Three stories, if you will indulge me …
I mentioned my contractor friend, Cec, in a recent posting. He and his family survived the atrocities of the Vietnam War; they lived in a refugee camp for two years. The family endured tremendous uncertainties and hardships. They were totally helpless before the forces all around them. Eventually, they were transported to America, to my town, where their daughter played varsity basketball with my daughter and their son played varsity soccer with my son.
Another man caught in that conflict was the renowned poet, Nguyen Chi Thien, who died earlier this month at age 73. He spent 27 years in Vietnam prisons and work camps because he spoke out against the communist regime’s revisionist history and the oppression of his people. Broken in body by the harsh treatment in prison, Nguyen was like steel in his heart and soul. Confined with no paper or pencil and with nothing to read for years, he memorized most of his 700 poems and then wrote over 400 of them from memory when he was released. They were published in 1979 as “Flowers of Hell.”
One verse he wrote reminded me of Psalm 10: They sank me into the ocean/Wishing me to remain in the depths./I became a deep sea diver/And came up covered with scintillating pearls.
The theme of Psalm 10 is–Why do the wicked succeed? Verse 4 defines the wicked: In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. That is simply the worldview of the unbeliever–“no room for God.” They are further described: His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue … from ambush he murders the innocent … he lies in wait to catch the helpless … He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.”
Some years back, I and three other people bought a piece of property. Then the economy went south; the lawyer son-in-law prevailed upon the man from whom we bought the property to sue us. We were trying to re-structure the loan but he saw we were helpless. I thought I was going to lose everything. Psalm 10 suddenly became very real to me. I read it and many other psalms of encouragement during that time.
Hear what the psalmist wrote: But you, O God, do see trouble and grief … The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless … You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed.
God did defend Cec and his family; and he defended us. Through extraordinary circumstances, which would take more explanation than would be suitable here.
And Nguyen? I don’t know if Nguyen called on God. But while he was in prison, a guard raged at him, waving a book in his face. He saw his name on the cover–it was his 400 poems, which had been published! His poetry, flaming darts against the atheistic communists, received the International Poetry Award in 1985.
Maybe you’ve been in similar circumstances, or are now facing the loss of all you possess. You wonder if you’ll end up, standing by the highway with a hand-lettered cardboard sign: “Homeless. Anything helps … Will work for food.”
Know this: God can be trusted. But you must first call on him, asking in faith.