Pause for thought: Finding Peace in the Storm
Finding Peace in the Storm
Unfortunately, it’s said that at any one moment in time there will be at least 15 regional wars and armed conflicts taking place somewhere in the world. But many of these go unnoticed and unreported back here in the UK, taking place, as many do, far away from our shores with little impact on our own lives or livelihoods.
The current conflict in Ukraine feels very different though. There has been comprehensive coverage across all media platforms since it began a couple of weeks ago, with much debate and speculation about how and to what extent we as a nation ought to react to what is happening.
I’ve heard it reported a number of times that it’s the first real conflict in Europe since World War 2, although that isn’t strictly true. There were several armed conflicts in the Balkan Region following the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s with significant loss of life, including the Slovenian War of Independence, the Croatian War of Independence, and the Bosnian and Kosovan Wars, both of which included at least some level of involvement from NATO.
When I look at the current situation in Ukraine, with the ominous build-up of Russian forces to their east which took place prior to the invasion at the end of February, I can’t help thinking of a parallel situation many centuries ago, when the people of Judah were faced with a similar threat from the mighty Babylonians to their east which we read about in several books of the Old Testament.
In the early-6th century BC, Judah was subjected to, and finally overwhelmed by, a series of Babylonian invasions. In 587/6 BC, Jerusalem was besieged and destroyed by the second Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, who subsequently exiled the Judeans to Babylon. The fallen kingdom was then annexed as a Babylonian province.
With the crisis in Ukraine once again bringing conflict and uncertainty to the European mainland, our primary calling as Christians is to pray for, and actively pursue, peace and justice. And whilst it’s only natural to feel apprehensive about what the future holds, it is important to be reminded that God is in control. We are not left defenceless by God to be overwhelmed by the storm, but he blesses us with what we need to rise above it.
There are two powerful images from the Old Testament which have impacted me in recent days.
The first is from Isaiah 40 v 31. Here, in their time of need and facing a build up on their borders from Babylon, the people of Judah are urged by God to renew their strength by placing their hope in him. They are promised that they will not grow weary or faint, but rather they will soar on wings like eagles. Incredibly eagles can fly to heights of 10,000 feet or more to find a safe place to escape the buffeting storms below.
And the second comes from Psalm 29. Here David compares God to a thunderstorm, so powerful that it strips the trees bare and shakes the land. Nothing can stand in its way. But having set out God’s credentials, in the final verse he reminds us that it is this same Almighty God, enthroned as King forever, who gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace.
As we pray for the people of Ukraine, and all those whose lives are threatened by war and bloodshed, let us remember that our own hope and peace is found in none other than the same Almighty God who from the very outset of our world, has brought order out of chaos.
The Revd Christopher Burr