From Where God Sits…

Dadaan refugee camp, Kenya Benjamin Grant/Digital Globe/Caters News Agency
Dadaan refugee camp, Kenya
Benjamin Grant/Digital Globe/Caters News Agency
I have been home from Nigeria for almost a week now. I have managed to wash the dust out of my hair and the smoky smell out of my clothes, but a spirit of unrest still lingers in my soul. All is not well with my world, because people I love are still in danger. Terrorists continue to detonate bombs in busy markets, schools and churches; Boko Haram continues to massacre whole villages of people and take over increasing amounts of territory. And recent history tells us to expect a massive outpouring of violence against Christians just after the elections that the nation is preparing for as I write.

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”
Psalm 10:1-2; 8-11

When I stack all those odds against a government crippled by corruption and internal political jockeying, my heart fails within me. What hope is there for Nigerian Christians living in Muslim extremist dominated regions of the country? The realist in me knows better than to expect anything other than more of the same: unchecked violence, terrorism, and persecution, culminating in either annihilation or mass migration.

Given the news coming from around the world, the bad guys seem to always get away with their terrorist tactics while the good guys inevitably get the short end of the stick. What has remaining true to Christ accomplished for those tiny, minority communities in Iraq? What has turning the other cheek accomplished for the church in Nigeria?

Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed your children.
Psalm 73:13-15

Fear begins to creep over my spirit where hope used to dwell. Fatalism crowds out faith, telling me to quit looking through rose colored glasses and simply accept the inevitable. Righteous people suffer. Wicked people prosper. And in a dog-eat-dog world like that, why shouldn’t we do whatever it takes to defend our rights and lessen our suffering? After all, if we don’t fight to protect ourselves, who will?

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
Psalm 73:16-17

But as I follow that logical train of thought, I realize that somewhere along the way I have gotten off track from the way God tells the story. I have failed to account for the fact that He still reigns, not merely over those few human souls that are being extracted from a world that is otherwise going to hell, but over all of creation.

Knowing the end of the story completely changes the way I interpret the middle.

If the Scripture in the Halleluiah Chorus is really true, if the kingdoms of this world are now becoming the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, then that is a total game-changer. If Jesus is actively reigning over Nigeria and the Middle East, if Isis and Boko Haram are simply pawns in His hands, then that changes my perspective on everything. Sure, it leaves me with a lot of question as to why He allows them to do what they do, but it removes my need to take matters into my own hands.

A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
Psalm 37:10-13

Knowing that God reigns over these bullies enables me to laugh in the face of their threats, not because the danger they pose is any less real, but because I can foresee the looks on their faces when they turn around and see Who is standing behind them. I don’t know when that will be or how much more of their terrorizing we will have to endure before then, but the end of the story is already written.

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Psalm 37:1-2

And knowing the end of the story completely changes the way I approach the middle.

But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
Psalm 10:14

I don’t have to surrender to fatalism, because a personal God is actively reigning over the situation. He is keeping track of each terrorized child. He has taken note of each turned cheek, exposed as an act of faith that He will intervene on behalf of those who trustingly lay their right for vengeance in His hands.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret–it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked; for the power of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD upholds the righteous.
Psalm 37:7-9, 16-17

Nor do I have to give in to fear. It is not solely up to us to take down these powers and protect the vulnerable. They have not managed to de-throne God. And though they may act like no one will ever be able to hold them accountable, I refuse to believe their charade. Either running in terror or picking up guns in panic would be a capitulation to their version of the story.

The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
Psalm 10:16-18

Instead I am prostrating myself before the Governor of nations, the King of heaven and earth. He is still in charge, and He is not the least bit threatened. I don’t know what means He will use to take down His enemies. It may even be that He mobilizes His people to take up arms in defense of the oppressed. But whether He leads us to take action or to turn the other cheek, He is the source of our confidence. One way or another, He will win His war on terror.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NASB)

8 thoughts on “From Where God Sits…”

  1. Yes, even here Tiffany, I believe there will come a time when our Christian lives will be called for. I don’t think it is as far away as we might think. I would need Grace to pour down on me as when/if put to the test, I doubt I would have the courage. God Bless every Soul in suffering for following Christ. Welcome home to Scotland Tiffany.

