“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows…”
Myanmar is a small country crammed between the behemoths of India and China, gently nestled near the powder kegs of Laos and Cambodia. Even so, the struggles outside the borders of Myanmar tend to drown out the travesty happening within the country’s borders.
On February 1 a military coup threw the country into a state of fear. The militants had all but lost their spot in the democratic government, so they decided to take back the country by force.
In the traditionally Buddhist country, Muslim, Christian, and Hindi persecution had been a staple of the nation’s history. Longstanding disdain for those of minority backgrounds or races was prominent and evident throughout the land. The pandemic exacerbated many of these problems as officials and communities purposefully withheld resources from minority people groups.
Myanmar’s problems were stacked high before the military coup, but since February 1 the mood of the nation has turned to one of pervasive fear.
Bullets and bombshells litter the streets of Yangon, the country’s largest city, as the military regime clashes with the opposition, mostly a people’s army. Guerrilla tactics from the opposition have caused the military to respond with horrendous measures. Soldiers simply bomb whole villages in hopes of crippling opposition, leaving women and children dead beneath the rubble and displacing thousands.
An evening curfew is being enforced, and any infractions are met with arrests and beatings. Tortuous imprisonments can end with death, and the militants demand fees for the return of the bodies.
Even the homes offer little safety as soldiers send showers of bullets through the walls and windows of houses. It’s become common practice for kids to spend their days cowering in darkened corners of their homes, silent and scared. Lights on in the house mean soldiers might come shooting. It’s a dark world, one with seemingly little hope.
The international community has responded with sanctions and condemnation, but the military doesn’t care what the outside world thinks. The military has stopped most external communication and cut mobile data and wireless sims. The word of the horrors isn’t getting out.
A few weeks ago an opposition protest led to the arrest of over 3,000 people. To imprison the protestors, the military released hundreds of prisoners, many of whom became enlisted thugs and enforcers. Word on the street is that police are given amphetamines to remain emotionally detached to the plights around them. People fleeing the country are demanded back as prisoners of war.
At this point, people have little else to do but hunker down and pray for things to get better.
Businesses are shutting down as protests rock the cities, and equal distribution of aid wasn’t common practice to begin with. There isn’t much left in homes but the palpable sense of despair.
As these stories were recounted to me, I have to imagine that the pit that rose in my stomach was a semblance of the wrath that God feels. And as David often prayed in the Psalms, it seems appropriate to pray for God to mercilessly pour out his wrath and judgement on enemies that murder and prey on the weak.
However I’ve often struggled with many of David’s prayers. How do David’s prayers for the wicked’s children to wander the streets as beggars (Ps. 109:9-10) align with Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44)? How do we reconcile a seemingly righteous wrath with the overwhelming love of God?
I’m reminded of some lessons from the book of Ezekiel.
This Old Testament prophet was privy to the deep levels of depravity within the nation of Judah. In his visions, God laid bare many of the secret sins of the people and issued dire warnings to Judah and the surrounding nations. God promised to desolate many of his chosen people’s enemies: Egypt, Sidon, Ammon, Philistia and Tyre. Ezekiel’s 28th chapter depicts the fall of Tyre’s king. However, God’s depiction of the king seems rather… aggrandized.
“I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire. You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you. Your great wealth filled you with violence, and you sinned. So I banished you from the mountain of God. I expelled you, O mighty guardian, from your place among the stones of fire. Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth and exposed you to the curious gaze of kings. You defiled your sanctuaries with your many sins and your dishonest trade. So I brought fire from within you, and it consumed you. I let it burn you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All who knew you are appalled at your fate. You have come to a terrible end, and you are no more.” (Ezek. 28:14-19)
This depiction doesn’t sound much like an earthly king; it sounds like the story of Satan. Perhaps this sounds like Satan because his story is in all of us who have sinned. The sin of the Garden came when man decided that he was just like God, even greater perhaps. Sin stems from choosing oneself over the will of God. It was Satan’s great downfall, and his story is written and reflected in the hearts of men because he is the enemy.
It’s his great sin and most effective lie. It has ravaged humanity since the fall.
