In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. – Hebrews 5:7
It is a long time since this nation suffered. Individuals in our nation and regions of the nation have faced severe trials, but they faced them with the support of the rest of the nation mostly unaffected. Those in NY City on 9-11 and in New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina are the two that first come to mind.
I remember waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 am as a teenager in the seventies to drive the family station wagon a few miles to the nearest open gas station to sit in line for an hour and a half to get gas for mom to drive to work. But over the past forty years life in the U.S.A. for many has been like a graph of the stock market, mostly a perpetual climb upward toward increased prosperity.
Prosperity has its dark side. Comfort, ease, pleasure are not good conditions for the human soul to marinate in over the long haul. We tend towards ungratefulness, arrogance, pettiness and self centeredness. Suffering, conversely, cuts quickly through the platitudes and glibness of a culture when it comes. We enter quickly into the flesh of life: pain, fear, an awareness of our weakness and mortality.
A culture is known by its gods. Like Babylon, we praise items of prosperity:
They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. – Daniel 5:4
But the Christian Faith centers on a cross. And it promotes humility and sacrifice and suffering. Maybe that’s why there is not much attraction for such a God in the schools and markets and twitter feeds of the U.S. Maybe that’s about to change. I don’t know.
Either way, as one who has lived the vast majority of his life “on prosperity row,” I have to now assess the preparedness of my own soul. Am I ready to not just endure suffering, but to move towards those who will be suffering and in fear around me? How much I need to learn from my brothers and sisters of faith in other countries and previous centuries!
Here is my hope: I have a savior who is “acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3), “near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18), hears “my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Ps. 116:1), “who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 146:6), “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11), and whose “mercy is very great” (I Chron. 21:13).
May we dwell on these great truths, strengthen our faith and draw near even now to the Lord our God for ourselves, our family, our nation and mankind. He has called us for such a time as this.