Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ordained Days

God's Words:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
~Psalm 139:16b

I typically avoid reading or watching the news.  It's usually nothing but bad news and just gets me down.  Some people may criticize me for not staying properly informed of what's going on in the world.  But my tender heart just can't take all the sad events that take place each and every day. It seems like it's always the same kinds of things happening, over and over again.  Politicians making unwise decisions, terrorist attacks and wars throughout the world, natural disasters, robberies, murders, kidnappings, abuse, and other such crimes.  It overwhelms me.

However, once in a while, a news story invades my protective life bubble and impacts me deeply in a way I cannot escape.  My husband came home from work last Friday and asked if I had heard what happened that morning at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.  Of course I hadn't.  So he filled me in on the terrible tragedy of the mass shooting in which 26 people were murdered by a single crazed gunman.  And that most of those whose lives were so brutally taken were children.  NO!!!  How could this happen?  Not again!  Not another senseless massacre!  What kind of sick, evil person is capable of such a horrific crime against sweet, innocent life?

Like most people reacted upon hearing this devastating news, I was affected to tears.  It's almost incomprehensible.  When I start to try to picture how it happened, to get some kind of understanding of what those helpless victims went through, I get sick to my stomach and my mind just can't finish going there.

My second reaction was probably the same as felt by all parents, especially those of young, elementary-aged children.  An overpowering, distressing fear.  Could something like this happen to my children?  My nieces and nephews and friends' children?  My children's friends?

We live in a fallen, sinful world.  No one on earth is immune to or completely safe against death and destruction.  When evil tragedies like this occur, it strikes terror and fear in the hearts of people.  A very natural response, to be sure.

Yet I know I can't live with that sense of fear always hanging over me.  I had to be free of that heavy burden.  And the sooner, the better!  So I prayed to God for relief from it and the first Scripture that His Holy Spirit brought to my mind was today's key verse:

All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
~Psalm 139:16b.

This verse immediately filled my heart with a deep sense of peace, reminding me that God has a plan for each of my children's lives.  And for the lives of each of my loved ones.  We don't have to live in constant fear and worry for what horrible things might happen to the people we love.  This comforting verse tells us that before any of us were born, God had already planned out our lives.  He has predetermined exactly how many days each of us will live.  He knows how our lives will play out - and end.

No, I don't completely understand how or why God allows bad things to happen.  I do know that it is a result of the fall of man.   And Satan is constantly at work to hurt God by hurting His creation, which He loves.  The more pain, death and destruction the evil one causes, the more successful he thinks he is in his war against God.  The devil loves to hurt us because He hates God.  And he loves it when we're afraid, because that means we're not trusting God.  For His protection.  For His plan for our lives.  And this also hurts God.

But only look to God's Word and you will find the Source of faith, peace, and strength to replace any doubt, worry, or fear.  The comfort I find in the pages of my Bible is three-fold.  

First of all, God is in control of everything that happens in the world.

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  ~Colossians 1:16-17

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.  ~Job 12:10

Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  ~Proverbs 19:21

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Second, He tells us, no commands us, to never be afraid for He promises to always be with us.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  ~Joshua 1:9

No, He may not always stop bad things from happening, but He will bring good out of it.  He will use the hard times in life for our good, if we let Him.

Which leads me to the third comforting truth I cling to - He promises to always bring good out of bad, in the lives of those who love Him.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  ~Romans 8:28

We can't see yet what good He'll bring out of this most recent tragedy.  My prayer at awful times like this, or really when anything bad happens, is that people will be drawn closer to Christ.  If they are believers, then I pray that they will grow in their faith and relationship with Christ.  And if they aren't saved yet, that they will find healing, comfort, peace, and the true meaning of life through believing in Jesus as their Savior and living a new life in Him.  He is our only real, lasting comfort in this life after all.  And our hope for eternal peace and joy, too!

How then does a mother help her children to not live in fear and teach them how to process tragedies in the world?

Here are a few suggestions of things I do to help my children deal with fear and to trust God with their lives:

1.  Pray with them, and teach them to pray on their own, when they see or hear about bad things happening.  For example, whenever we're driving and an ambulance or other emergency vehicle rushes by with sirens blaring (such a frightful, alarming sound), I say a prayer out loud for whoever is hurt or in trouble and for the rescue/police workers to have the wisdom they need.  And I always ask that God would draw the people involved to Him.  I sure would love to find out someday the results God has brought about through these prayers for strangers!  Maybe in heaven we'll hear about it!

2.  Console them with the verses I shared today and with any other verses that speak solace to you.  Oh, how the Bible is full of words of comfort!  God loves to bring us peace and strength and a greater trust in Him through His Word.

3.  Remind them that their Heavenly Father loves them even more than you do.  And as parents who ache with love for our children, we all know that is saying A LOT!!  No matter what bad things happen to them in their lives, God is in control and has a loving plan for them and will bring about eternal good for them, if they love Him.  Nothing can separate them from the love God has for them.  Nothing.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:  “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  ~Romans 8:35-39

Dear friends, may each of you draw closer to our Lord through this tragic event that has taken place.  Seek comfort in His Word.  Cry out to Him in prayer whenever you're overwhelmed with fear or grief.  Know that He loves you with a love greater than you can even fathom and that nothing can take that love away from you.  Ever.

In Christ,