Like many of you I am really struggling to come to terms with what is unfolding in the Middle East. My heart is heavy, rarely have I seen evil so prevalent in our world. Where is it all leading? What hope do we have for peace when so many people hate the way they do? At times like this I find the best way to gain strength and hope is to look back, to reflect on how God has strengthened and helped his people in previous generations. Here is an extract from a book entitled God on Mute by Pete Greig; I highly recommend it to you.
A story is told of the Nobel Prize-winning Russian novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he was imprisoned by Stalin in a Siberian gulag. One day, slaving away in sub-zero temperatures, he finally reached the end of his endurance. Discarding his shovel, he slumped onto a bench and waited for a guard to beat him to death. He’d seen it happen to others and was waiting for the first blow to fall. Before this could happen, an emaciated fellow prisoner approached Solzhenitsyn silently. Without a word of explanation, the prisoner scratched the sign of the cross in the mud and scurried away. As Solzhenitsyn stared at those two lines scratched in the dirt, the message of the cross began to converse with his sense of despair. ‘In that moment, he knew that there was something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that the hope of all mankind was represented in that simple cross. And through the power of the cross, anything was possible.’ Picking up his shovel, Alexander Solzhenitsyn slowly went back to work.
Nothing but the message of God’s suffering could have inspired Solzhenitsyn to return to work that day. Only the gift of God at Golgotha could imbue the gulag with fresh possibilities. More than just the comforting knowledge of divine empathy (great as that is) the cross rekindled in Solzhenitsyn the actual hope that everything was possible for God – even in a Siberian concentration camp, where all the evidence suggested otherwise. In fact, especially in such a place.
The Christian gospel is the story of a God who breaks the rules of possibilities – often when we least expect it and in ways we could never have predicted. Living with unanswered prayer, I need a big God; an awesome, unspeakably amazing God; a death-defying, eternal God; a God who dies in Siberian concentration camps and senseless car crashes in order to destroy death and release an indestructible life. I need a God whose promises are certain; a God who’s been there before and can walk with me and counsel me and pray for me and prepare a place for me and who can even make all things work together for good. This, then, is the confession we cannot afford to compromise, even when it propels us into the realms of mystery and confusion: Our God is our Father, loves us completely, is all-powerful and will ultimately make all things new.
The writer of Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.”