More Darkness? Find “Consolation in Religion”
June 16, 2016 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
It’s another week of disheartening headlines for our nation. Unfortunately, this may be the “new” norm for life in this war-torn, politically-divisive, terror-riddled, hate-filled, futility-subjected world. The Christian blogosphere “blows up” every time there is a tragedy with commentary about why bad things happen and how Christians should respond. But is the darkness all that new? Do we live in a unique period of history where Christians need to brainstorm “new” ways to live?
Think about King David in the Old Testament. For his entire childhood and young-adulthood, his nation lived under the terror of the Philistines. In fact, this terror preceded David by about 100 years (from Judges 13 through the story of 1 Samuel, the Philistines terrorized Israel). When David went into military service for his nation, his king attempted to kill him. In his rage against David, this king had 85 priests killed for giving food to David. David rises to the throne only after Saul is killed on the battle field. Not only does David endure national trials, he faced conflict within his own home. A wife who despised him. A son who rapes his daughter. Another son who kills the rapist. This son attempts to overthrow David. Not to mention David’s own moral failures: adultery and murder. And then, to top it all off, by David’s own poor choice, 70,000 men die in a plague appointed by God. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.
David provides for us a blueprint on how to walk faithfully with God in the midst of this ever-present darkness. In Psalm 18:1-2 David reveals the backbone of Christian living: “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” David was not paralyzed with fear and anxiety and uncertainty for the future every time tragedy struck. David found comfort in the Lord.
Ann Judson, considered the first American woman missionary when she went to Burma with her husband in 1812, also demonstrates this kind of unwavering hope in the Lord when tragedy strikes. Her first child miscarried while traveling to Burma. Her second child died in infancy. The Buddhist Burmese were highly resistant to the gospel (after 10 years of ministering, they had only 18 converts). Ann contracted a severe liver disease that forced her back to America for a year. Her husband was imprisoned, suspected of being a spy for England. He almost died in prison, except for Ann’s diligent care. Ann died of small pox at the age of 36 shortly after her husband was released.
Ann wrote this in a letter to her brother, during that time her husband was in prison: “The acme of my distress, consisted in the awful uncertainty of our final fate. My prevailing opinion was, that my husband would suffer violent death; and that I should, of course, become a slave,...But the consolation of religion, in these trying circumstances, were neither ' few nor small!' It taught me to look beyond this world, to that rest, . . . where Jesus reigns and oppression never enters.”
The consolation of religion… When Ann speaks of “religion” she is talking about the reality and experience of intimacy and fellowship with God, just like David identified in Psalm 18. That is the norm God invites us into. It is a hope that not only holds onto God as a refuge in the time of need, but also is confident that God will right every wrong under Jesus’ eternal reign. It is “neither few nor small!” That is what sustained David throughout his tumultuous life. That is what sustained Ann Judson in Burma through hardships. That is what will sustain us no matter what tragedy we face. Hope in God!