Praying for Ukraine and Russia
Rev. Dr. Paul Suich
“But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”Mark 13: 14-23
These words of Jesus come on the Wednesday of Holy Week, the day before he offers his life as an atonement for sin. The people of Jerusalem jostle for power and influence even as their common enemy, Rome, looms over them. Jesus’ words come as a shock—there is a day coming that is ever so much worse than what you are experiencing now. There is a day coming in which the abomination of desolation will stand where he ought not to be.
I do not believe that Jesus spoke these words only about Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, I wonder what my Ukranian brothers and sisters in Christ think and feel when they read this passage. They are begging the democracies of the world to see them and to stand with them. They have laid down their lives to stand before tanks and machine guns and speak plainly, “Go home, you are not welcome here!” Indeed, must they not be praying for God to “cut short the days” that their country might be saved?
Odd that Putin launched an invasion of his neighbor during Lent. Ill-fitting that he sees the slaughter of children as justified by any fiction. Our hearts break as we watch families torn apart for the sake of a despot’s vision of “unity.” And so we pray that the days of this conflict will be shortened. We pray for the mothers who have fled and those who are fleeing even now. We pray for those whose courage and sacrifice is exemplary. We pray for our leaders to make wise and good decisions. We pray for the courage of the Russian people (with whom we are not at war) to hear the Gospel clearly, to speak boldly and to stand for the vulnerable. They risk imprisonment simply for disagreeing.
Let us also pray for the people of Ukraine and in Russia and for ourselves. I was in a missions conference in 1979 when a Russian Christian told us that the Christians of Communist Russia were praying earnestly for us. They faced an atheistic government that would put them in jail for proclaiming their faith. We faced life in a culture overwhelmed with consuming. They stood with us and asked us to stand with them. In this dread hour they need our prayers.
Jesus warns us that in the days of conflict when the abomination of desolation stands where he ought not to stand, that false prophets (from inside the people of God) will arise and lead astray, if possible, the elect. False prophets seduce us with promises of easy fixes. False prophets seduce us with a pathway to power—hating our neighbor, proliferation of war, taking revenge. False prophets blend the words of the Gospel with their own to seduce us from our calling: to love the Lord our God with all of our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves. War produces trauma. May God shorten the days of this conflict. May we, the elect of God, remain faithful to our calling as people of reconciliation, not unholy wars. May we hold faith that we will see the goodness of God even in the trauma that is unfolding before us. May we have the courage to proclaim the Gospel even as we stand with those under fire.
Rev. Dr. Paul Suich
Dr. Suich has served as the head of the St. Andrew Ministry here at FPC Lakeland since June 2001. He came here from Augusta, Georgia, where he led the counseling ministry for ten years at FPC Augusta and had worked in community mental health prior to that. He attended the Psychological Studies Institute and Georgia State, earning a Master’s in Christian Counseling, the University of Georgia where he earned a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and Asbury Seminary where he earned his Master of Divinity. He grew up in Aiken, South Carolina, and attended Davidson College, a Presbyterian affiliated school in North Carolina. He and his wife Cynthia (also a professional counselor) have two sons, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild. His hobbies include photography, genealogy, gardening, and woodworking.