Trending Topic: #DefeatDarkness
In a war-torn village in a war-torn country in a war-torn world, blood spattered onto a sign that read “infidel.” The four swaying crosses were each paired with that sign as the four Christians’ hands were paired with the rough wood.
This was a team of missionaries whose lives had once been marked by the teaching of their tormentors. But they had been converted—like Paul had been in this very same country. In Syria, Damascus-Road conversions are still happening. Unfortunately, so are Saul-style persecutions. There were 12 or so of these Christian missionaries (details are not precise in such a hostile part of the world). They had been captured and split into two villages. The four on crosses, including the team leader and his twelve-year-old son, had been tortured before they met their demise. In fact, before their crucifixion, the half-human ISIS jihadists had cut the fingertips off the boy—one-by-one, in front of his father! They would only stop if the father came back to Islam…
The other eight were beheaded—including two women who were (to no surprise) publicly raped and beaten. Want to know what they did in the midst of this rape? These women prayed…
Prayer seems a little useless—a little hopeless—for people so persecuted. Why would they pray to a God Who had allowed their country to be overrun by jihadists—when they already had enough to deal with in an unjust dictatorship? Why pray to God when He has done nothing to ease the plight of their family members who have fled the country, only to be rejected by European countries? If they are lucky enough to get past the terrorists with AK-47s and cross the border, they find themselves drowning with the four million others who are trying to escape the madness—sometimes drowning literally…like the toddler who washed up on a Turkish beach. Four million—almost the population of my entire state! Think on that…
But at least they’re better off than the people still left behind in the country—especially Christians like these. This story isn’t trending—probably because it happens so often. I had to dig deep to find a semi-trending hashtag to use with it. But it should be…because the darkness is very real in parts of the world. Or rather, in ALL of the world.
Meanwhile, in my less-shadowy corner of this dark world, my busy past two weeks don’t look half bad. It HAS been crazy—too busy to even blog! Midterms. Important decisions. Homecoming. Meetings. Conferences. Projects. And in the midst of all that, one of those projects I worked on was a focus on praying for the Syrian refugee crisis. The more I researched, the more I felt like this world has gone to pot. There’s no hope for the Syrian situation to be resolved. These people are dead or will be soon enough—either in the Aegean Sea, in Hungarian train stations, in Turkish refugee camps, or in chemical weapon attacks in Aleppo. Block by block leveled by enemies from all different stripes.
Putin. Obama. Assad. The Ayatollah. The Saudi King. The UN. The Kurds. The Free Syrian Army. The Caliph of the Islamic State. All the world’s players are moving their pieces into position over the chess board of the country of Syria—and destroying the chess board in the process. Leaving families motherless. Fatherless. Empty high chairs. Empty houses—if they’re not destroyed already.
I don’t give you these sad facts to make you feel bad about the stress of your own situations. Your problems may not be as big as these people are facing. But in your life, it’s just as bad. Interacting with people over these past weeks, I’ve heard so many personal stories of brokenness and darkness.
My great aunt is on her death-bed—my Nana’s last remaining sister. I’ve heard of still-births. A Down syndrome toddler dying. A beloved parent gone. Broken homes and marriages. Affairs. Church splits. Pastors or other leaders stepping down over scandals. Kids going off the deep-end and leaving parents with broken hearts wondering what they did wrong. Car accidents. A girl drowning as her car filled with water at my flooded state capital. Fathers going off to war or reliving their war as they fight PTSD. Baby parts being sold. Abortionists laughing at a conference when they admit that abortion is baby-killing—but do it anyway! And all this doesn’t count my own depravity, which rears its ugly head daily as I fight—and lose—to sin.
Our world is messed-up. So, so dark. And it’s all my fault. G.K. Chesterton was asked the question, “What is wrong with the world?” He replied, “Dear sir, I am.” My sin—our collective human sin—has caused all this suffering. That’s what makes this even more depressing! The more I read the news, the more I engage in conversation with hurting people around me, the more prayer requests I hear, the more I fail in my fight against sin…the more I wonder—is there any hope? Will darkness win? Will everything really turn out right? In a novel, you know the author can turn whatever situation that happens into a happy ending if he so chooses—but these events in our real world? They seem too far gone to be spun back into positivity. Happy endings—we’ll be lucky IF it ends!
Oh, but it will! All this pain will come to an end, I promise. No, I don’t promise—God Himself promises. He’s the ONLY One who can take this mess of a planet called earth and turn it positive yet again. And though we may feel that the world is too far gone, He entered it and decided to redeem it. And one day—oh what glory, what hope—it will all be set right again.
Look at 1 Corinthians 15: 24-26: “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
Paul has been talking about the resurrection of Christ and how vital it is to Christianity. And he focuses our attention on the long haul—“the end.” Yes, it will come! One day, the pain will stop. The horrors will wash away like sand from your toes in the waves. Sin will be stripped away like old bed sheets. And that “last enemy” that claims so many—old death, gorged to its gargantuan fullness—will die. Not only that—he’ll be destroyed. Wiped out. Obliterated. Like smashing a Lego tower—except there will be no pieces left to pick up!
Who will do this? Who will accomplish this wonderful victory? The only One Who can! The One Who took death and sin and Satan himself to the mat and won the first time! Jesus Christ, Who delivers the kingdom to His Father, after wiping out every rule, every authority, every power. Russia with its vast domain and growing control. The Syrian regime with its tight-fisted slaughter its helpless people. Iran with its killing machine. North Korea with all its pomp. China with her economic might. Even the US, the “world’s superpower,” will be pushed under the power of the Divine King.
And He MUST reign. That’s the inspiration for the song that inspired hope in me when nothing else could. When I was overwhelmed by the world’s darkness—and the darkness of my own heart—I heard the old hymn…
JESUS SHALL REIGN.
Over Syria, over the Islamic State, over Europe, over America, over my heart and yours, over every tragedy and sad tale…Jesus shall reign. No more tears. No more pain. No more crucifixions. No more fathers having to watch their sons be tortured. Or women being raped. Or babies being born without a heartbeat. Or old women breathing their last. Or the betrayal of a Dad or husband or spiritual leader. No more! None of that!
When one of these persecuted Christian women was being beaten, raped, and about to be beheaded, she—in a Stephen-like fashion—looked up to heaven and seemed almost to be smiling when she said one word. One name. The name above every name. The name that shall reign forever and ever when time ends. When ISIS and all the forces of Islamic terror are destroyed…
Even so, come, Lord Jesus. Come and reign!
And our response shall be…a “loud amen.”
Let every creature rise and bring
His grateful honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!
He shall reign in glory, crowned with grace and might!
Bless His name and praise our sovereign King.
He shall reign forever with His chosen Bride,
And all the earth shall sing that Jesus is the King!