I, like so many others, have been heart broken by the heartbreak in Charleston. Another mass murder. Another issue of racial divide. Families devastated. Wives left without husbands. Husbands left without wives. Children left without parents. A church and a city suffering. My heart has been heavy and I am hours away from the suffering. I can only imagine what those directly impacted by what happened are going through.
We live in a very broken world. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul (in Romans 8) describes this world … all of creation … to be groaning as in the “pains of childbirth.” I’ve watched each of my four kids be born. My wife was in labor at least 12 hours for each of our four children and I saw the pains of childbirth. I saw the pain she was in, the exhaustion, the agony, the relentless contractions that, when they hit, just took over her entire body. As a husband, it was such a helpless feeling because there was nothing I could do except just be there for her so she didn’t have to go through it alone. So, I saw the pain and the tears and the utter exhaustion she went through during childbirth and the Bible speaks of that … it speaks of all creation being in the same type of pain and it sheds the same tears and it suffers the same exhaustion and it cries out for relief because we are in a world that has been damaged and broken by sin.
And, many of you have probably experienced this type of pain and there are no easy answers for the suffering and hurt that many of us have experienced … that those at Emanuel have experienced. The truth is that Christianity can’t always be reduced to a tweet or a Facebook status or a blog post. Horrible things happen. We suffer. We know people who suffer. And, we don’t always know how to respond to everything that comes our way in life with a simple slogan.
What many in the Christian faith have come to understand is that our message is not that Christians don’t suffer. It’s unfortunate that many tend to paint the picture that if you give your life to Jesus, life will be fantastic. There’s no guarantee of that. Just look at the Apostle Paul’s life … a man who experienced a dramatic conversion (Acts 9) and who also experienced incomprehensible suffering (2 Corinthians 11:23 – 30). So, the message of Christianity is not that Christians don’t suffer. The message of Christianity is greater because our message is that we have a victorious Savior! A Savior who stepped in to our suffering … a Savior who hurts when we hurt … who cries when we cry … a Savior who cares what we’re going through and He grieves with us.
I’ve been going through a study on the book of Daniel the past two months and felt led to simply share a prayer that Daniel prayed in chapter 9. Daniel lived in a culture that was anything but Christian. He lived in a pagan culture, a culture driven by materialism and power and lust. He and many of his countrymen experienced suffering (Daniel 3 and 6). He experienced prejudice (Daniel 3 and 6). He experienced betrayal (Daniel 6). He also felt an overwhelming burden for his nation and countrymen. And, his prayer in Daniel 9 was birthed out of that passion. It’s interesting to note that he didn’t point fingers or place blame. He started with himself and used the term “we” or “us” when talking about sin and rebellion. For any change to ever take place the finger has to be pointed at our own heart first and we must allow God to expose our own pride, our own rebellion, or own sinfulness. We are always safe with God. He exposes us never to tear us down but always to build us up in to the people He has called us to be.
If you feel so led, pray these portions of Scripture taken from Daniel 9. This is not his entire prayer, but only portions of it that I thought may apply to where we are at as a country right now. But, the greater question to ask is “Where am I at as a person right now?” If a finger is pointed, we must point it at ourselves first and allow God to do His work in your life.
4“O Lord, you are a great and awesome God! You always fulfill your covenant and keep your promises of unfailing love to those who love you and obey your commands. 5 But we have sinned and done wrong. We have rebelled against you and scorned your commands and regulations. 6 We have refused to listen to your servants the prophets, who spoke on your authority to all the people of the land.
7 “Lord, you are in the right; but as you see, our faces are covered with shame.
9 But the Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him. 13Yet we have refused to seek mercy from the Lord our God by turning from our sins and recognizing His truth. 17 “O our God, hear your servant’s prayer! Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. 18 “O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city—the city that bears your name—lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. 19 “O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay.”