Freddie’s “shoo shoo” is his oldest companion. The nickname we give his comfort blanket has stuck, ever since he had trouble pronouncing the word “muslin” as a baby. He has even assigned shoo-shoo a gender (female, since you ask). Shoo-shoo (and – psst! – her washing-day duplicate) enjoy a level of favour in the eye of Freddie that his mere parents can only dream of. Woe betide us if we forget to bring her on an overnight trip! Where Freddie is, shoo-shoo won’t be far away.
Aren’t we all a little bit like that? We feel safer with the physical, with what we can see and touch. Like Thomas, the disciple who famously refused to believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he had seen the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and stuck his fingers right into those wounds (John 20:25), we trust in what we see and touch. The Bible advocates living “by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), but our hearts yearn and strain to live by sight.
Steal, kill and destroy
I recently attended a Christian conference at a major entertainment venue. With 7,000 Christians worshipping together, it was great! I returned home feeling unburdened, strengthened, and surrounded by God’s grace and goodness (don’t hate though – read the next part!). I also returned home to four different communications from four different friends who had been affected by very adverse circumstances and were in need of prayer. Now, I want to suggest that it perhaps isn’t surprising that this sad news followed the conference. Why do I think that?
Friends, there is an enemy out there. Jesus warns in John 10:10 that this enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (that’s right, just before he says the words which underpin this blog: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”). I want to suggest that the enemy was terrified by this Christian conference I attended! I’m certain nothing scares him more than thousands of sisters in Christ (the fact they were all women is perhaps significant too) seeking to know Jesus and then being sent out to make him known. So, working through circumstances, I suspect the devil set up these situations in the lives of my friends – situations which in the natural did not look good. Similarly, on Good Friday when Jesus was crucified, everything looked in the natural to be hopeless. Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah but he underwent the execution of a criminal, mocked by others as nothing more than pathetic. It seemed everything was lost.
Then came Easter Sunday.
Standing in the gap
Jesus’ resurrection teaches that when things look bad, there is, quite simply, more going on than what we see. Whether it’s a massive issue affecting millions of people across the world, or the sorrow of a loved one’s suffering – there is always hope that good will overcome evil. And perhaps when victory is in the air, as it was at this conference, there’s a push from the dark side to discourage us. If we’re vulnerable enough, such discouragement may cause us to give up. But what on earth are we afraid of?! We serve a God who is bigger, stronger. That same power and authority that caused Jesus to rise from the dead is available to us now, to restore our adverse situations. In fact, I can “see” God working right now to bring about restoration for each of my friends, and I will continue to pray he will turn things around for them as he did on Good Friday. I’m certain it’s not God’s will for any of these individuals to fight their battles forever – on the contrary, 1 Peter 1 states that God gives “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead […] an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade […] though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” (emphasis mine). During this little while, while we wait for Jesus to return, or to call our suffering friends home – whichever comes first – you and I have an opportunity to stand in the gap between brokenness and wholeness, between the now and the not-yet, and pray God’s will over these situations. The Bible commands us to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) which is why it’s so important that we live in community – as part of a loving church – so we can love each other in this way.
Which brings us back to Freddie and his shoo-shoo. We can only stand in the gap when we live by faith and not by sight. We may want to cling to what we see, even when what we see is broken and scarred and blemished (the shoo-shoo is pretty grubby, I can tell you! Attempts to wash it are met with what might tactfully be termed “negative feedback”). So, thank God that there is more to life than what we see! And actually, there is an object I can see in my study right now that I can place my confidence in – a Bible. Written by humans, divinely inspired by God (Timothy 3:16), studied for generations, it is a totally “trustworthy message” (Titus 1:9) about God’s good plans for us. It’s evidence I can rely on of a future hope.
Perhaps you’re reading this right now facing what looks like a hopeless situation in the life of someone you care about. Perhaps the situation on your heart is beyond your immediate community – a disaster in another part of the world. You want to intercede for those concerned, you desire for them to overcome, but you feel weary or helpless. I pray with you that those concerned would know how loved they are and discover the wonderful plans God has for their future (Jeremiah 29:11). May they be surrounded by a community who will carry their burdens and pray wholeness over them. May they know that thanks to Jesus’ death and resurrection the enemy is defeated – terminally. May they know that Jesus is constant and unchanging (Hebrews 13:8) throughout times of spiritual battle. And may you as the intercessor know that God delights in the fact that your heart for others reflects his! Remember, you have only to ask and this Jesus can lift your burden of weariness and give you peace.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)
“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Jesus, in Matthew 16:18)