It’s difficult to think about anything these days except the war in Ukraine. It dominates the news and we must all despair at the suffering we see. Of course, it’s happened in other parts of the world recently but I don’t recall the media having such open access and ability to bring the war into my living room. We saw it developing over several weeks before Putin finally launched his attack. It’s proved to be a huge mistake because so far it’s only served to show the strength of Ukraine and the weakness of Russia. The Russian bear has the strength of a teddy bear. Unfortunately, it’s led to Russia doing what it does best, giving up their original plans and indiscriminately killing whoever gets in their way, and we are seeing many civilians die.
Many people in Ukraine seem to have a strong faith in God. Today I came across this brief story; “One night in the bomb shelter, a woman “with tears in her eyes said how thankful she was to have neighbours” like Pastor Benjamin Morrison and his family. “If there is something different,” they told her, “it is only because of the hope Christ gives us.” Pastor Morrison is an American missionary who has stayed in Ukraine and who has developed a new, bomb shelter ministry, praying and reading Psalms with fearful people. It’s not something he ever imagined doing, but God has his plans even in war and today Pastor Morrison is a part of God’s plan for Ukraine.
We can never understand why these things happen or why God allows them. After all, if there is a God surely he could end this war immediately and bring peace back to that troubled part of the world? Well, yes he could, but I’ve learned over the years that God doesn’t always do what I think makes sense. I look at the small picture immediately before me but God has a wider vision encompassing the whole world, and he often allows things that seem shocking to us but they are necessary to fulfil his ultimate purpose of drawing people back to himself.
I have no idea what God’s plans are for Ukraine, Russia or Belarus, but in the Bible, there is a man who faced a crisis, asked God for help and was stunned by God’s response. The man was called Habakkuk and he lived in Israel at a time when people were wicked and he wanted God to sort them out. God did, but not how Habakkuk had envisaged it happening. God’s solution was an invasion from a strong and fierce enemy, the Babylonians. “Look at the nations and watch — and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own. They are a feared and dreaded people; they are a law to themselves and promote their own honour … They mock kings and scoff at rulers.” (1)
Does it sound familiar? They mock kings and scoff at rulers? One thing we know about Putin is that he is dismissive of other world leaders unless they agree with him. The Babylonians were similar and this was God’s way of turning Israel back to himself. If that answer doesn’t satisfy you, it doesn’t satisfy me either, neither did it satisfy Habakkuk. He said to God, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (2) God answered by telling Habakkuk that worse was to come for the Babylonians. “The cup from the LORD’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.” (3)
Habakkuk was able to trust that God knew what he was doing. His people must be punished to draw them back to God but far worse was coming to the Babylonians. None of it can be really clear to us because who are we to understand the mind of God? Besides, what happened in Israel may not be the same as what is happening in Ukraine. It’s not for me or anyone else to suggest that Ukraine is being punished and please don’t think I’m saying that. All I know is that the people of Ukraine are suffering and God is aware of it. One day he will act in judgement on those who seek to destroy them, so we do what we can to support the Ukrainian people and let God act in his way and time.
- Habakkuk 1:5-7
- Habakkuk 1:13
- Habakkuk 2:16,17