Developing Healthy Relationships in Stress-filled Times

            How do I maintain godly relationships with people in my culture during a time of spiritual punishment (Jeremiah-exile), a vengeful dictatorship (Paul-invasion), and armed conflict (H.L. Gilmour-war)? God’s specific answer occurs in Scripture for the first two individuals (Jeremiah and Paul). The latter (H.L. Gilmour) provides an example of God’s resource for this kind of life, which thankfully lives as musical poetry. 

            These individuals might not seem to have a lot in common. Keep watching. Surprisingly, there is a dentist in the story. 

            Beginning with Jeremiah, we trace the connections. As you read today’s passage look for words about work, community and family. Possibly written after 627 B.C., Jeremiah emphasized God’s expectations of behavior during the spiritual punishment we know as the Exile.

            Moving forward in time (six centuries) the key word was not exilebut invasion. Paul forcefully instructs Christ’s disciples. [Wherever you find yourself, that’s where! Please, wherever you find yourself] “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27 NIV).

            Living in the heritage of Israel (Philippians 3:4) it is not surprising the Apostle would make such a statement given his familiarity with Jeremiah’s instruction to God’s exiled people. Invasion or exile, no matter the era, God’s people are to live as His people. Ready for another move across the centuries of God’s people?

            Eighteen centuries later, across the world in North America and after the Civil War a multitalented former Union soldier becomes a dentist. Using his musical skills he writes songs for churches. One of those songs re-sounds the emphasis for disciples living in war-filled times. H.L Gilmour encourages disciples to focus on God even as they are also called to intentional and integrated involvement within their culture. Part of his story is reported by a reputable online resource.

Henry Lake Gilmour emigrated to America as a teenager. He started working as a painter, then served in the American civil war, where he was captured and spent several months in Libby Prison, Richmond, Virginia. After the war, he became a dentist…For four decades, he directed the choir at the Pitman Grove Camp Meeting, and worked at camp meetings and revivals…

H.L. Gilmour’s words are these:

My soul in sad exile was out on life’s sea,

So burdened with sin and distressed,

Till I heard a sweet voice saying, “Make me your choice;”

And I entered the “Haven of Rest!”

Thanks be to God that whenever and wherever we find ourselves living, God’s presence is certain (the Haven). Likewise, whenever and wherever we live (exile, invasion or war) we are to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27).

Life Application Questions

  1. If your faith feels battered how do you go about finding healing when conflict continues?
  2. Do any of the individual emphases of the passage from Jeremiah give you more trouble than others?

Published by Andrew Simkins

Dr. Andrew Simkins provides spiritual direction for individuals and small groups through the regular blog posts found on this site. He resides in northwest Indiana with his beloved, along with nearby children and grandchildren who are the adornment of his life.

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