Praying for our nation today—and trusting in God for tomorrow
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A verse from Jeremiah caught my eye the other day: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7).
Jeremiah was speaking to the people of Israel, who were then captives in Babylon, the metropolitan cultural center of the Middle East.
“Pray for Babylon?” the Israelites must have thought. “Pray for our captors? For this broken city with its pantheon of false gods?” Jeremiah himself must have scratched his head since God kept him busy prophesying Babylon’s doom throughout the reign of five kings.
I confess I don’t pray very often for my own broken city, or for America herself. That’s not good. But sometimes, it’s just so hard to see how God is going to pull this Hindenburg out of the flames. Meanwhile, if Scripture is our guide—which it is, of course—it seems America may already be under judgment.
But might God send us a Cyrus? Some powerful leader who will crush raging anti-Christian sentiment and allow us to rebuild our country’s Biblical foundations? Some say Donald Trump was a Cyrus. Others say he did more harm than good. I say he was a mixed bag. Nevertheless, the Cyruses of history, along with God’s penchant for screenplay-worthy reversals of fortune, give me hope that burgeoning evil and unrest are signs that history is unfolding exactly as it should.
Here’s what I mean: A friend of mine very closely tracks the political winds, which have lately blown hard against conservatives. “With all that’s going wrong in our country,” she asked me recently, “how do you wake up happy in the morning?”
“Scripture says it has to be this way,” I said. “Things have to get worse before Christ returns. To see the Scriptures being fulfilled in my lifetime builds my faith.”
“Let me get this straight,” she said wryly: “You wake up happy in the morning because the world is ending?”
I laughed. “Exactly!”
Not happy as in taking joy in suffering. But happy as in hope—in God’s plan, however inscrutable it may be.
“We are sometimes ready to fear that God’s designs are all against us,” Matthew Henry wrote in his commentary on Jeremiah 29, “but as to his own people, even that which seems evil, is for good. He will give them, not the expectations of their fears, or the expectations of their fancies, but the expectations of their faith; the end he has promised, which will be the best for them.”
And yet, just when a Rev. Henry bucks me up, I encounter scenes that threaten to put tally marks in my despair column. Take the art gallery I visited last week, for example. The resident potter was welcoming and kind. Short and curvy in a womanly way, she wore a bright smile under her white-blond hair. She also wore a full-on white-blond “lampshade” mustache, and seemed slyly proud that the disconnect caught me off-guard. Later the same day, I noticed that the lanky boy bagging my groceries at Trader Joe’s wore two buttons on his T-shirt: “Hi, my name is Ramona,” said one. The other declared his feminine pronouns.
These broken scenes in yet another broken city had me a little nostalgic. Think Archie and Edith Bunker singing, “Those were the days.”
When the people of Israel returned from captivity in Babylon, Jerusalem was a broken city. But under God’s almighty hand, they overcame corrupt officials, antagonistic historians, and, no doubt, the B.C. ACLU, to begin rebuilding. When the new foundation was complete, Israel paused to celebrate this new work. But some among them wept, thinking of the city that used to be.
Like many of us, they were caught between the way things are and the way they used to be. But pining for the past cannot fix the future. And, having only a light for our paths and a lamp for our feet, we cannot see how these evil days will lead to “that which will be best.” My plan is to start praying for the welfare of my broken city today and to trust in God for tomorrow.
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