I was emotionally holding it together right until the point when the young man prayed for “my people.” It was our church’s usual post-sermon prayer time, except this time a special guest was standing by my side in front of the congregation. He was a 20-something immigrant whose home country had recently been invaded and whose very existence was in grave danger. This young man’s childhood home was now in a war zone. His family was there too. So he led us in prayer for that war zone. His words began with general truths about God—his mercy and power—but then the prayer got specific. “We pray, Lord, for my people.”
That little word—my—hit me hard. His people were running to bomb shelters, leaving their pets and their possessions behind, hoping that their loved ones were not among the dead. My people were sitting on padded church chairs, sipping locally roasted coffee, and making post-church plans for brunch. The sharp contrast between his people and my people, between dodging bombs and doing brunch, was a moment I will not soon forget.
I am not sure what the headlines are on the day you are reading these words. In my case, they are alarming. People are dying. Peace talks are failing. Threats are intensifying. A war has begun, and the rumors of something catastrophic happening don’t feel unreasonable. If this is how it feels to read the headlines, I cannot imagine how alarming it is to live them.
But before that alarm makes me forget what I believe, I reach for my Bible. Because “wars and rumors of wars” is something that Jesus once mentioned. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed” (Matthew 24:6).
That feels unrealistic, doesn’t it? How can we not be alarmed when pregnant women are giving birth in bomb shelters, the global economy is spiraling, and evil seems to be winning? Answer—You start where my immigrant friend started. You start with God.
Recall his prayer. He intentionally didn’t begin with “my people.” He began with “our Father.” Before he got to the specifics of his war-torn homeland, he reviewed the general truths about the God who rules over all the lands. First think about God’s character, God’s power, God’s mercy, and only then will you be ready to read the headlines without letting them rob you of the peace that goes beyond understanding.
Maybe today you could do the same. Whatever alarming news is on your phone (or at your front door), you could make a list of all the things you know about God. Think of who God is, what God knows, what God does, and what God has done. Think about the presence of a good Father, the promise of resurrection, and the power of the Spirit who dwells in the heart of every Christian. Don’t rush this list, because inner peace requires it to be long.
Finally, pray that the Holy Spirit would remind those caught in war of those same truths, no matter how troubling their world might be. Pray that the words of Jesus would calm their alarmed hearts: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).