How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me?
This past Sunday, I led our church as we prayed through Psalm 13. The words have been ringing in my heart since the explosion here in Beirut. How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?
Tonight, this is the cry of my city.
Lebanon Feels Hopeless and Forgotten
The people here feel forgotten. They feel cursed because Lebanon in recent months has been ravaged. It seems unimaginable that something like this could happen right now.
The horrific explosion wasn’t an isolated incident in an otherwise stable country. Lebanon is in the middle of an economic crisis. The local currency has lost 80 percent of its value. For months, banks have restricted people’s access to their money. The country is also in the middle of a revolution against a corrupt government. There’s a famine in the countryside, major wildfires, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, this explosion has taken out the primary port of a country that desperately depends on imports for survival.
Just a quarter-mile away, ours was the closest church building to the explosion.
There are no words to express the sense of hopelessness, despair, and anger that people are feeling right now. So many have lost their lives. Thousands are injured. Thousands more are suddenly homeless.
My heart is broken for my city as they’re dealing with this devastation without a living hope in a living God.
God’s Kindnesses to Us
Just a quarter-mile away, ours was the closest church building to the explosion. I was there today with some members, trying to see what was salvageable. Our building is destroyed. Blocks and blocks are simply destroyed. It looks like a war zone.
It’s difficult for me to express what’s happening in my heart and mind. There’s an overwhelming sense of God’s presence right now, though I mostly have questions and few answers. I keep thinking about the destruction at the church building and how, in God’s kindness, the explosion didn’t happen during a Sunday service. None of our members suffered major injuries—just confusion from being thrown across the room as their windows exploded. Though our home is just a mile from the blast, and though the building sustained damage, our unit was barely touched. The Lord has been kind.
My family and I weren’t in Beirut at the time of the explosion. We had left for the mountains to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary a few hours before the explosion—and still heard it 60 miles away. These are undeserved kindnesses from our Lord.
I remember feeling overwhelmed by the needs in Beirut when we first decided to move here. (See my 2017 TGC article, “Why We’re Church Planting in a Conflict Zone.”) As beautiful as Beirut is, it has always been plagued with pain and suffering, and I remember thinking and praying at the time, Where do we start, God? There is so much to do.
I’m asking the same questions again now.
Pray with (and for) Us
So much relief work is needed. So much needs to be rebuilt. So many families will need long-term care. But I believe, as I first did when planting our church, that Beirut’s greatest hope isn’t a stable economy or honest politicians, but blood-bought believers who carry with them the hope and power of the gospel. So, we’re praying and trusting that the church of Jesus Christ in Lebanon will be a shining light amid all the darkness and destruction.
Beirut’s greatest hope isn’t a stable economy or honest politicians, but blood-bought believers who carry with them the hope and power of the gospel.
Please pray with us toward that end. Pray because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray for wisdom as churches mobilize to care for the hurting. Pray for Christ’s strength to be magnified in our weaknesses.
Pray also that we would hold fast to the gospel in this incredibly turbulent time. Pray that the lost would look to Jesus to provide for their greatest need.
And believe, with us, that nothing—no recession, no explosion, no devastation—can thwart the power of King Jesus to build his church.
Written by: MARWAN ABOUL-ZELOF
First published 05.07.20: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/despair-light-rubble-beirut/