Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tussles of Faith

Jean P. Purcell


Tussles of faith are bouts of strong questions to God, for understanding in complicated times. In tussling with God, I speak to him, not about him, and I believe he will give an answer. I don't know when or where, but an answer or insight will come. When that happens, I see again that myself alone could not reveal that. If you want another idea about tussles, I would say that mine remind me of my picture of Jacob wrestling with an angel. He was wrestling with God, with heaven. What prompted him was spiritual, earthly, and private.

I used to tussle with God much more than I do now. I learned over years he always comes through for me and others in the hardest times if one stays steady in faith and does not wrest the issue from God's hands. God has also surprised me with the way things have turned out when I have laid all on the line, by faith.  

Look at the world now - every horrible thing we can think of, and more, is happening. In the not-so-distant past, a spreading tsunami killed 250,000 people. Life ended in seconds and a few hours for so many thousands of people. The earth itself is trembling, quaking, groaning, and records show this as nearly a current state around the world. Threats of global hunger, warming climates, and droughts bombard documentaries. I wonder, how can a young person bear such widely spread information or prognostication daily?

"Wars and rumors of wars" is biblical language, and the facts are in our faces, as has been the case for every generation. Now, however, the pace seems to pick up. Fear abounds over terrorist plots, globally. Paris killings happened only three weeks ago. It seems like yesterday. Then San Bernadino, CA, was hit less than two weeks ago, the second deadliest terrorists' attack since 9-11, I heard.

Media reporting often increases fears after the fact. We hear of many "first ever" and "never before" and other "worst ever" events. Geneva, Switzerland, had terrorist hunts last week. One journalist said that the city was on edge and "for the first time" officers in peaceful Geneva carried rifles openly. When I first visited Geneva, 1986, I noticed military vehicles on the grass alongside the runway. Inside the airport, officers walked with weapons at the ready, gripped double-handed, pointed sideways and down.

Harkening back to the Ottoman Empire, whose inroads in Europe were pushed back after WWI (the part played eventually by Turkey is interesting reading) today's terrorist militia aim for a new, global caliphate. They target civilians and military people and gain ground through terror cells. Intentions to bring about a global caliphate with mini-caliphates are deadly serious. However, as happened when Churchill warned about coming disaster prior to World War II, many hearing today's news refuse to believe that it could overtake "us." This is a view expressed by some leaders in the U.S. Yet, every "little" success by caliphate disciples advances control against freedom. Ignoring the actions of nation-grabbing enemies could transform the future in dark and vicious ways. Europe and America woke up almost too late, in Hitler's day.  

Old wounds are often not allowed to heal in today's world. Louder voices and growing numbers of people today protest and seek revenge or citizen justice, while circles of suspicion expand. "We demand" is a theme now threatening university and community safety and, possibly, institutional survival sometimes. As has been said before, there is a big price to pay when ignoring damage done by small successes of chaotic actions.  

Any of those reports can start another of my "tussles" with God, crying out to him in fear, complaint and questions. I am not alone in this. The biblical psalms are full of this. I read in them the same problems we learn about today, including the wicked prospering, the evil succeeding, the wealthy growing in power and ambition. I read of foolish people following what is wrong and good people suffering for it. I see strong chaos and weakening responsibility and duty.

I pray more as I read about Then, Now, and the Future: 

"'Vengeance is mine,' says the LORD."
"Forgive your enemies," says Jesus,
"Pray for those who spitefully use you."
"Trust in the LORD and do not lean on your own understanding."
"...I am with you always," said Jesus.
He also said, "I am coming again, in the last days."

All war will cease. All abuse will end. All disease and pride will be finished. The Kingdom of our God will reign in a new heaven and earth. "Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord."

Are we ready for that great and glorious Day, you and I? Are we praying unceasingly, wherever we are, whatever we are doing? From such times flow the works of Christ in and through us, for us and for others. There will also be a Day of Judgment, no question about it. It will attend to wickedness done on the earth in high and low places; there will be no chance to bargain or seek parole. I do not know if the two days are one, and I do not need theological tussles about that, I am so relieved to say! I just know that only the Son of God, the Advocate, Jesus Christ, will stand with believers at his return and at the court of God's justice. Jesus paid the ransom for every person with faith in him. They "will not perish, but have eternal life." 

It continually amazes that Jesus willingly laid down his life for us to be relieved of our stupid and evil sins...the ransom paid with his own life and blood. "By his stripes we are healed." He rose again from the dead, the First among many of his redeemed heirs and has promised that he prepares, even now, a place for us, "many mansions." The trusting homeless and the innocent abused might be the first among all. I have read how he honored with his attention the widow who gave to God the last of her earthly coins. I do not argue about anything, nor do I want ever to tussle again with the One who has made great and glorious promises to all of his children.

He gave me a new heart. He transforms my thinking. He forgave me my wrongs toward others. In addition, toward him, Almighty God, omniscient and glorious. He draws me with his love so deeply revealed through Christ, regarding his suffering and dying on the rugged, cruel cross of Calvary; he proved himself at the empty tomb. He proves himself every day to those who believe in him. "He [God] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through His Son... ."

I want to be among his throngs at my last moment or on that Last Day, however it happens.  Meanwhile, I'm reading a book that reminds me that people near imprisonment, torture, and death...regular Europe in 1938, finally knew that a terrible darkness was on its way and would soon engulf them and the way of life they had known.Then, Hitler's army was marching and flying closer and closer. Today, many real threats punctuate our days and loom closer in larger number. I want to be among those Christians facing the fearful future on earth with one eye on the glorious future God has for us. Nothing can kill our spirit and nothing can rob us of eternal life with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

On this day, I hope for an abundance of Amen to the enduring promises of God.  May his Word go forth in power wherever it is read.