For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. ~ Ephesians 6:15
Life is never what we expect it to be. We float through life never realising the danger that lurked around the corner that we just missed, never thinking as we leave the house in the morning that we might never make it home again. Yet, so many leave their homes and never make it to where they were going let alone make it back home. A routine checkup turns into an indefinite hospital stay for others. Some sleep with clothes ironed and laid out for the next morning, to-do-lists and appointments set for the next day and then, with no forewarning whatsoever, just never wake up.
One of the sad realities of being separated from your family and those you love is the constant fear of that call you are about to answer being bad news. Without even realising just how tense you were, you breathe a hectic sigh of relief when you are greeted by a lively, warm voice on the other end that reassures you that everything is ok. Yes you trust in the Lord and you pray to Him to keep your loved ones safe but then sometimes you wonder if that is enough. Did that fragile young child who has just become an orphan because her parents got killed in a random act of violence just didn’t pray enough? Did the twenty-two year old who’s just died of cancer, never experiencing the joy of independence and the fulfilment of a life well lived die because they did not believe in God’s promises? So many questions pop into mind and if you were to try answer them all you would surely get nowhere.
My life has been filled with so much sadness and tragedy lately leaving me pondering so many questions of faith. To be clear, I do not question my faith, my hope remains firmly implanted in the Lord. I do not ask, “where is God” but rather, “what have we done Lord? What have we done to make you so angry that You allow us to continue to live in this barren wasteland?” My heart breaks when I think of all the pain, the hatred and the sheer evil that seems to consuming this world one heart at a time. What makes a man molest a vulnerable little girl over and over and over again, in school no less? What gives people the heart and the courage to plot and kill church leaders? Why are so many walking amongst us declaring to be Christians, declaring to be godly and yet unleash hatred and cruelty at every chance they get? Is this the life we are destined to live?
In as much as we live in discouraging times I do not believe it is time to lose hope in humanity and in life. If God, knowing all He knows about each and every one of us, knowing our hearts’ desires, the evil and sin that lurks in us still has faith in us and undying love for us, why should we despair? I believe the Bible when it says, “His compassions never fail, they are new every morning.” I believe in the promise that “those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Which is why I get almost furious with the things that happen in my life. I find myself asking Him, “how it is that I dwell in Your house and yet still I find myself uneasy, surrounded darkness and serpents?” This is where the questions just multiply and then, without warning yet almost always on que, the battle of scriptures ensues in my mind. First witness for the prosecution is Exodus 20:5 which reminds me of God’s stern warning that “(He) will lay the sins of the parents upon their children; entire family is affected, even children in the third and fourth generations.” To which, almost callously I ask, “wait a minute Lord, what happened to nothing can ever separate us from Christ’s love?” Then of course, in an effort to prove that I did not just make this up and to point it out to Him and say, “see, see, You did say it!” I storm to fetch my Bible, flip to Romans 8:35 and as I read it I feel the rays of God’s smile on me. I feel Him laughing at me saying, “Gotcha!”
As much as I would like to believe that Paul put his pen down at that point and declared us inseparable from God’s love and thus never having to suffer anything(which admittedly is how I read it). There are still four and half verses left in the chapter. Seven chapters till the end of the book of Romans. Twenty-one books till the end of the Bible. So sheepishly I go on to read, “Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says, For your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we have complete victory through Him who loved us!”
After allowing these words to simmer in my mind a while, the words of my favourite Psalms start coming into focus like a train appearing in the distance, just a flicker at first before full brightness and clarity. Psalm 42 is very dear to my heart because so many times I, like the psalmist, feel exiled to the land of the forgotten. The land where you have only your tears, heartache and longing for days gone past to keep you company. I too, feel like God has turned His face from me. As if refuses to look my way let alone smile His favour upon me. The psalmist puts so eloquently what I find myself grappling with far too many times; the longing to be with God and be in His presence instead of what feels like exile in a corrupt, rotten land, the heartbreak and tears that come with remembering the good times and most of all the enemy taunting you and adding to the feelings of abandonment. I love this Psalm because even in the midst of all that depression, he says, “Yet I will praise Him, my Saviour and God.” This always gives me courage because it reminds me that because His mercies are new every morning, He will once again bring back the happiness I once knew.
It has taken me a while to learn that not all questions of faith mean you are questioning your faith. It has taken a lot of training to learn scriptures that will enable me to answer my questions when they do arise. I did not absorb from reading Ephesians 6:15 once just how much the Bible prepares you for. In as much as I get extremely frustrated that I cannot recall scriptures verbatim, I have come to realise what a blessing that is. It is because my memory fails me that I find myself constantly referring to my Bible and whenever I open it I never just read one verse, I find myself reading others as well which bring fresh and also renewed knowledge and understanding.
It is only now I realise and understand yes, Romans 8:35 is right. Trouble, hardship, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger and death cannot and should not separate us from the love of God. In these tough times, when everything seems sombre, we ask Him questions and to find answers we turn to His Word and there we find the truth and the peace that keeps us going because, “He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.”