Opinion: When the world gets rough, find hope in God’s sovereignty
Every time I turn on the television or pick up a newspaper, another natural disaster, mass shooting or case of sexual assault has occurred. Add in the polarized attitude that dominates most public conversation, and it is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged.
I know God is in control, but at times, my heart does not feel like this is true. I look at all of the anger and hurt in America and the church, and begin to despair. How can all that is happening right now lead to good?
When questions like this come up in my mind, my natural reaction is to focus on the problems at hand and see if there is a way they can be fixed. I figure if I look long and hard enough, I will be able to find a silver-lining or way forward. At these moments, nothing else matters.
This may not surprise you, but through many failures, I have learned that this narrow approach does not work. Thanks to patient friends and family, I have begun to learn that sometimes the only way to solve the problem right in front of us is to look for insight in places and times far away from us.
I am not recommending that we ignore the serious, weighty issues before us. Wrongdoings and systematic injustices must be addressed, but perspective will be needed in order to do so.
We need to look up and see the encouragement found in the fact that, throughout history, God’s truth has never been lost. Though empires have fallen and wars have raged, knowledge of God has carried on, unstoppable.
The wrong response to this would be to begin neglecting our privilege to preach the Bible to the world. The right response is to draw hope and confidence, recognizing that the continuation of Christianity is not dependent on faulty humans, but on the steadfast love of God.
We need to look up and see the persecution and situations Christians around the world are facing. Christians in China were recently told to replace their displays of Jesus and crosses with portraits of the Chinese Communist President Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, Christians in Egypt are considering how to witness to their Muslim neighbors in the wake of the tragic shooting in a mosque that killed over 300 people.
How should the Christians in these situations respond? These events are heartbreaking and the answers are unclear, so we should pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ as they live out their faith and witness in these hostile environments.
These prayers should then finish with a time of thanksgiving. When we see the trials Christians around the world endure, how can this not stir up gratefulness?
I will be the first to admit America and its churches are far from perfect. However, we have been blessed with resources, platforms and freedoms that allow us to work toward gospel advancement in ways many other Christians never will. We have a long way to, but let us not forget how far God has already taken us.
We need to look up and see that there are also amazing movements of Christianity happening worldwide we can learn from and be encouraged by. The church is, thankfully, not limited to America, and Christianity is undergoing incredible growth East Asia, Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world. All of this is cause for joy that should overflow into praising God.
This shift in focus to finding hope in God’s sovereignty over history, being grateful for our freedoms and learning of church movements around the world should not bring about a spirit of complacency. Gaining perspective is only valuable if it is followed by the hard work of living out the lessons that have been learned.
When we look up, our gaze should not stop when it reaches the world. Only when our eyes are fixed upon Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, will we be able to endure suffering for the joy that is set before us.