    1. It’s good to be home, Collette. And I think God will give us the grace when we need it. I know I don’t have it in me, either, but that doesn’t limit Him. My heart’s cry right now, though, is that He will have mercy on our brothers and sisters who are facing this trial right now. May He comfort and deliver them!

  2. Tiffany, thanks for making an age-old problem as real as ever. Those people who think the Bible is ancient stuff addressing ancient problems in ancient ways… well, I guess I would respond to that with Qoheleth’s “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    Here’s a fun story that might even be true: some Vietnamese insurgents somehow happened upon a Bible study of Habakkuk, and were shaken to their bones to see that while the Chaldeans had their day of victory, they too would be judged for their evil.

    Enjoy your wine, people of evil, injustice, and oppression. Some day, you, or your children, or your children’s children, will reap what you have sown. God may well let you die in peace, surrounded by riches with sated sexual desire. Hope that death is the end, because you’ve predicated your souls upon it. Hope that eternal justice will not happen, that it will forever dally, instead of for a time. Or hope in Jesus, your current arch-nemesis.

    I will sit in my nice urban area, where the greatest evils wouldn’t even register on a meter calibrated to Nigeria, and try to see evil which is perpetrated without easy-to-identify blood. We Westerners are quite good at carrying out evil without consequences so immediate, so discernible, so near. Something tells me God doesn’t care about how long the chain is between cause and effect, and whether the suffering is physical, mental, or emotional.

    1. You are right, Luke. We are way too good at distancing ourselves just enough from others’ suffering that we no longer feel the weight of it. I suppose that is why we assume that God does the same. I am comforted but also challenged by the way He rescued and vindicated His people of old. As you point out, it often came after generations of captivity, persecution, and unrequited wrong. He always came through and worked His wonders in the end, but not quite in the timeframe I would be looking for. So with the prophets and martyrs I cry out on behalf of our family in Nigeria, Sudan, and the middle east: “How long, Oh Lord?”

      1. We are way too good at distancing ourselves just enough from others’ suffering that we no longer feel the weight of it. I suppose that is why we assume that God does the same.

        Ummmm, wow. I would never have supposed this, because I’m very used to myself being the wrong one, the outcast, the terribly built person. (Fortunately most of that is in my past.) But I just had a phone call with someone over a contentious matter between him and someone else. The first five to fifteen minutes were self-justification. I’ve heard of this pattern of creating God in your own image, but would not have applied it here. I love the fact that I need other believers, that I simply cannot discover all truth on my own. I didn’t need another warm body, I needed a perspective that is gloriously different from my own!

        You and I know: this is not the God we worship. Let’s continue spreading that good news elsewhere. When Jesus wept for Lazarus, it was because he loved him and his heart was wrenched, not “for the benefit of the people” or some such nonsense. The trick is, Jesus wants us to do some of that weeping for others, meaning that there are lots of voids out there he wants us to fill. Unless, perhaps, we wait until the scary stage described in Ezek 34 is reached. *shivers*

      2. Tiffany
        Yeah, “how long oh Lord “!! But I want to believe, even discussing this matter across our shores now and bringing to bare what some of us have been going through to the global church, is already an answered prayer. By sharing in our sufferings, bringing unity and strength to the global church. So that we can in one voice, one day truly say; …..neither death, nor life…….. shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8 : 38-39.

      3. Michael, I’ve been slow in replying to your comment but it has stuck with me since you posted it. Ironically, your perspective comforts people like me in the global church who do not face hardship or danger for our faith. We feel a bit guilty for how easy our lives are and, even more, feel helpless to change how difficult yours are, especially when it comes to terrorist regimes and religious violence. But hearing you say that our awareness of your pain and our heart-filled prayers on your behalf lighten the load that you carry brings me great comfort and relief. I know that is just a drop in the bucket of what needs to be done, but it is such a joy to share in your sufferings and, hopefully, to be a part of God’s response to them, no matter how small.

        I feel I must also say that I am not yet satisfied with my answer on the question of how Christians can/should respond to violent attacks when their governmental systems do not provide justice or protection. I’m still studying and praying my way through that one. Hopefully it will eventually make its way into another post on this site!

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