When I am confronted with hopeless situations in my own life or my people’s, the temptation to circle the drain emotionally is almost overwhelming. As a One on the Enneagram temperament scale (see links below) I’m already tilting at windmills, trying to right all wrongs. When a situation becomes “hopeless,” things are seriously akimbo, some which can’t be rectified on this side of heaven. This is when I am most thankful for God’s assurances in his Word, that He is in control when life is out of control. His compassion is as near as the mention of his name.
Phrases like, “There’s nothing more we can do,” and “There’s no way out of this,” or “This can’t be fixed,” used to take me down to a low, scary place where I questioned God’s goodness and love. When my husband nearly died of pneumonia, at the age of 27, I railed at God for a few days before godly friends and family guided me back to the narrow road of faith. I wish that was my only memory of questioning God’s character in painful circumstances.
These days, I tell my emotions to carry on in the back seat a while as my spirit drives the rest of me to better places, many of them in Psalms, like 119:76, 9:9, and 46:1. God’s comfort is unfailing when everything and everyone else is failing, unstable. There is a gem of a story about this topic hidden in the book of Nahum. I say hidden because, so few believers take the time to read the minor prophets. My pastor husband calls them the “white pages” of the Bible. I missed the story entirely until yesterday, when I took the time to learn about this interesting prophet and his audience.
First, Nahum is part two of the story of Nineveh, with the book of Jonah being part one. The city’s repentance in Jonah’s day, lasts about a hundred years before they once again become bullies, conquer the northern kingdom of Israel and threaten the lower kingdom of Judah. Judah’s troubles don’t end there. Their ruler, King Manasseh, ranks on the top five evil Israelite king list, and leads his countrymen into idolatry and human sacrifice. Imagine being a sincere follower of Jehovah in a homeland melting down its morals at idol’s feet and about to be invaded by Assyria. I wonder if they felt hopeless.
God selects Nahum as the prophet of the hour. Most of his prophecy first assures his countrymen that Nineveh’s aggressions will not go unpunished. Every evil thing they’ve perpetrated against God’s people, God will now rain down on them. Read the book and visualize for yourself, it’s a very short read.
Secondly, God might choose to stop speaking to Hebrews so immersed in sin they are sacrificing their own children in the fires of Moloch and Baal, but he doesn’t. Instead, he sends them a prophet whose very name means “comfort.” God sends compassion to his few, faithful followers, with skin on. Isn’t that what we need the most when we are facing hopeless situations with no easy resolutions?
Inside God’s detailed plans for bringing justice to Nineveh and the Assyrian empire, he inserts treasures of comfort for those still listening, desperately trying to obey him in their fallen culture.
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” Nahum 1:.7
“The Lord will restore the splendor of Jacob like the splendor of Israel, though destroyers have laid them waste and have ruined their vines” Nahum 2:2.
We need lots more Nahums in the body of Christ, people who lovingly remind us of God’s faithfulness and goodness. I want encouragers that follow Nahum’s example. Gently remind me that God sees everything that’s gone wrong for me and mine. Nothing escapes his notice. His ability to be present with me is constant. Then, I need the assurance that even when the outcomes of situations are wretched and pain-filled, he is my ever-caring refuge of compassion and strength.
In this age of 24/7 news and social media, too much of what I see and hear can be negative. On the other hand, I don’t want to be a walled off Christian, ignorant of and unwilling to interact with the sorrow and suffering of this world. As some did for me, I want to speak good news and peace into dark places for other people, the places where Satan thinks he’s had the last word. Nahum echoes Isaiah 52:7 when he says, “Look, there on the mountains, the feet of one who brings good news, who proclaims peace” Nahum 1:15.
Christ our Savior and Prince of Peace is unchanging and ever available. When I invite his presence and carry his words of assurance to those facing hopeless situations, the atmosphere changes. Broken hearts can start to mend, wobbly knees stabilize, and weary minds are refreshed when I carry mercy and courage into the trials of people’s lives. I want people to associate my name with comfort, just like Nahum.
Lamp and Sword
****Further resources for study and reflection****
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.” Hebrew 4:12
Resources to learn which Enneagram number you are and then what to do with that information.