An image can break your heart.
This photo now viral shows a father identified as Serhii cradling his dead son Iliya’s head and sobbing as the teenager’s body lay on a stretcher in a Ukrainian hospital. When I saw it, I thought, What if it was one of my sons?
Even as I write these words, pain grips my heart.
And I wonder: Since God is a Father (John 10:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6), doesn’t he feel that way for every victim of this cruel war? If so, why does this omnipotent and omniscient God allow such a tragedy?
How long is “soon”?
A huge fire at the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant sent global financial markets plummeting overnight. It was shut down today and officials said the plant was operating normally, although it is now under Russian control. The plant supplies more than a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity, making it a major development in the ongoing conflict.
Yesterday we demand why God allows this escalation of crisis. We focused on the fact that when humans abuse our God-given freedom, the consequences are not God’s fault but ours. Today I want to focus on a corollary point: the Lord redeems even our abused freedom for his glory and the advancement of his kingdom.
He redeemed the evil done by Joseph’s brothers by elevating Joseph to the rank of prime minister of Egypt. He redeemed the hardened heart of Pharaoh through the Exodus which freed the Jewish people. He redeemed Judas’ betrayal of Jesus by permitting the crucifixion of our Savior who atoned for our sins and made possible our salvation.
The Bible teaches that God will ultimately bring justice to every nation, assuring us that “vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). He passed judgment against the ancient empires of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. Since he is ruler “over all the kingdoms of the nations” (2 Chronicles 20:6), we can see his hand in the downfall of Nazi Germany and the USSR. So we can be sure that the evils now being perpetrated by Russia under Vladimir Putin will ultimately face God’s justice.
The psalmist encouraged us: “Do not worry about evildoers; do not be envious of evildoers! Because they go soon wither like grass and wither like green grass” (Psalm 37:1-2, my italics).
But how long does “soon” mean?
“Yet I will rejoice in the Lᴏʀᴅ”
The Jewish people were enslaved for four hundred years before their liberation from Egypt. Six million Jews were murdered by Hitler. Historians estimate that Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was responsible for the deaths of three million of his fellow citizens; his successor, Joseph Stalin, was responsible for twenty million deaths.
Ukrainian officials estimate that more than two thousand Ukrainian civilians have died so far in the war with Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted Wednesday that nearly six thousand Russian soldiers had been killed in the conflict.
If God is finally going to hold Russia accountable for the illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine, why is he waiting? Why does he let so many fathers cry for so many children?
Thinking back to the time when their Lord protected his people from their enemies, the prophet Habakkuk said to God: “You have walked the earth with fury; you have beaten the nations in anger” (Habakkuk 3:12). So, in words that the Ukrainian people could echo today, he said, “I will wait quietly for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (v. 16).
But what if God doesn’t answer Habakkuk’s prayer when he wants God to answer his prayer?
The Prophet’s response is one of the most eloquent and powerful declarations of faith in human history: the olive tree fails and the fields produce no food, the flock be cut leave the fold and let there be no flock in the stalls, but I will rejoice in the Lᴏʀᴅ; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (vv. 17-18).
How to face our fears
How can we say the same? How do we deal with the fears we all feel today?
One: remember how the story ends
In the face of severe persecution, Paul reminded the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we look for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our humble body to be like his glorious body” ( Philippians 3:20). –21). The Bible can testify, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15) because our Father knows that when his children leave this life, we are instantly with him (Philippians 1:23; Luke 23:43).
When we remember what happens to Christians when we die, we are strengthened by the fact that “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54) and that “whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord”. (Romans 14:8).
Two: Reframing fear as an opportunity for faith
Paul reminded Timothy that “God has given us a spirit, not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). When we ask the Holy Spirit to fill and control us (Ephesians 5:18), then we name our fears and commit them to our Lord (cf. Psalm 34:4), and God redeems them by drawing us closer to Him. and strengthen our faith.
Second, the more fearful our culture becomes, the more attractive our faith becomes.
The Reformation-era scholar Desiderius Erasmus suggested that Satan hates nothing so much as using evil for good. Let’s use the fears we feel as opportunities for faith whenever we feel them. We will be transformed by renewing our minds (Romans 12:2) and we will become more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).
Will Satan hate your faith today?