By: Stephen Cowden, CVM E-Learning Coordinator
Do you ever have those moments when the darkness of the world seems overwhelming? Do you know that helpless feeling when the loneliness, fear, and hatred in the world seem to negate the work of the peacemakers? Do you know those times when Jesus’ promise that he has conquered the world (John 16:33) seems so far-fetched that you begin to doubt?
As one who serves in the CVM home office, I get to hear many encouraging reports about how the kingdom of God is growing. I also hear a lot about the immense needs and challenges of people around the world. I regularly recognize our helplessness, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, if we cling to our beliefs that God is sovereign and that God is love, these experiences can deepen our faith.
But what do you when you realize that there are children who ache for the love of someone—anyone—to get them through the day? What do you do when you read about families who cower in the darkness of their homes because they fear what will happen if they venture outside? What do you do when you hear from people whose insecurities have driven them to make antagonism their normal mode of communication?
I don’t know what YOU do, but I’ll share what I do. Despite my naturally stoic personality, moments such as these elicit a visceral response to weep. And as I begin to feel weary from the weeping, my soul prays for mercy: Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy. I’m grateful that this prayer has been ingrained in certain Christian traditions, as it has become fundamental to my faith. Praying for mercy is a simple and profound means of proclaiming Christ’s Lordship over everything while we acknowledge our own powerlessness in light of the great need around us.
Along with mercy, I pray for peace. God’s peace certainly does surpass all understanding, as Paul writes in Philippians 4, because I can’t comprehend how it can be present in a world with such strife. But God’s peace—Shalom—is with us in unimaginable ways.
After I ask for God’s mercy and peace, my thoughts often turn toward how I might be used to spread that peace. St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.” St. Francis is also credited with a prayer that both expresses and challenges my deepest longings, and I invite you to pray it too:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Let us be people of peace today, even as we weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Though the darkness may seem overwhelming, God is still with us.