As if the year 2020 were not bad enough, the devastating explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon, which instantly destroyed a huge part of that beautiful city, led many to ask, “Why, Lord?”
Lebanon has a special place in my heart, as we lived in that country four years and welcomed both our sons into our lives while there. However, at the time we moved into the country, I too was asking, “Why, Lord?”
I have always called Lebanon the Country of my Exile.
I was perfectly happy living in neighboring Syria, looking forward to the arrival of my first child. God was blessing.
Then disaster struck.
We were given ten days to leave the country. Thankfully, God had already provided a residency permit for Lebanon. Yet, the Lebanon we moved to was not very lovely at the time, as she was just coming out of the other side of civil war. We had to get special permission just to live there.
God gave me this passage from my favorite prophet to settle my restless heart:
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”*
So, I did. I settled, had one son and then another, and served alongside my husband, as the Lord gave me strength.
It did not mean that Lebanon was an easy place to live. I remember, as I welcomed another worker to the field a year or so later, we were walking to her new apartment, and a woman greeted us on the sidewalk, seeing that she was moving in. She said: “Why would you want to move to Hell?”
War and hardship had hardened hearts, but Jesus softened many since that time, as we watched Lebanese believers serve their own and become the hands and feet of Christ through crisis after crisis.
When we went back for a visit around 2006, I could not recognize the city of Beirut. The slow process of restoration and rebuilding that began in the 1990s had come to fruition ten years later.
Then disaster struck again…and again, and again.
From far away, I watch the Switzerland of the Middle East face one attack after another, crippling her economically, politically, emotionally and spiritually. As one Lebanese Baptist leader recently shared, “It’s as if we are on a ship in the midst of a storm, and have no idea when or where we’ll land.”
That’s when we have to remember: Jesus is with us in the ship.
It may seem like he’s sleeping in the bow and allowing the storm to have its way, but he does not sleep to our prayers for salvation, and I will join my friends, who love this country as I do, in prayer for this storm to lead to a great revival that will sweep the region as none before.
We’re all living in exile, because this land is not our home.
When disaster strikes, we look to the One who can sleep in the middle of a storm, knowing that our ultimate security rests in him. In the meantime, we sweep up the glass, help our neighbor rebuild, and love in Jesus’ name.
Pray for the peace and prosperity of your land, and today, pray for Lebanon.
Grace and Peace
*Jeremiah 29:4-7 (NIV)
To read more and give to support the Lebanese people, click here.