sound like silly questions as we peek at jiggly images from a small phone screen and watch people drop as bullets from a bump-stocked automatic weapon and the staccato machine gun sounds of pop-pop-pop-pop track them through the screaming dark. I happened to be up late and was getting ready to sleep when I flipped one last time through major news networks and saw the videos from social media and words “Las Vegas” just an hour and a half after it began. For the next two hours, I sat mystified until I could not stomach anymore. I had a high school friend who lives and works there and I reached out to him. He finally posted something on social media and I relaxed. But there were almost 600 families that night who were getting no such confirmation. Numb is all I can remember about how it felt. I don’t think I even feel it now.
Repeated public gun violence; unimaginable destruction from hurricanes and earthquakes; unbridled threats of a new war, unthinkable in its first-strike destructive potential; open warfare on African-American men and women by their own police forces; starving faces of Brown and Black babies; small tent cities popping up in tight Black city blocks; and wave after wave of attacks on the public good by a callous body politic: Those increasingly strident questions from God’s critics linger. Then I thought about the times in which the Christ lived.
Although the Ancient Near East didn’t have instant visual communication as we do, the abhorrent economic and social disparities were as real. And God chooses THAT time to drop His Son on earth? So what about us? What about now?
Maybe we can’t answer those questions satisfactorily. Maybe there is no answer to this magnified, turbo suffering we are experiencing. Maybe the answer is in us and not God. Is that a lack of faith or an acknowledgement that evil is both a choice and demigod? Are we blind in our faith or deluded in our belief? I guess I have come to the conclusion that this kind of suffering magnified by a million must have approached the content of suffering that Jesus of Nazareth experienced alone on the cross. The Bible tells us that He took on the suffering of ALL humanity. If we say we know Who The Nazarene is, then we must believe that He knows our suffering. If we say we have faith, then we must believe that the LORD God is awake and aware. The Message translation of Psalm 57:2 says,
Be good to me, God ------ and now!
I’ve run to you for dear life.
I’m hiding out under your wings
until the hurricane blows over.
David is hiding in a cave, despairing for his life about 1000 years before The Christ when He wrote these words. There is a peace that limps along in these dramatic words because we know the outcome, the ultimate outcome: The Davidic Covenant. A king from David’s line would always sit on the throne.
Until the hurricane blows over…until the hurricane blows over…
until the hurricane blows over…until the hurricane blows over…
How long is that? The answer to that is different for every person. For every person who professes faith in the Unseen One and His Son, that time, however long, is what tests and grows your life. Dying is not simple but pretty straightforward; it is the living that will continually stretch our spiritual innards. When confronted with the ancient questions about human suffering, we Christians don’t have to have the answers, but we do have to have the faith. Belief is not enough. An unchallenged faith does not seem to be in God’s playbook of life for us. I, personally, don’t seek those challenges: They have come and while suspended, as in the air, God sustained and hid us under Her wings. It is in the living, the sustaining, the worship, the active reliance upon a God who sacrificed so that we would see in three-dimensional form the proof of His immeasurable love for all of Her creation that lies the proof. Therefore, we keep on living and giving and working and struggling and praying and crying and pleading and thanking and expecting and helping. Belief is not enough. Faith should be an action verb because that is what it is. And that can be our only answer: To faith.
LORD God, Who hears all our inadequate prayers, please accept them as sweet incense. Jesus left His Spirit to interpret our mutterings, and we know that He does that even at this very instant. We are stunned by our own behavior and beliefs and sometimes don’t do enough to quell the rising discord among us. But we eventually have to look up from the smallness of our fears to the evidence of Your eternity. Only by staring straight up to You can we continue to faith in this 21st century of rapid-fire, often contorted living. And sometimes, it ain’t easy. So we petition You once again to calm us in the storm; rescue us as we “run to you for dear life…until the hurricane blows over.” No matter what, where, how, who or why, it is in living out our faith that the only Answer we know surfaces: The model, the figure, the roadmap, the Way Who is The Nazarene, The Christ, The One. It is in Him we find peace. In Him.
Because He is Peace.
And in Him shall we rest.
Until the hurricane blows over.