Psalm 34:14, 19-21 (NRSV)
Depart from evil, and do good;
seek peace, and pursue it.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord rescues them from them all.
He keeps all their bones;
not one of them will be broken.
Evil brings death to the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
Psalm 146:5, 7-9 (NRSV)
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
“I recognized the luggage, and that is how I knew.” Mykyta’s blue suitcase laid on its side. A smaller bag was blown open, snow getting on Alisa’s blue and yellow child-size socks. Tatiana’s phone rang silently under the air raid sirens. Serhiy Perebyinis’s family was gone.
How can a loving God allow this? How can war and God coexist?
Surely the devastation in Ukraine conflicts with a God that lives up to promises to protect and rescue.
Unless this is our war, not God’s. We are a corruptible people, capable of great evil. Psalm 34 acknowledges that we are able to break bones. To hate. To be wicked. Psalm 34 also acknowledges that people are vulnerable to many afflictions. With the ability to cause suffering comes suffering.
But we are also capable of great good. In fact, we are called upon to do good, to seek peace and pursue it. And Psalm 146 provides a roadmap: to give food to the hungry, like José Andrés’s millions of meals in Poland for refugees; to open the eyes of the blind, like the thousands of arrested Russian protestors; to uphold the orphans and widows, like the hundreds of Polish strollers left at train stations for fleeing mothers and children; to watch over strangers, like Anatoly Berezhnyi, who volunteered for Irpin Bible Church and died carrying Tatiana’s luggage.
Maybe that’s how God lives up to promises to rescue, even in war. God has given us the ability to do good and has shown us how. It’s on us to live up to that responsibility and bring ruin to the way of the wicked.
Dear God, help us to seek peace and pursue it by doing good in this world. Bring that peace to the Perebyinises, Berezhynyis, and millions of others suffering. Amen.