Refuge and Strength

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The winds of war are raging in every corner of the world these days. Hatred, irrational and too often violent, stands in the way of human decency and compassion in countless ways, even in our own country. Madness seems to be in charge everywhere. And as usual, it is the innocent who bear the brunt of the assaults and the burden of their attendant sufferings. There seems to be no end to the madness. The proportions of brutality and depravity, the scenes of utter mayhem that appear on our tv screens during the news, boggle our minds. We can not find words to express our horror, our sadness, or our consternation over the fact that human beings can do these things to other human beings in the name of nationalism, or worse yet, in the name of God. This is the propaganda of hell, not the gospel of God.

War is most often a failure of our humanity, nothing more; nothing less. It is the result of putting our trust in human leaders, or human ideologies, instead of God. It is not the nature of God to command his children to do these kinds of things to one another. God is by nature a creator, not a destroyer. If we are made in the image and likeness of God, as we believe, then, to turn away from that nature, to turn away from God, is the very definition of madness. The peace that we so desire will come only when we willingly submit our wills to the will of the One who is unconditional and unlimited Love. Only then will we be able to truly say, ʺI will fight no more forever.ʺ* For the fact is that humanity is not capable of true, lasting peace and justice without God. Why? Because God is the very source of these transcendent things. The Psalmist understood this when he wrote:

ʺGod is for us a refuge and strength,
An ever-present help in time of distress:
So we shall not fear though the earth should rock,
Though the mountains quake to the heart of the sea;
Even though its waters rage and foam,
Even though the mountains be shaken by its tumult.

Come and behold the works of the Lord,
The awesome deeds he has done on the earth.
He puts an end to wars over all the earth;
The bow he breaks, the spear he snaps, the shield
He burns with fire:

‘Be still and know that I am God,
exalted over nations, exalted over earth!’

The Lord of hosts is with us:
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.ʺ (Psalm 46: 2-4, 9-12)

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When those who believe are in distress, they never fail to remember that God is ever-present. Because of this they never fall victim to fear, anger, or despair. Though everything around them is quaking with fear and the air is filled with defiance and the wild wizardry of war, they keep their hearts and minds focused on God, and in doing so, they keep their senses, and remain true to their God-given nature.

It is our faith in the God of love and mercy that saves us from ourselves. We believe in a God who, instead of destroying us, let go of his divinity to enter into our humanity, even unto death on a cross, in order to redeem us from all the madnesses we as human beings fall into out of pride, avarice, anger, jealousy, lust, gluttony and sloth. All this he did for us out of love. God’s ways are truly not our ways. Pride, ultimately is the source of all of our madness. Humility is its remedy.

The scourge of war will not end until a critical mass of humanity recognizes its dependence on God. When that happens bows will be broken, spears will be snapped, and shields will be burned in the purifying fires of forgiveness and mercy. This grace can only come from God. There is no other source. All else is empty in comparison.

Let us pray with humble hearts for peace in the world. Let us also remember that peace begins in the individual human heart. It is the product of a deep and abiding faith in the God of unconditional love and mercy. Lord, we pray, deepen our faith, strengthen our hope, and increase our love. Let us be among those few who counsel peace every day by our words and by our deeds. We can do nothing without you, Lord. Send us your grace. Amen.

Let us pray this psalm with confidence in God. Let us ask him to fill us with the faith that defies fear and the rage of war. Let us also pray that God might, in his wisdom, stun those who rage across so many lands today bringing the darkness of war upon the innocent, with both insight and sorrow, that they may turn away from the gods of hate and terror.

* Chief Joseph, of the New Perce.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.