Day 4: Looking up towards God in the midst of our own devastation

by Jin Park

How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave.
Lamentations 1:1 NIV

‘On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord , the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. ‘
2 Kings 25:8-11 NIV

Commonly attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, the book of Lamentations begins with the above verse describing how Jerusalem, the city where God chose to place his Name, lay in ruins. The devastation of Jerusalem, the walls, the Palace, the Temple, and everything that had symbolized God’s favor upon the people of Judah was complete. Only the poorest of the poor were left in Jerusalem to take care of what was left. The conditions were not much better for Jerusalem when Nehemiah must have heard news about the city.
Such devastation is unimaginable to most of us and, many times, not relatable as a people who have never experienced war and the horrifying realities that it brings to people caught in it. These are the news that we read in the newspapers or watch on TV and internet. If you are a Korean national in your 40’s, this may be the story of our grandparents’ generation who lived through the Korean War. This may be the story of the people in the parts of our world that are ravaged by war.

While such a physical hardship may not be so relatable, there are many trials during our relatively comfortable lives in Korea (and other places in the world) the that really shakes us to our core. Life-threatening physical or mental disease, accidents, ruinous financial hardships, abusive and unhealthy relationships, addictions, etc., can occur just about anytime during our lifetime here on earth. When these “devastations” hit our lives, what is our response? When events that are out of our control destroy our livelihoods that took years or decades to build and shake the core foundations that we built our lives around, how do we arise and rebuild?

Discussion Question: Have you ever encountered a life-changing trial in your life? Share as the Spirit leads.

My family is most well recognized at the Nations Church by our number: we are a family of 6. There was a time when that number was still at 3 and my wife and I were joyfully expecting to add to that number. However, in a span of few months, our dreams were crushed, and we were left in a state that I can only describe as ‘gasping for air’. Long story short: we lost our son at 7 months into pregnancy due to congenital heart defects. The pain, still to this day, is intense. I had, at the time, long adopted bottling and pushing aside emotions as primary means of dealing with emotions. This experience, however, was like trying to hold back a hurricane with a small umbrella—my bottle was too small and the emotional torrents too great for me to budge. I can only share this story as a man /husband /father whose perspective and emotional experience admittedly do not have the kind of depth of grief that my wife has had to bear.
These kinds of experiences reveal to us the true foundations we built our lives around. During our ordeal, we constantly had to make decisions based on faith. Even the most well-meaning people in our lives, such as medical professionals and family members, were trying to convince us to ‘let our son go’—a euphemism that I still cannot fathom how a doctor could recommend to parents. In the end, you find out rather quickly just how deep your convictions go. How far are you willing to endure the present circumstances I order to stand by God’s Word and the principles and precepts found in it? We were determined to keep fighting for our child till the end. Being somewhat of an overachiever, I was prepared to go the distance and even started to plan out how to finance the surgeries that this child will need. However, all my efforts came to an end when our son passed away. I felt like I had prepared for a marathon only to find out there will be no marathon. The feeling of emptiness was soon filled by pain and grief. Over the years, I found out that there are many families who have had similar painful experiences.

Prayer Point #1. Let us pray and support those in the body of Christ who are suffering.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Saints, aren’t you glad that there is hope? Jesus Christ is our hope for rebuilding our lives after our devastation. Our devastation/trials show us the nature and state of our own faith. As grave as making life and death decisions to the smallest of everyday decisions to standup for God’s truth, we can get a glimpse of where our own faith stands. This reality should not drive us away from God as there is no condemnation for us who are in Christ. No, let us see our own faith as it is and let us “suffer well” so that our trials will not only refine and bolster our faith but that it will “result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Let’s also come alongside our brothers and sisters in the body that may be suffering through their own trials. We are not alone in our pain and struggles. We are one body, joined together by God. We need to arise together, supporting each other and lifting each other up.

Prayer Point #2. Let us pray that God will be the center of our rebuilding / restoring / healing process.

Being task-driven as I am, I had taken to the grieving process like it was a mission from God that I was supposed to go and perform on my own. For years, my approach was “God has given me a task of healing so I will go on and keep myself busy until I don’t feel hurt anymore.” This could not have been further from the truth. Just like my children who come running to me when they are hurt, God desires us to grieve and hurt and heal in His arms. As I see it now, my approach was, in fact, self-centered. It was about me and my ability to somehow deal with the pain and grief and make myself better so that I can present the results to God to win His approval. For many years, I kept trying to “deal with it” on my own, only to find myself under the crushing weight of guilt as I wondered if somehow my faith was not big enough, deep enough for me to “heal” (more like just wanting the pain to end). Through one of Pastor Young-Ho’s sermons, God revealed to me that I am supposed to feel those emotions; yes, even after 10 years. For me, time most definitely did not heal. My “healing” isn’t that I stop feeling the emotional pains. No, my “healing” is in knowing that I can turn to Jesus Christ and grieve in Him rather than in my own despair. My healing is in the freedom from guilt of my fleshly performance-driven nature that kept me bound in my own pain.

“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭147:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

God gathers the exiles and builds up Jerusalem i.e. He rebuilds! Not only that but He heals the broken-hearted. What does rebuilding look like? Most obvious way that God has rebuilt my life is that He has given me 3 more children. Another way that rebuilding occurring in my life is being able to serve at church with joy once again without feeling inadequate and guilty. Whatever form it takes in your life, we must let it center around God. It is so easy to make the rebuilding about us. We must resist this and focus our lives around Jesus who is the source our healing. He is the one rebuilding. Jesus must receive the honor and glory for all that has been rebuilt in your life. Praise the Lord! The rebuilding does not rest on your shoulders! How fitting to praise His Name!

Brothers and sisters, let us arise and rebuild.

Discussion Question: How might God be leading you in rebuilding? What does rebuilding look like for you?

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