Psalm 90:15 – Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
I was teaching a two-week course in the Bryansk Bible Institute in February 1997. The school met in a large Baptist Church in Bryansk, Russia, about 250 miles southwest of Moscow. In between class sessions, I wandered through the church to look at the facility. I noticed this verse from Psalm 90 painted on the front wall of the sanctuary. Curious about the significance, I asked for the backstory.
The church was heavily persecuted during the Communist era. At one point, the church was closed and used as a storage warehouse. The congregation petitioned the local officials to allow them to reopen the church. The local officials said, “No.” The people petitioned the officials in Moscow, who said, “Yes.”
The congregation cleared out the church and began meeting again for worship. The local KGB officials decided to close the church permanently. On a fateful evening, the congregation gathered inside the church for worship. The KGB officials gathered outside the church and threatened the people inside. The local community heard what was taking place and came and formed a ring around the KGB officials. What followed was a time of antiphonal praise as the people inside the church sang one verse of a hymn and the community outside the building sang the next verse.
Eventually, the KGB officials had enough and called for the local fire department to bring their fire engines to disperse the crowd with water cannons. They then brought in bulldozers and hooked chains to the church walls and tore the building to the ground.
A few days later, word came from Moscow to leave the church alone. As the people tell the story, within one month, all the KGB officials had died from unnatural causes. The church saw it as the judgment of God.
For some time, the church met in homes. In the mid-90’s, they received official approval to rebuild the church. I saw a video of the dedication ceremony in 1996 where they carried the Bible from the old house church to the new facility and the congregation and community paraded behind with shouts of joy.
They painted Psalm 90:15 on the front wall of the church, asking God to replace their years of sorrow with years of joy.
After hearing the backstory, all I could say was, “Wow! Praise God!”