Years ago, I had the opportunity to intern at Birmingham UMC in Birmingham, MI. It was an incredible experience on many levels, filled with highs. One of those “high” moments for me was getting to preach at the Sunday morning worship services. I don’t think I had ever preached in front of that many people before nor in such an elaborate sanctuary. I was a nervous wreck as I preached from Habakuk around the question: God is good, but what about those times when God is not?
This question is before me once again as I reflect on recent personal experiences, those of friends, and what is happening around the world – particularly in the Middle East.
Yesterday, I was led to Psalm 121. It hit the spot at first, but as I continued chewing on the promises of the psalmist – “The LORD watches over you…the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life;” – I felt as though the words were dishonest, hollow, and inconsistent with Jesus’ messages to his disciples.
Dissonance grew between the psalmist and what I’m seeing and experiencing in the world around me. Horrific tragedies abound are relentlessly communicated to us via the 24-hour news cycle. So how do we reconcile the events of the world and the promises of this psalm? I’m still not sure.
What these tragedies assure me of, however, is that this world is indeed fundamentally broken. Things as they are, aren’t they way they should be. And this reality reminds me of another Reality: that the God who came into the world as Jesus is the God who turns Dark Fridays into Easter Sundays.
Tragedy, injustice, brokenness, and sin nailed Jesus to the cross that fateful Friday so many years ago. But even such an unconscionable act and death itself(!) could not stop this God from moving mightily in redemptive and resurrecting ways.
When the dissonance between the world as it is and the world as it should be rises to unbearable levels, “I lift my eyes unto the hills” and ask “where does my help come from?” The psalmist reminds me: my help comes from the LORD. The same LORD who took Jesus’ death and turned it into Easter Sunday.
And so I hope. I hope that deliverance will come to those being mutilated and beheaded. I hope that love will reign in hate-filled hearts. I hope that my friends will be healed. I hope that we are no longer afraid. I hope. I hope. I hope…
I lift my eyes unto the hills. For my help comes from the LORD – maker of heaven and earth.