God can win the war, but only if the Russians let him
Over month ago, over a billion Catholics prayed for peace in Ukraine.
This prayer appears to have gone unheard, the war is escalating, and all signs seem to indicate that it will not end soon. There will be much bloodshed and tragedy so we find ourselves asking, ‘Has God ignored us?’ How can God be good if he has ignored a billion prayers?
God has allowed this war to happen, and to continue, but I don’t believe that Mr. Putin asked for his permission. I’m reminded of a situation from the bible, King David has to choose a punishment for Israel: either a drought of seven years; three months of warfare; or three days of disease (2 Samuel 24: 11-15). David declares that, ‘the Lord is kind and merciful, it is better for the Lord to punish us than men.’
It is better to be at the mercy of God, than the mercy of humankind. War is caused by humans, not God.
Drought and pandemic are natural disasters, they are caused by elements which God has control over, he has created the world and shaped life upon it. Jesus cured the sick and calmed the storm, but He never stopped the Roman occupation of Israel. War is a supernatural disaster, it is caused by the souls of humans.
As such, it is much harder to remedy. Human souls are free, we have the free will to do good or to do evil. We have the freedom to live a good and peaceful life, on the other hand we have the freedom to do great and tremendous evil to one another. War is caused by human sinfulness. The desire for power that leads to lies and fear of our neighbours, the impulse to violence, the wilful ignoring of diplomacy, of truth, the refusal to arbitrate, the desire for vengeance. In short, the deadly sins of pride, envy and anger. This war has been caused by the stubbornness and vile ambition of Vladimir Putin. He is the one who is ignoring the prayers of peace loving peoples. It is he, not God, who caused this war, and he will face justice in this life or the next.
War is the result of sin, it is the result of our freedom to do evil. If God were to take our freedom of will, it wouldn’t matter if the Russians win, because we would already be living under dictatorship. Without freedom, there is no love. The people of Ukraine treasure this freedom, they treasure their right to self-determination, their right to choose good over evil. This is the battle that every human soul faces, the war within ourselves between doing right and wrong.
This battle is fought in our conscience, and this is where God is. God isn’t guiding missiles or loading guns, God is in the heart of every sinner. He fights from behind enemy lines. God can end this war, but only if the Russians let him. God is in the heart of these invaders and calling them to repent, calling them to be brave enough to desert or mutiny, brave enough to refuse to fight an unjust war. It is up to them whether or not they listen to him. We must pray for them, we must pray that they have the openness of heart to examine their consciences and the courage to follow them.
Is prayer futile? If war is caused by human sinfulness, should we continue to pray for peace, or is it useless. Praying is always going to be more useful than not praying. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. Not solely because it will soften their hearts, but because it will perfect our love. If we want what God wants, and love what he loves, we will become more like Him. If our prayers don’t convert violent hearts, then may they convert ours away from violence. If peace isn’t to be found in Ukraine, then may it be found in us.