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KOEDYKER: How faith can help us through these troubled times

• Oct 10, 2018 at 3:00 PM

It has been a turbulent couple of weeks in the United States of America.

We have seen on our television screens the great division in our country between liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats, and those who believe Judge Kavanaugh and those who believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

The hatred and the anger not only rang through the walls of Congress, but continued on the steps outside the Supreme Court. And the discussion continues on a local level in our West Michigan community.

I’m not sure I have in my lifetime seen such animosity and rage played out on the American stage. It has been ugly and a great disappointment to me to see such hostility and loathing of fellow citizens. It seems as though we have reached such a divide that we can hardly have a conversation with those who differ with us.

I was expressing this frustration with an elder in church this past Sunday, and his comment was helpful. He said, “John, I have come to the point that I just leave these things up to the Lord. After all, He is really in charge, and He will work things out.”

I liked what he said. And there is certainly some comfort in falling back on the providence of God. We human beings are certainly responsible for our actions. But, in the end, God is in charge. We may not always realize that, but my elder friend is right.

Yes, there is much division and discord. People disagree with each other and may even end up hating each other. But, ultimately, God will have His way.

There is a wonderful verse in the Bible (Romans 8:28) which says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.”

Another source of assurance to this is found in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 27. There the question is asked, “What do you understand by the providence of God?” The answer is as follows: “Providence is the almighty and ever-present power of God by which He upholds, as with His hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty — all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from His fatherly hand.”

Obviously, it takes faith to believe that. And I will be the first to admit, I don’t always immediately see what God is up to. Often it takes a while to find that out, and sometimes we only can see it many years later when we look back. Then we are often led to say, “Oh, so that’s what God was doing! That is why God allowed such and such a thing to happen.” God often has a plan much greater and far beyond what we could perceive.

The apostle Paul has a great benediction in Ephesians 3:20 that is wonderfully encouraging to us short-sighted individuals. There he describes God as being “able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or think.”

An absolutely essential part of faith in troubled times is prayer: prayer not only for ourselves, but prayer for all people, including those with whom we disagree.

For many years, my aunt had a plaque on the wall of her kitchen. It said, “Prayer changes things.” I believe that. But I also believe that prayer can change us! Hatred and bitterness for others can be transformed into compassion and a sincere caring spirit. That is because, when we pray to the God who is love, His love becomes our love and we are enabled to love even those who might otherwise be considered our enemies.

That is the miracle of “the Gospel,” which literally means “good news.” And it is truly good news! It is good news which begins with a basic faith and trust that God has a plan for this world and that He is working that plan out. It is a plan that may sometimes seem a mystery to us. But it is a plan in which we are very much involved as we live out, in real time, the challenge to love the people of this world the same way that God does.

— By the Rev. John Koedyker, pastor of congregational dare at First Reformed Church, Grand Haven.

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