3 Reasons to Pray for Ukraine

You probably have heard by now that the President of the Russian Federation has declared war on its smaller and peaceful neighbor, Ukraine. What has been building for months – cloaked in sinister euphemisms and deceit – has given way to open war as Russian missiles and artillery bombard cities, and invading troops pour across the border.

As I write this, Ukraine is feeling the full brunt of the Russian armed forces (against which Ukrainian forces are no match). With this post, I’d like to call on American Christians to pray.

Here are three reasons.

First, this war will surely bring about massive destruction and human suffering for the people of Ukraine. In a war like this, it is not only soldiers who will die. Cities will be destroyed and villages will be wiped from the earth and law and order in this normally peaceful country will be massively disrupted. Refugees and displaced persons will fell across the borders of the countries that neighbor to the West, and we are seeing this even now. Homelessness will abound, and many will likely freeze. As I preached in a sermon a few weeks ago, Christians care about this kind of suffering, so we should pray for Ukraine.

Second, pray because the world is much smaller than it sometimes feels. Ukraine is a long way away from Nebraska and many of us have never been there. Some would have difficulty finding it on a map. But history teaches us that wars like this in Europe seldom stay a long way away. Pray to the Lord, the one who is Sovereign over nations, that this war does not lead to a much greater war, involving many more countries, and bringing about catastrophic suffering and loss of life in the world.

Third, pray for Ukraine because our brothers and sisters are there. The church in Ukraine will surely Third, pray for Ukraine because our brothers and sisters are there. The church in Ukraine will surely suffer during this war. Pray for the believers and for their families. Pray for ex-pat missionaries who have decided to remain (I know a few personally!), and for the witness of Christ in the region. Pray for those who will soon enter a season of persecution, that they might have the strength and that they remain faithful to Jesus, and that many others will “become much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Phil 1:14)” on account of their faithfulness.

My brothers and sisters, I urge you to pray for Ukraine.

Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things That Make You Late for Dinner

Through the years, I’ve received more than pleasure from reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. He had a deep and keen and helpful insight into life and human nature. Take, for instance, the dialog between Gandalf and Bilbo at the beginning of The Hobbit. Gandalf makes it known that he is looking for someone with whom to share in an adventure. Bilbo’s reply:

We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!

Then there is Bilbo, a scene or two later missing his beloved handkerchief, and Dwalin gives him a dose of life in the real world:

You will have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs, and a good many other things, before you get to the journey’s end.

Then, that made-famous-by-the-movie scene in The Fellowship of the Ring in which Frodo complains about the times into which he had been thrust (“I wish it need not have happened in my time.”), and Gandalf imparts to him this nugget of gold:

So do I and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

So.much.insight.

I woke up this morning thinking that I would much rather read an epic historical account than to continue living through one today. Why? Because adventures are nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things that make one late for dinner and forget his pocket-handkerchief. I didn’t choose this epoch. I didn’t choose this COVID-19 era, full of divisiveness and mandates and fear and meanness. Honestly, I am partial to arm chairs and fireplaces and pipes and books – far more than I am to adventures.

But that is not for me to decide. I don’t get to choose my trials or my suffering or my lot in life. God is sovereign and wise and good, and in that goodness and wisdom he has decided that I will live now, through this time (and that is true for you too, by the way). As Isaiah 46:10 says:

I declare the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’

So, with Frodo, what we need to decide is what we will do with the time that is given to us.

And, frankly, we might have to manage without pocket-handkerchiefs and a good many other things before we get to the journey’s end.