I have brothers and sisters I’ve never met.
Siblings I will never encounter in this lifetime.
We don’t have the same skin color.
We don’t bear the same last name.
We don’t speak the same language or eat the same foods.
We don’t share a shred of DNA.
But we have the same Father.
And some of my brothers and sisters (and yours) are enduring fierce persecution from an Islamic terrorist group called ISIS.
They’re being killed. Martyred as their loved ones are forced to watch.
Even children aren’t safe from the assault of ISIS.
It’s hard to wrap my brain around it; but this is actually happening right now.
I can’t see it taking place. It doesn’t directly affect me.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
Just because it’s not real to me doesn’t mean it’s not real.
To the parents of children who’ve been murdered, it’s real.
To thousands of other Christ-followers facing the threats of ISIS, it’s real.
To those children who are now in the arms of Jesus…
well, they’re finally experiencing the realest of the real.
How should a Christ-follower respond in the face of such heart-wrenching terror? How do we react in the midst of such unrest in the world?
Because I don’t know about you, but I’m very tempted to resort to one of two extremes:
And anger, because when I hear a news snippet that forces me to open my eyes and face the facts and acknowledge what’s going on, I’m pretty infuriated by the massacre. To the point that I start to wish harm on the perpetrators. And if I’m being really honest, I get way too much satisfaction from the thought of them burning in hell for their crimes.
What’s a Christ-follower to do? What’s the proper response? Because I’m pretty sure neither of my tendencies is the kind of response my Jesus wants me to have.
God has been so gracious to open my eyes to four stabilizing truths for times of terror:
God is still in charge. My Bible tells me that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:17b). This truth has refocused me following disappointing presidential elections; it has reassured me during distressing economic crises; and it has fortified me in the face of disturbing world events.
First, can I just be really clear that the fact that He’s in charge doesn’t mean He’s causing the heinously evil acts against His children?
But I can’t deny that He is allowing them.
After all, He’s strong enough to stop them.
Though that doesn’t mean He will…
but as long as the terror continues, I can trust with everything I am that it will not be wasted.
It won’t be wasted for those being threatened by ISIS.
It won’t be wasted for those who have been killed.
It won’t be wasted for their loved ones who watched them die.
Because in God’s economy, loss means gain and humility brings exaltation and devastation precedes restoration. God mourns with us in our pain, but even as His heart aches with ours, He’s looking ahead to the victory He knows is coming.
When my God says that all things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28), I have to believe that this includes the very hardest things. The things that seem to be completely void of any good whatsoever.
Because after all, that’s just the kind of miracle He delights to perform.
God’s grace really is enough. And more. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
I can claim it in prayer for my brothers and sisters overseas who have watched their children’s murders.
I can claim it for those running for their lives, fleeing to places of safety.
And I can bank on it remaining true if I’m ever in their mourning, fleeing, suffering shoes.
When troubles multiply, God’s grace is magnified.
This means when we’re facing the hardest things, He picks us up and holds us in His hand.
This means when we’re facing a burden that’s more than we can bear, He comes alongside us and lifts that burden from our slumped shoulders and onto His strong ones.
“God’s grace is enough” isn’t a vague or inconsequential cliche. It’s a lifeline promising the bottomless resources of our generous God in the hardest of times.
ISIS isn’t the enemy. This is a hard one. Because they sure feel like our enemies. They even claim to be our enemies. Quite arrogantly at that. But my God tells me that my fight is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). My fight is against the spiritual forces that oppose Him — Satan.
The members of ISIS are themselves prisoners, whether they realize it or not. They’re blinded to the truth, enslaved by Satan, and used for his evil purposes in the world. Remembering that the very worst of the world’s “bad guys” are themselves prisoners of a spiritual war can soften my heart toward them, allowing me to pray genuinely for their blind eyes to be opened to the truth.
Because my God also tells me that He isn’t willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). And this includes ISIS.
After all, if I allow my heart to be overcome by hatred, how am I any better off than they?
The end is near. I don’t know how much time we have left before Jesus raptures His Church. I don’t know how much longer our freedom will be intact should God see fit to delay Jesus’ coming. But I have to say that it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see American Christians facing persecution in our country within my lifetime, and certainly in my children’s lifetime.
Friends, let’s be alert! Let’s be on guard! Let’s wake up and draw near to God and live like we’re really following Him instead of living for the pursuit of pleasure.
Let’s be fervent in prayer…
Let’s live this way for the sake of our children who need to see our example of what real Christ-following looks like.
And let’s live this way for the sake of our Lord, who has given us much and will require much from us…
Will you live for Him in each one of your remaining moments on Earth?
However many or few they may be.
Written by Jennifer Clarke