I have sat down to write for days but everything I write seems meaningless compared to my lengthy prayer list. A list filled with situations riddled with suffering, grief and pain. Intercessory prayers for people close to my heart who are experiencing the hard reality of life. Stark reminders that life is precious and difficult.
My heart is also heavy and broken for my fellow Americans. We share a human condition, a need for love and live within the borders of a country that claims liberty and justice for all. Yet unbelievable, indescribable crimes continue to be committed against innocent people. Sometimes there are no words, no easy answers. When the future seems scary and the state of our soul seems hopeless, when our hearts are perplexed, discouraged, and despaired, there is something we can do. We can respond and our response will define us.
There is a spiky, flowering evergreen bush native to the coastlines and wastelands of western Europe called a gorse plant. These plants are masters of adapting to their environment. They can withstand sun, drought and even fire. Fire which may initially burn the plant down but not destroy it. Their stalks quickly regenerate and the heat of fire can stimulate their hard seed pods to pop open and begin new life.
Like the gorse bush, we must fearlessly continue to thrive in the environment we have been rooted in. We do not stop growing or blossoming because our surroundings have become rocky, stormy or fiery. Our children, the next generation, are watching how we respond to difficulties. We are modeling (sometimes unknowingly) what to say, how to act, where to turn, and how to pray. With the Lord’s help, we must build in them a sense of confidence and courage in Christ. Confidence in no matter what is happening, God is still in control. We must cultivate a place where they can draw from, a place of fertile faith and new hope, so when the fires of uncertainty and tragedy come they might feel burned but never destroyed.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. –Joshua 1:9 (ESV)
The conifer leaves of the gorse bush are spiky and spiny. Over time, the leaves harden into long, sharp thorns. Yet out of these hardy stalks and pointy thorns comes life. In springtime, fuzzy little buds start to appear and eventually bloom into glorious yellow bursts. Their fragrant blossoms smell of sweet coconut attracting bees and animals to its thorny retreat. The plant becomes a safe haven for birds and animals who find protection among the spikes.
It can be hard to see good in terrible situations but I urge you to look beyond the spikes and spines to find small specks of yellow hope. Do not let times of uncertainty and suffering harden our hearts. Instead of getting caught up in disagreements, let’s find things we have in common. Trade arguments for prayers and disagreements for love.
You may have had to walk through a period of grief and suffering, I would encourage you to be brave and think back to how you felt during the process. Use memories and forgotten feelings as a catalyst of sympathy and empathy. Ask the Lord for a compassionate heart. Be a doer and a helper. Sometimes that may mean sitting in silence, holding the hand of a grieving person, and praying for them when they cannot find the words to pray for themselves. Be a safe haven for people. Invite them to come and see the true Hope. The One who knows more about selfless suffering than any person could ever experience and know. The only One who can bring true peace to our hearts.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (ESV)
So, let our responses be sweet smelling among the tough, hard moments of life. Model, pray, love, and believe. Be patient and do not lose hope. For our responses now will define us later and pave a way for the next generation.