From Cold War to Communion: A Psalm for Ukraine

As briefly stated in my previous post, the present situation in Ukraine has deeply affected me in unanticipated ways, and through some increasingly clearly God-ordered circumstances.

My generation, as others before, grew up with constant talk of the Soviet threat. It permeated our pop culture, from less than subtle representation in even our cartoon bad guys to overt mentions by artists like Sting, whose 1985 release has been on replay in my head for days. As children, we were convinced of a common enemy. Yet by high school, we were enthralled with news of change happening on the other side of the world surrounding the fall of the Iron Curtain. We were ready for new exchanges of ideas and culture. Ready to be friends. Ready for peace. Among other artifacts, I even had the t-shirt to prove it. "мир и дружба," it read. "Peace and friendship."

At that point, I had little to no direct connection to that part of the world. It would also be some years before I truly believed in Christ. So I could have never imagined the Lord might be using those youthful concerns and more as a precursor for things much later to come. I am the last person who then would have expected the privilege of working in ministry for now nearing 20 years. Nor could I have anticipated the last several serving alongside one Ukrainian born, getting to exchange stories of what it was like growing up in a parallel time, getting to share uniquely cultural concepts and celebrations, getting to know family and friends who once lived or still serve there. Suddenly, the дружба was real.

Now we find ourselves thrown into a new era, one filled with echoes of the old, mourning together an unprovoked war that we, along with so much of the world, understand simply should not be. What were once the general concerns of youth are now specifically personal, with names and faces attached. And while I grieve, I find myself thankful not only for this unanticipated connection in crisis, but the equally unexpected ability I never had as a kid to pray and process these events as a Christian and with other Christians, all bringing significant views to bear as we look to the Lord.

As I consider various perspectives, it seems no surprise the Book of Psalms has been a great source of focus and encouragement for many, as so much of it gives voice to such emotions as sadness, distress and anger alongside trust in the Lord, particularly in times of evil and unjust attack. A friend has shared snippets of Psalm 36 and Psalm 37 while attempting to head west away from heavy fighting. As the country began to anticipate the reality of an impending invasion, others reported a run on Bibles to the point that demand outpaced supply altogether. One man said he was sharing especially Psalm 31:21 with anyone he could, and I share this psalm in its entirety below as I too spend time with these words.

It's valuable to read any psalm from a variety of angles, including the author's and certainly our own. These might be helpful words to guide our prayers especially for Christians caught up in this war. But even more significantly, so much here anticipates Jesus' own story of unjust attack, including words He said on the cross. Even as we ask and wait for His rescue and vindication, it is in Christ's ultimate, resurrected victory against evil and death that we now find the hope in God expressed throughout. And just as the man sharing with others in Ukraine did, I hope my friends and many others find encouragement here as well.

Psalm 31 (ESV)
    In you, O LORD, do I take refuge;
        let me never be put to shame;
        in your righteousness deliver me!
    Incline your ear to me;
        rescue me speedily!
    Be a rock of refuge for me,
        a strong fortress to save me!
    For you are my rock and my fortress;
        and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;
    you take me out of the net they have hidden for me,
        for you are my refuge.
    Into your hand I commit my spirit;
        you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
    I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,
        but I trust in the LORD.
    I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
        because you have seen my affliction;
        you have known the distress of my soul,
    and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;
        you have set my feet in a broad place.
    Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
        my eye is wasted from grief;
        my soul and my body also.
    For my life is spent with sorrow,
        and my years with sighing;
    my strength fails because of my iniquity,
        and my bones waste away.
    Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach,
        especially to my neighbors,
    and an object of dread to my acquaintances;
        those who see me in the street flee from me.
    I have been forgotten like one who is dead;
        I have become like a broken vessel.
    For I hear the whispering of many—
        terror on every side!—
    as they scheme together against me,
        as they plot to take my life.
    But I trust in you, O LORD;
        I say, “You are my God.”
    My times are in your hand;
        rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
    Make your face shine on your servant;
        save me in your steadfast love!
    O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
        for I call upon you;
    let the wicked be put to shame;
        let them go silently to Sheol.
    Let the lying lips be mute,
        which speak insolently against the righteous
        in pride and contempt.
    Oh, how abundant is your goodness,
        which you have stored up for those who fear you
    and worked for those who take refuge in you,
        in the sight of the children of mankind!
    In the cover of your presence you hide them
        from the plots of men;
    you store them in your shelter
        from the strife of tongues.
    Blessed be the LORD,
        for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me
        when I was in a besieged city.
    I had said in my alarm,
        “I am cut off from your sight.”
    But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy
        when I cried to you for help.
    Love the LORD, all you his saints!
        The LORD preserves the faithful
        but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
    Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
        all you who wait for the LORD!

We wait on Him alone, friends. As evil again disrupts the peace we so long for, the cries of His people do not go unheard by the Prince of Peace, who will bring His rule and justice. Be strong, and let your hearts take courage in Jesus as together in the Lord we cry out for Ukraine.

Top art: Ukrainian Field by Olga Subach on Unsplash

1 comment:

Thanks for reading, and for sharing your thoughts. Have a great day!