What spiritual questions are you asking right now? Are you the victim of mistreatment and unjust oppression? Are you feeling hopeless?
In this 29 minute presentation, in English with Burmese subtitles and photos from the present Myanmar context, I address the following four questions.
1. “Why us?”
2. “Why is God so silent?”
3. “Where can we find God?”
4. “What hope is there?”
When we suffer unjustly, we all want deliverance from our suffering. But when God does not spare us, we often want answers to questions like these. Some of them have clearer answers than others, but the Bible has a lot to say about each one, and the experience of millions of followers of Christ shows that there truly is hope for those who live in seemingly hopeless circumstances.
The key is to understand what kind of hope is available to us when there seems no way to stop those who are mistreating us or to escape our painful situation. Coping with oppression and trauma is complicated and often requires a lot of help from others, but, in short, God has given us great spiritual resources in Jesus Christ and in the ongoing presence and power of the Holy Spirit. For those who learn how to let God help them to receive the Spirit’s support and encouragement, they often experience much more peace, inspiration, and hope to enable them to face whatever they must face in this life with greater strength and hope.
The original context for this talk was the Myanmar Institute of Theology, in Yangon, Myanmar. I welcome your comments and questions, as this is a topic for ongoing reflection, prayer, and discussion for the people in Myanmar and for all those who suffer unjustly.
What we Can Expect from God Now Video Series
Tim is very happy to share with you his most recent book, “What We Can Expect from God Now: Seven Spiritual Truths for Trusting God in Troubled Times” in this format, designed for English speaking viewers with Burmese subtitles added for my students, colleagues, and friends in Myanmar. Tim originally wrote the book to offer a biblically-based perspective on how to live by faith in the COVID-19 crisis, but the spiritual truths are relevant in any time of uncertainty, hardship, and suffering. In this eight-part video series, he will be reading the entire book, chapter by chapter, as well as offering some additional words of encouragement each week.
In chapter one, Tim talks about the impossibility of understanding all of God’s ways with our limited human minds. However, when Jesus opens our eyes, we can see God’s presence among us, and we can reach out to receive and benefit from all that God offers to us.
In this second chapter of the book, What We Can Expect from God Now: Seven Spiritual Truths for Trusting God in Troubled Times, Tim talks about his struggle to discern the will of God when he was conducting workshops in Myanmar, when the COVID-19 pandemic first started, back in March 2020. Through this difficult time, and in many situations since then, he has seen the wisdom and effectiveness of a “both-and” approach to decision-making, which he explains in the video.
In this third chapter, Tim talks about three types of responses to the COVID-19 crisis: there are the action-takers, positive-thinkers, and overwhelmed observers. Which type of person best describes you? Which kind of person do you want to be? On your own, you may feel very weak and afraid sometimes, especially when you are suffering so much. Yet, the Bible teaches that if you put your faith in God’s working in your life, you can expect God to strengthen your faith, build your character, and restore your hope through your suffering. That’s our prayer for you.
In this week’s chapter, Tim will be talking about the mysterious and encouraging promise that those who share in Jesus Christ’s sufferings will also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17). What was Paul thinking when he said this? What does he mean by sharing in Jesus’ glory? Why is this message so important for all followers of Christ, especially for those facing persecution, oppression, disease and possible death? Our prayer is that God will speak to you through this chapter to give you more hope, strength, and courage to face whatever you must face in these very difficult days.
In the midst of such a disturbing and frightening time in Myanmar, and many other places around the world, what is the role of faith and prayer for Christians. This past week has been especially terrifying for the Burmese people. More brutality. More death. More uncertainty. More and more displaced people are on the run, fleeing for their lives. While the great struggle continues, how can any of us draw on our relationship with God to help us face the horrors and incredible challenges that we must face?
In this week’s chapter, I talk about how the Apostle Paul encouraged other followers of Christ who were facing great suffering, deprivation, and even death in their day. His teaching is reassuring and practical for all those who looking for more strength, courage, and confidence to sustain them throughout their long dark night, whenever and wherever it may come.
What a devastating weekend in Myanmar. Those who are writing to me are stunned, angry, confused, discouraged, or simply terrified over the wanton destruction in Chin State and the senseless killing of Pastor Cung Biak Hum. Right now, some of you may be feeling the same way. You are nearly out of your mind with distress, worry and fear. You’re wondering, what’s going to happen next? How should you be praying? If God is not going to spare the Burmese people from suffering, why should you pray at all?
In this week’s chapter, I address some of these questions. Though it was originally written to help you deal with your anxiety over COVID-19, the spiritual truth in it applies to all kinds of fears and worries. I cannot fully answer why God is allowing you to suffer as you are. But I can assure you of Jesus’ love and care for you, and of his desire to minister to you in your time of loss and suffering. After I finish reading the chapter, I offer some additional, personal words of encouragement, especially for those of you in Myanmar.
What’s your strategy for dealing with your anxiety? Do you have a good one? Is it working? In this chapter, I talk about my own experience with anxiety and what I have learned that has been most helpful to me. For example, when I face my anxieties directly, they lose some of their power over me. When I use a practical tool that I developed to help me whenever I feel overwhelmed with anxiety (which I will explain in detail), I feel more peace and am better able to redirect my energy in positive directions. When a situation is completely outside of my control, I get strength by waiting on God.
Most of the examples pertain to the COVID-19 pandemic, but I hope the application to the current political and social crises will be obvious. I know that there is a lot to be concerned about in these troubled times. I pray that the teaching in this chapter will be practical and helpful for you. As you put your faith into action and apply this spiritual wisdom when you feel anxious, you will see the difference. You will grow in many ways, be more useful to yourself and others, and God will give you greater peace, strength, and confidence to face all that you must face and endure.
In the final chapter of my book, the Conclusion, I tell my own personal story of grief over many losses in my life, including my mother’s heart-wrenching demise. During those years, I almost lost my faith. But one day, something surprising happened that saved my relationship with God. What I experienced was a huge turning point in my life and spirituality, for which I will always be grateful.
Light in the Darkness Video Series
This series of short videos are to support and encourage the Burmese people and all those who need and want God’s help in the midst of their suffering. Each video focuses on one spiritual truth, based on the teaching of the Bible, my faith journey as a Christian, and decades of experience as a minister and professor of New Testament and Christian Spirituality. Though the immediate context for this video series is the attempted military coup in Myanmar, the spiritual truths discussed are applicable for all those who are facing overwhelmingly difficult times and who are looking to Christ for guidance, strength, and courage to face their darkness.
The Burmese subtitles were created to be able to reach more Burmese people, who especially need encouragement and spiritual guidance from the Bible in their suffering.