“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)
But we often forget who the enemy is, and we often forget God’s great mercy and power. As Ezekiel witnesses the sins of the people and hears of the Lord’s coming judgement, his heart breaks for all of the people who deserve God’s wrath.
“Then I fell face down in the dust and cried out, ‘O Sovereign Lord, are you going to kill everyone in Israel?’” (Ezek. 11:13)
And wouldn’t God be justified in doing so? Have not all our sins reflected the sin of Satan? We’ve all spat on the face of God and sullied ourselves in the blood of his Son. But praise be to God for his great love.
“Do you think, asks the Sovereign Lord, that I like to see wicked people die? Of course not! I only want them to turn from their wicked ways and live.” (Ezek. 18:23)
And the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.
“The Lord isn’t really slow about his promise to return, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9)
So picture the face of the enemy in Myanmar. Hopefully, the enemy you’re picturing doesn’t look anything like a person.
For man was made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26) and is his glorious inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 18). The Lord’s desire is that all would be saved.
Instead, the enemy is one of the unseen world, shrouded in darkness, wicked and utterly evil. The enemy lies and corrupts the hearts of men to invoke the wrath of God. How then can we fight this enemy that turns men into monsters? What are the weapons of spiritual warfare? Truth. Righteousness. The Gospel of Peace. Faith. Salvation. Scripture. Prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 6:13-18)
Unfortunately, I think the tendency when reading that list is to skim through it and mumble something under our breath.
Jesus is recorded saying in Mark 11 that faith can move mountains.
Perhaps there was a time when we believed that. Growing up in the foothills of Colorado, I remember going into the backyard one Sunday afternoon and staring up at Horsetooth Rock, willing it to move, to jump into the sea. I remember taking Jesus at his word. Since then, I’ve heard the rationalizations. “Jesus didn’t mean literal mountains.” “That was a cultural thing.”
Someone should have told Elijah that. Then the world wouldn’t have been without literal rain for three and a half years. But I imagine the widow and her son are grateful for Elijah’s prayers (see 1 Kings 17 and 18).
In the book of James, it is written that the prayers of the righteous have great power and wonderful results. Guess who the example of righteous prayer is? Elijah (James 5:16-18). The weapons of spiritual warfare are not impractical; they are necessary, and they are the only way we win these fights.
There are giants, dens of lions, furnaces of fire, children without parents, families without homes, arms without hands, eyes without sight, bodies without life, and hearts without hope. There are mountains in Myanmar, ones that no man can move.
“Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Have faith in God. I assure you that you can say to this mountain, “May God lift you up and throw you into the seas.” and your command will be obeyed. All that’s required is that you really believe and do not doubt in your heart. Listen to me! You can pray for anything, and if you believe, you will have it. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.’” (Mark 11:22-25)
Church, do you believe that God can move the mountains in Myanmar?
It’s time for the righteous to pray. We are in need of great power and wonderful results. May the glory of God shine in people’s darkened homes.
As we wage war in the spiritual realm, it’s important to remember that God has also given us the honor and command to be his hands and feet. We must wage war, but we can also give aid to our brothers and sisters.
One of Renew.org’s contacts who lived in Myanmar for the past four years compiled a list of ways that we can help in the physical realm.
- The contact’s personal website has several links that provide ways to help, whether that’s through reading and praying about what’s happening, or through advocation and donation: https://linktr.ee/aimeemariegray
- Some of the best ways to advocate would be to:
- Email your government: https://democracyformyanmar.org/
- Raise three fingers for democracy: an artistic way to show support! https://www.threefingers.org/
- Sign petitions: for a current list, check out the link tree from Meemalee: https://linktr.ee/meemalee
- Share information about what’s happening in Myanmar with others.
- Another good resource is Breanna Randall’s twitter feed, which is @RandallBreanna. She posts frequently about what’s happening.
- You can also stay in contact through the hashtags: #whatshappeninginMyanmar or #JusticeForMyanmar which track current posts from Myanmar citizens or those advocating for Myanmar.
- Finally, the financial situation in Myanmar will continue to worsen, especially as most industries shut down during the protests (despite the military’s threats), so donating is important:
“But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”