These lovely SoundCloud reflections welcome us into the tenderness of God’s heart toward us. It is a place where we are warmly loved and known, understood and accepted – and in the beauty of that, our own hearts become tender and sensitive toward things that touch God’s own. Something powerful happens when God softens our hearts and taken them deeper into His own, so may we encourage you to stay here awhile to lean on Him and catch His heartbeat.
Start if you will by thinking of the news bulletins from around the world that engage your attention. What type of items and insights regularly touch your heart and kindle your prayers? This is well worth noting, because you may well discover that the Father of All has crafted you to bear with Him some specific area of concern.
Perhaps it is the damage inflicted on families and children during lockdown that arouses your particular compassion. Maybe the plight of refugees breaks your heart open. Or you weep for the damage done by deforestation and many other environmental abuses that threaten the integrity of God’s beautiful work of creation.
For some, the land and people of Israel are engraved deep within your heart, and you are concerned about the current political unrest, in which Benjamin Netanyahu has been declaiming loudly – and who does this remind you of? – that he is the victim of the “greatest election fraud in the history of the country, in my opinion in the history of any democracy.” Really?
Others are deeply moved by the suffering of huge numbers of prisoners held in overcrowded conditions – or the 60,000 held in the US in mind-bending solitary confinement. These accounts from the BBC help to get a feel for this deeply disturbing situation. (Though they obviously have nothing to say about works of grace that the Lord also does in these grim conditions).
Earlier this week I found myself pondering the great sea of people rising up en masse in their longing for freedom in countries such as Myanmar and Belarus – even in Russia where and when they dare to. In North Korea and China, of course, people are forbidden to protest at all and the cost of doing so would be immense. This article, condensed from The Times, is a real eye opener in terms of summarising some of the sufferings being inflicted on the Uighur and Kazak people in western China, incarcerated as they are in huge numbers in grim conditions and forced to declare their love for Xi Jinping.
In his excellent series on the ‘New Europe’ (first shown in 2007 and currently being shown again on BBC iPlayer), Michael Palin visited the torture museum in Vilnius, the only one of its kind in the Baltic States, where many who fell foul of the Soviet regime suffered most horribly. Now it is the neighbouring country of Belarus that is experiencing such sadistic cruelty, and for whose freedom we must pray – as well as to pray for all the Baltic States in the face of strongly resurgent Russia.
Our prayers really do make a difference.
The news and documentary channels do not offer comforting fare – and there certainly times when we may be wiser to turn aside from them and just to drink in the goodness of God right where we are. We cannot hide, though, from the fact that so much of the planet is not safe at all, and yet it is the place where so many display heroic courage in the face of immense difficulties and opposition.
The Lord does not turn His eyes away who are hungry and hurting; He hears every cry of those who are frightened, oppressed, imprisoned, crushed and tortured – not, as it were, from the outside listening in, but from deep within the hearts of His own people, whatever the source of their affliction. And He who takes pity on the poor and needy (Ps. 72:13) prizes those who have a tender and sensitive heart, and invites us to share in His heart and work of compassion.
Do you remember how, in a time of apostasy, the Lord declared that He had heard King Josiah, ‘because his heart was responsive, and he humbled himself before God when he heard what the Lord spoke against His people – and because he humbled himself before Him, and tore his robes and wept in His presence?’ (2 Chron. 34:27)
That word that the NIV translates here as ‘responsive’ is rak in Hebrew, from rakak – (pronounced raw-kak). Most versions translate this as ‘tender’ – a word that can also mean ‘faint-hearted’ or ‘weak,’ as in Deuteronomy 20:2-3:
When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”
Josiah was neither faint-hearted nor weak, but His tender, ‘responsive’ heart was extremely sensitive – and such tenderness is deeply pleasing to the Lord.
Yes, something powerful happens when God softens our hearts and causes us to seek Him with yet greater earnestness. The tenderness of Josiah’s heart led to a revival of worship in the nation and a renewal of their covenant with the Lord. To be sure, Josiah had the influence of a king – but are we not kings and priests in the Kingdom of God? So what is it that most touches your heart and kindles your prayers?
I always remember how, when praying concerning the looming conflict in the Falklands, the Lord told me quite clearly that there would be a limited war because it was His intention to bring down the US-backed military Argentinian junta that had shed so much blood between 1973 and 1983 during its years of state terror, causing so many to disappear and never be seen again: los desaparecidos.
The Lord did indeed intervene to remove General Galtieri from power, but we dare not make any sort of a doctrine out of an experience – although we can see sure that there were many praying as we were, and every one of those prayers had its part to play.
God uses tender hearts to shape the world. He has made us to be priests – the heart of a priest should be tender. Jesus’ heart certainly was; may ours be too.
Lord, it’s above all for your tenderness
that I want to thank You today;
kindness wrapped in love
stealing over us to bind our wounds
in our calvary moments of extreme loss.
Utter knowing, utter caring,
holding and guarding us through the storm
In the new-shaped landscape of the emancipated aftermath.
Let your tenderness come to so many hearts today, now we pray, Lord Jesus – especially to . . . and . . . and . . .