Dena Johnson Martin Christian Blog and Commentary

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Finding Peace in a Chaotic World

So much has happened over the last few weeks...

In my personal life and in this country.

Two weeks ago, my sweet boy stood before man and God and pledged to love, honor, and cherish the sweetest young lady. It was a beautiful evening, and I was so proud of him--and excited to welcome another daughter into the family!

Throughout the wedding, I felt something happening within my body. By the end of the evening, my voice was fading. It's nothing unusual for me to have a bout of laryngitis, but it is unusual for me to be down with something for two weeks. Even as I write these words, it's 4:00 am and I am up coughing non-stop. Despite multiple doctor visits and medications, I have not been myself for weeks.

But outside of my own infirmities, this world has changed. On May 24, an 18 year old gunman walked into an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, and murdered innocent children. On June 2, an angry patient walked into a doctor's office in Tulsa, OK, and shot and killed two doctors, a receptionist, and another patient because he didn't feel his back pain was being addressed adequately. These are just two mass shootings that have taken place over the last month.

And then last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the long-standing law allowing abortions in our country. You can't go anywhere, watch anything, without seeing the wide-ranging and deeply emotional reaction to the Supreme Court decision.

As I've grappled with my own illness, I've contemplated all of these issues. I've mourned the loss of life. I've wondered how I would respond in the face of a gunman in my own work environment. I've wept broken-hearted over the parents whose children didn't come home from school on that fateful day. I've watched quietly as segments of our country rejoiced openly over the reversal of Roe v. Wade and tried to listen contemplatively to those with differing opinions.

And do you know what I've decided?

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9

Yes, no matter where you land on the topics of gun control, abortion, and life in general, our experiences--and even our interpretation of scripture--color our response to the events in this world. And, it is the human heart, the deceptive human heart, that separates us all and leads us down this slippery slope justifying our beliefs and our unswerving stances.

Some of you may be expecting me to tell you where I stand on some of these topics. You might even be able to venture a well-educated guess by where I live in our country--if you know anything about Oklahoma.

But here's what you don't know: While I may have very strong opinions on the topics of gun control and abortion, that's not the end of the story. And, quite honestly, that's why I'm writing today.

My heart is broken over the division in our country and even among the Church. I can't help but think there's a better way, a way that acknowledges our faith in God while also understanding that we are strangers and aliens in this world (1 Peter 2:10).

My question is simple: Where do we go from here?

We open our hearts and lives to people with differing opinions. I tend to be a thinker. I don't readily insert my opinion into conversations until I've had time to think and contemplate. I often have a conversation with my husband only to come back a day or two later and say, "You know, I've been thinking..." He, on the other hand, is very vocal and says whatever comes to his mind in the moment.

This country has lost the ability to have civil conversations. We've chosen to demonize those with differing opinions rather than listening to their heart. When we hear someone is pro-choice, we automatically categorize them than listening to what has led them to that conviction.

Just this week, I had a conversation with a lady who has differing opinions on abortion. Even as we talked, however, we found that we have far more in common despite our differing responses to the Supreme Court decision. How did we discover that? Because we entered the conversation with open hearts and minds.

Isn't this what Jesus did? Think about the dinners He had with tax collectors and "sinners." Didn't He choose to sit with those who had different lives? Didn't He listen to them, understand their experiences had led them to a different place in life? Didn't He extend grace and love?

And what was the result? The result was life-changing and world-changing. And isn't that what He called us to do? To walk in His ways? To love this world to Him? To leave our mark by being like Him?

We ask God to reveal any wicked way in us. As I mentioned above, Jeremiah reminds us that the human heart is deceptive. I know that sounds incredibly harsh, but it's only God in us that makes us good. We are all sinners, saved by grace (Romans 3:23).

Is it possible we are blind to our biases, to the ways our own experiences have colored our view of the gospel? Is it possible we have inadvertently put ourselves in a vacuum and have become unable to see the wickedness in our own hearts? When is the last time we fell on our own knees before God and asked Him to break our hearts for the things that break His heart? When is the last time we really allowed Him to convict us of the misguided conviction in our own lives?

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24

(I'm adding a link to an original song based on this verse written by and performed by my daughter. Enjoy it here!)

We try to put ourselves into other people's circumstances. When I was faced with my ex-husband's adultery and my pending divorce, I did some things I am definitely not proud of. I almost abandoned my faith as I struggled with how the God I had faithfully served could allow such devastation in my life.

That's when I realized none of us knows what we would do in any given situation until we are in that situation ourselves.

Do you really know how you would respond if your child went to school and didn't come home? Would your opinion on guns change if your wife went to work and never came home? Do you really know?

What if you were in an abusive relationship and found out you were pregnant and were terrified to bring another child into an abusive situation? Or you were told your daughter's pregnancy was likely going to end her life? Do you really know?

We can all point to the stories of how all the professionals were wrong. My dad was told the doctor was going to try to save my mom and if I survived, I would likely have severe brain damage. My life was incompatible with hers--and she certainly never should have had my little brother! Yet, here we are today, all three of us alive and healthy. I like to believe I would have enough faith to act on my convictions, but do I really know?

Extend grace and loveAbove all, I believe we are called to extend grace and love. We must remember that this world does not see through the lens of Christ the way I pray we as Christians do. The way of Christ is foolishness to this world (1 Corinthians 1:18), and it does not live by the laws of grace and love. We cannot expect the laws of our land to follow our Christian beliefs. We can vote for people who hold to the same convictions, but we cannot expect this world to understand.

Above all, we can pray for salvation. For repentance. For revival in this land. We can pray that the people will humble themselves and pray and seek His face and turn from the wicked ways (2 Chronicles 7:14). We can plant the seeds of love and grace and pray that God would give the growth.

Father, this world is so far from you! We need you more now than ever! With protests and strong opinions on every topic and so many people claiming they represent you, give us the wisdom to hear your heart on all of these issues. Give us hearts that are sensitive to you and sensitive to the hurt and pain of others. Let your love and grace flow through us in our hearts and our words. May we be so cognizant of the sin in our own lives that it changes the way we view others. Above all, bring revival in this country and this world. We are in such desperate need of a fresh filling of you. We have fallen away and failed you in so many ways, and we are reaping what we have sown. Show yourself as your people humble themselves and pray and seek your face. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Photo credit: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio