I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)
Of late, my heart has been heavy with sorrow, confusion, and even a little hopelessness over the state of this world and the struggles facing the Church. It isn’t that I don’t understand the nature of Christianity and the suffering that comes to believers because of the evil present all around us. I know that Jesus said that the truth He would bring would be like a sword of division (Matthew 10:34). I know that the devil is alive and well in this broken world and continues to incite us to follow the worst of our sinful impulses. I have seen the “signs of the times” and think of Matthew 24. All this begs the question: How shall we answer the evil we see in the world and the Church?
I have witnessed the level of uncivil discourse in this country rise to such extremes that it would seem that silence and compliance is the only prudent response. I have seen terrible wrongs done by men claiming to be servants of Christ and wondered whether it is worth it to even believe anymore. In my anger and sadness, I have been tempted to respond with impulsive and vengeful words and actions. But like Asaph, I am blessed to say, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children” (Psalm 73:15). So many wonderful Scriptures have been a true comfort to me in this climate of scandal, human struggle, and political unrest. I would like to offer seven practical responses to the evils of the world that Catholics can hold onto as we move forward.
Our Number One Job as Believers: to Give Glory to God
Many of my evangelical friends behave as though our first job is saving souls. Their sense of urgency to reach the lost often puts me to shame. And I am so amazed at my Catholic brothers and sisters who are totally sold on living lives of holiness and service. But these are how we bring glory to the One who has given us life and salvation and everything we call good. If honoring our heavenly Father and reflecting the love that He has shown us isn’t first and foremost in our minds and hearts, our actions mean nothing. Every breath and beat of our hearts should be a song of praise and glory to the God who is our all in all.
Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name;
worship the LORD in holy attire. (Psalm 29:1-2)
Examine Our Own Hearts Before We Stand in Judgment of Others
This doesn’t mean we can’t call out sin when we see it, or stand up for victims of injustice. But too many of us are quick to rush to give an emotional response to those on the other side of the argument or to ascribe blame without understanding the bigger picture. An examination of conscience helps to fix our focus in heaven’s direction, changing our perspective on our current situation. It keeps us humble and allows us to see with new eyes what is most important and exactly where our response should lie.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Come with Clean Hands and Hearts as We Seek the Wisdom of God
Once we examine our hearts, we must cleanse ourselves of sin, search out God’s truth, and temper our calls for justice with mercy and sober understanding. If we are seeking justice, rather than vengeance, blessing rather than entrapment in pride and selfishness, we must come clean and approach God’s throne for the wisdom we need to work toward lasting solutions. Too many of us are quick to preach blame but slow to act in love.
Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false,
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the LORD,
and vindication from the God of his salvation. (Psalm 24:3-5)
Seek to Honor God and Grow in Truth Through Your Actions
If we are seeking real solutions to the struggles and sins of this world, we need to move beyond our words into actions that reflect our passion for loving others as Christ has loved us. We don’t necessarily need to solve the overwhelming issues before us, but we can share the love of Jesus through deeds done in His name. We may not change the whole world, but we can certainly change our little corner of it. Are there hurting people who need our comfort? Can we join with brothers and sisters in prayer, repentance, and works of charity? Rather than becoming caught up in condemning others, let us seek to bring the light and love of Christ to bear upon our small spheres of influence.
Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.
By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:18-22)
Leave the Heavy Lifting to the Lord
In the end, surrender to the fact that God will handle the hard stuff. Nothing corrupt men can do will ultimately stand against the will of God. God calls us to trust Him, let go of our worries and join with Him in the blessed burden He gives us. As we live out our calling and do the works we have been called to do, we can rest in the assurance that our Lord will take care of everything else.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
Become People of Persistent, Patient, and Powerful Prayer
Too many times we make God the last stop on our “anxiety tours.” We seek out friends, put our faith in politicians, seek personal security, or try to tough it out as we face down this broken world. But the real answer to all our woes begins and ends with prayer. And when we pray, we must pray with faith, perseverance, and gratitude, as we make our requests to God. Even when we don’t know how to pray or what exactly to pray for, we can trust that God, through His Holy Spirit, will get the message and respond in a way that moves beyond our understanding and gives way to lasting peace.
Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Remember that God is In Control and Loves Us with a Perfect Love
There are so many verses in the Bible about God’s sovereign control over His creation that a simple search will yield pages of comfort for the believer. Some of the more familiar include Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 23, and Isaiah 55:8-11. All of these Scriptures share one common, powerful truth: that God is all-powerful and that God is all-loving. Otherwise, He could not be God. The troubles of this world, the scandals in the Church, and the unrest in our own hearts will all pass away, yielding to the what remains—faith, hope, and love (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). In the end, the storms of this life will cease and God’s peace and perfection will prevail.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39)
So beloved, when the world trembles, when the evil appears to be winning, when God seems distant, and when you feel alone and afraid, remember that Jesus Christ remains the same—yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The Church has weathered many storms and will weather these as well. As you come before the Lord in prayer, take with you the holy word, Selah—which essentially calls us to pause and take in the awesomeness of each moment God reveals to us in His great love. Rest in the comfort of the Mighty One who will bring order to chaos, peace to strife, and the unity of His love to the division of men.
Let us conclude this brief essay with the beautiful words from Psalm 46. Let this mighty Scripture be your comfort as you consider how you should answer the evils of this world with the power and presence of our Great God!
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. (Selah)
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;
God will help her right early.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Selah)
Come, behold the works of the LORD,
how he has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,
he burns the chariots with fire!
“Be still, and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth!”
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.