… pain strewn, sorrow laden …

The Great Desmond Tutu, who carries both hope and sadness like an anointing. He wrote,

“Dear Child of God, I write these words because we all experience sadness, we all come at times to despair, and we all lose hope that the suffering in our lives and in the world will ever end. I want to share with you my faith and my understanding that this suffering can be transformed and redeemed.

There is no such thing as a totally hopeless case.

Our God is an expert at dealing with chaos, with brokenness, with all the worst that we can imagine.

God created order out of disorder, cosmos out of chaos, and God can do so always, can do so now–in our personal lives and in our lives as nations, globally.

Indeed, God is transforming the world now–through us–because God loves us.”

sun

In the midst of all the heavy news bombarding to our eardrums each day through every social media : Ukraine, Russia, Iraq, ISIS, Israel, Hamas, Palestinian, there is another track of raging domestic horror, news of one’s precious child being assaulted, another one witnessed the assault, death threat being flung wide and high, discouragement and sorrow soaked through the pillow and mattress as we go to bed with heavy laden heart.

No crafty words but breathing groans which drag its way onto my Father’s skins.  He nods and acknowledges my restless tugging and ceaseless wrestling.

He turns His head and looks me in the eyes.

“I am dealing with it right now.  Are you doing your part?”

As I breathe in every molecules of air into my lungs and not turn them into bold and big intercession for the suffering and the persecuted, I guess I really am not doing my part.

And when I start to pray through such pain strewn and sorrow laden situations, my thought leads me to ponder on the freedom I have opening up my spine-torn bible.  I cup such freedom in my hands as precious jewel.  As such freedom was bought for a price by the One whose body was …

broken for my torn bible to lay flat on the table without being confiscated;

broken for such freedom for me to invite people to come together around the table, pouring our heads down to read and discuss and encourage one another;

broken for such freedom to gather with my community of believers to sing and praise His name with speakers and microphones as if our voices cannot be heard farther and wider;

broken for my freedom to raise our voices and volumes, fling wide our hands and arms, fiddle with our feet dancing and tapping along;

broken for my freedom to decide how much time and resources I delight in to support the work of other overseas co-labourers;

broken for my freedom to share the gospel with people I brush shoulders with each day;

broken for my freedom to bow my head and close my eyes in the middle of the busy downtown Toronto and simply pray out loud for my sister whose heart is broken;

In the midst of trying to understand how one’s suffering sits squarely with one’s freedom under the same sun, the book of Jeremiah shows clearly that history is not always seen as a continuum of cause and effect whose outcome is determined solely by the interplay of historical forces.

Rather, the world is seen to be governed and directed by God in ways that Jeremiah is to announce.

Jeremiah 1:1-10 spells clearly that God is sovereign over the nations and directs history.  The explicit terms from Jeremiah 1:10 (in some variation) occur 5 extra times in the book :

1:10-12 : See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” 11 The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. 12 The Lord said to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”

18:7-10 :  If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

24:6-7 : My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

31: 27-28 :  “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord.

42:9-12 : “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: 10 ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. 12 I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’

45:4-5 : But the Lord has told me to say to you, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.’

I am also reminded in the book of Acts, even Jesus’ rejection and crucifixion are interpreted to reveal God’s purposeful leading of the world and God’s triumph over human efforts to subvert God’s purposes:

Acts 2:23-24 : This man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.  But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.

Is that how we understand the course of history, then and now?

God’s triumph is going to override all the world’s purposeful evil.  Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to Greeks, puts it clearly,

“The question is whether the faith that finds its focus in Jesus is the faith with which we seek to understand the whole of history, or whether we limit this faith to a private world of religion and hand over the public history of the world to another principles of explanation.”

I surely hope I do not fall into such wobbling faith, and I should seek to understand God’s laments and anguish over what have been happening as of late, His laments and angers like a boiling pot tilting towards every single heartbeat of ours and dominating every breath of intercession and cries of worship. Proclaiming His power and might should be our front and center of attention, and not allow a moment of lost hope leashing our direction.  Lift up your heads, you gates, be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Psalm 24

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
    the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it on the seas
    and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?
    Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not trust in an idol
    or swear by a false god.[a]

They will receive blessing from the Lord
    and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek your face, God of Jacob.[b][c]

Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord strong and mighty,
    the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
    lift them up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
    The Lord Almighty—
    he is the King of glory.

Who breaks the power of sin and darkness
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
Who leaves us breathless in awe and wonder
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You would lay down Your life
That I would be set free
Jesus, I sing for
All that You’ve done for me

Who brings our chaos back into order
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who rules the nations with truth and justice
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
Worthy is the King who conquered the grave

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