“…I hope you will look to Jesus for comfort. Go to your closet in secret prayer and there you will find peace to your soul.” – D.L. Moody
By all rights, Christians in the United States have reason to be feeling less than comfortable. As cultural values in the U.S. overlap less and less with a broad Judeo-Christian ethic, Christians in the United States will likely find themselves in increasingly hostile territory. New England is, arguably, one of the most hostile contexts in which the faithful are currently doing their work.
For instance, Barna reports that only 26% of those surveyed in New England qualified as “very religious.” In addition, of the top 20 cities which have rejected traditional Christian values and a Christian world view, 14 were in New England within 200 miles of Moody’s Center’s campus in Northfield, MA. Add to that the deeply influential educational institutions like Harvard University, Yale University, Boston College, and MIT, as well as the ongoing political influence of the region, and New England’s spiritual life has the potential to spread and, in one sense, we should hope that it does.
In the face of the challenges to the gospel in New England, the church has grown strong. Not strong in terms of numbers perhaps, but strong nonetheless. Decade-long prayer meetings, grass roots discipleship initiatives, and cross-denominational collaborations characterize the spiritually thriving church in New England. The Christians in New England are embattled yet faithful. They show the sort of commitment to prayer, evangelism, and discipleship that were the hallmarks of the Great Awakenings of past ages.
We find peace as we seek the face of the Lord in prayer.
As the church in the United States inhabits more and more uncomfortable territory, there is much to be learned from the church in New England and from D.L. Moody. Moody was an impetus behind what is often referred to as the third Great Awakening. While it would be simple to point to his evangelistic efforts, Moody was concerned for more than the salvation of souls. He desired to see the body of Christ offer faithful witness and to be at peace despite the swirling challenges we might face.
In a letter he wrote to his son after the death of his son’s wife, we get a glimpse of where Moody found comfort. While Moody writes his advice in a more personal context to remind his son where he might find peace, it does not seem limited to that context. We will surely find ourselves troubled as we stand for Christ, yet, we would do well to take the advice Moody offers his son, “… I hope you will look to Jesus for comfort. Go to your closet in secret prayer and there you will find peace to your soul.” He goes on to say, “It is a beautiful thought to think we have friends in heaven waiting us approaching the shore.” Here, Moody highlights two things for his son whose personal grief must have been stifling.
First, we find peace as we seek the face of the Lord in prayer. Second, we are not without hope because our losses in this world, particularly the loss of those who know the Lord, are only temporary. We are right to feel concern over the direction of the United States. We are right to lament a world that is not as it should be. Yet, we cannot allow our discomfort to drive us away from Christ; it must drive us toward Him. We cannot allow the pain of the crucible to overshadow the comfort available to us in Christ.
A prayer to find peace and comfort
Lord God, may we be a people who seek comfort in You. Remind us continually of Your power and Your hope so that even as we lament our losses, we will find Your peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
JAMES SPENCER, PHD is President the D.L. Moody Center, an independent non-profit organization based in Northfield, MA, and author of Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody and Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind
Photo credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger