The world is weeping today for the bloody collapse of a nascent democracy in Asia.
But not only are tears falling; prayers are rising. And history has shown us repeatedly that out of the ashes of suffering, God can raise a phoenix.*
Afghanistan is today a land of terror. Yet, even as the Taliban tightens its merciless grip on a population that for much of a generation has enjoyed a taste of freedom, it is not as if the darkness will ultimately triumph. War is not eternal. And for those who look to God for deliverance, even death does not have the final word.
Some familiar words in the Book of Ecclesiastes remind us of the fact wars ultimately end.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die . . .
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance . . .
a time for war, and a time for peace (Ecclesiastes 3).
While these words are of little or no comfort to those in the midst of the terror. And these innocent people are the ones we must do everything possible to help—especially the children, in which group I most certainly include the young girls forced into sexual slavery through involuntary marriages to the victorious terrorists.
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven . . . a time for war, and a time for peace.” Let us all pray that the season of peace comes soon.
Surviving War’s Cauldron and Discovering New Life
C.S. Lewis entered the trenches of World War One as a confirmed agnostic. His childhood faith had been extinguished before he embarked for the battlefield.
Seriously wounded in the conflict, Lewis emerged from the carnage with a conviction there was no God.
As we all continue to pray for the people of Afghanistan, I found an encouraging article that may offer some hope that God can—ultimately—rebuild something out of broken rubble. Even as we continue to intercede now for the suffering, and seek God’s protection of those who are in acute danger, I encourage you to read this story.
Jeremiah Braudrick was similar in some ways to C.S. Lewis. His story is available in a brief Guideposts article linked here. Allow me to share the article’s beginning, in the hope that you will read his story.
For much of my life, I have assumed that I was a spiritual failure. . . .
Wind back the clock 12 years. I was transitioning to civilian life after eight years of military service, including combat duty in Afghanistan. My marriage was falling apart. I’d pretty much abandoned my faith during my time in the service. I suffered from depression. I was convinced God saw me as a worthless failure, and I agreed.
You know what pulled me out of all that? A quote I saw on Facebook. It was one of those random inspirational quotes people post. It read: “I have found (to my regret) that the degrees of shame and disgust which I actually feel at my own sins do not at all correspond to what my reason tells me about their comparative gravity.”
The language was complicated and formal, like something an Oxford don would write. I heard a simple message: Maybe my feelings of spiritual worthlessness weren’t the final word about me. Maybe I wasn’t the best judge of God’s attitude. Maybe I had a chance after all.
The author’s name? C. S. Lewis. Was that the same C. S. Lewis who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia books I’d read as a child . . ? It was like he knew exactly what I felt and exactly what I needed to hear.
Braudrick’s story of redemption and hope continues today. I encourage you to visit his website after reading his Guideposts story.
There you will find his post entitled “C.S. Lewis Goes to War: Some Silver-Linings in Chaos and Unrest,” which was written nearly a year ago. He describes how Lewis’ wartime experiences transformed him.
His pessimism did not plague his life for long however, as his atheistic façade began to encounter cracks . . . After suffering his wounds, Lewis found himself breathing in the English countryside on a train ride to London where he was sent to heal. Staring out of the window, in both physical and mental recovery, he recognized a slight spiritual opening.
“I think I never enjoyed anything so much as that scenery – all the white in the hedges, and the fields so full of buttercups that in the distance that seemed to be of solid gold,” he wrote a friend. “You see the conviction is gaining ground on me that after all Spirit does exist. I fancy that there is something right outside time and place . . You see how frankly I admit that my views have changed.”
The wounded and strident atheist, after surviving humankind’s bloodiest war, saw beauty and was receptive to the spiritual, perhaps, for the first time as a young adult.
Lewis was not yet a Christian, theism being a waystation in his conversion, but he had encountered Light in the midst of the darkness. Sadly, that was not the experience of all (as “Wilfred Owen, C.S. Lewis, and the ‘Great War’” illustrates).
Let it be our prayer that those suffering today might follow the same path to the One who is the Light, the Way, the Truth and the Life.
* Yes, I realize the phoenix was a pre-Christian myth, but the early church sometimes used it as a symbol of the resurrection. You can see that in Lactantius, and Clement of Rome.