I've noticed a trend in humanity.
We don't like pain.
Sometimes I feel like I live a double life. I spend quite a bit of time surrounded by men and women of God who want nothing more than to further God's agenda on the planet. Much of that time is me standing behind a pulpit discussing how we do that very thing. We talk about the Love of my Life, Jesus, and we have this mutual ground that always makes us feel safe. That ground is the One we've all pledged our lives to. We talk about what He's doing on the earth. Miracles, signs, wonders, and how we long to see revival in our land.
Then I have a whole other crowd and trust me, a whole different topic of conversation. My friends that live without an address, many without a family, some practically without a name. In the States they're often veterans who just lost it all after returning from war. Then there's the ones we all love to despise, they made dumb choices for no apparent reason and now they spend most of their time haunted by the demons of their past that just won't seem to move on. Overseas they often look like war victims or refugees, some believers, mostly not. Some right now live in a reality where the UN says there is a genocide against them. It's really just legal terms to say that there are people who are systemically hunting them down to eradicate them from the planet. Today they'll wake up with that knowledge and they'll still have to live life as "normal."
What is normal anyway? Is it revival? Is it church? Is it three meals a day? Is it the American dream or the broken way?
Statistically my "church life" is the minority. In fact, it's greatly the minority. More than half the world lives in poverty (less than $2.50/day). One in every 122 people on the planet are displaced by war (this is a 2014 statistic it is most likely higher than this today). Here's a few more statistics if you're interested https://www.compassion.com/poverty/poverty.htm
It's facts like these that drive me deeper into the Word of God. When the problem seems impossible, I have no other option but to turn to the God of the impossible for answers. There's a few things He says that hit me:
Rich people who see a brother or sister in need, yet close their hearts against them, cannot claim that they love God. (1 John 3:17)
Learn to do right. See that justice is done — help those who are oppressed, give orphans their rights, and defend widows. (Isaiah 1:17)
There's so many more verses on helping the broken and promises that God will defend the poor as well. As I search the Word there's no confusion on what He intends for us to do, but yet we often find ourselves struggling to do the very thing He's instructed. I'd be lying if I said I didn't have times where I just wanted to forget what was going on. I wanted to forget that there were people living on the streets just a few minutes away, that there were the oppressed and broken all around me.
Often sitting with the broken just stinking hurts.
It's not easy to look injustice in the face.
The stories of hardship, rape, poverty, blatant hatred, disregard, and on and on and on as I think of the countless stories I've heard over the years. They're not easy to hear. There's a few that stick out in my mind.
We were doing art therapy in DR-Congo a few years ago. A country with over two decades of war, still listed as one of the most impoverished nations, and known as the rape capital of the world. As I walked around the room eying the drawings of people I'd only just met, there was more bullets and blood than a horror film, but this was their lives. After the session a man came up to me with his paper, he told me his story of war (I'll spare you), and then handed me the paper with tears in his eyes. "Go tell them, go tell my story, tell them about what is happening here and then surely they will come help."
The young Sudanese girl didn't talk much. She was rightfully named, Mercy. She was kind and sweet, mentally disabled, from the years of trauma she'd endured. I was told her parents were murdered and she was left to the streets a young girl. She learned quickly to show men attention for a scrap of bread or if she was really lucky a coke. After a few years of abuse our friends picked her up and brought her home only to find that deep inside that broken vessel was such anger and hatred it had to be demonic. She once tried to kill a baby with a hoe. Again I'll spare you the details, but after being delivered from demons, Mercy came. The real Mercy. She never left my side the whole time at the base and finally right before I left, she whispered, "I love you." A young girl of few words, I realized the power of relationship. Mercy's story isn't rare, a victim of war at a young age, she's another example of how the greatest casualty of war is the citizens.
We called her Benzi. We walked into the war torn village of DR-Congo and stumbled across a young girl who had wore a rag as a dress and had burns all across her body. Her father had died, her mom taken as a soldier's bride, she was pretty much left to herself with the occasional check in from her aunt. She'd developed epilepsy (not uncommon in trauma victims) and it would often cause her to fall into the fire. My friend moved beside herself to compassion decided we'd take her to the doctor (not in this village) and buy Benzi some new clothes. As Benzi and my friend walked hand and hand she looked up and said "Mizungu are you going to be my mom now?" I still keep pictures of Benzi on my phone. I still remember the orphan girl who so longed for love and care that she was ready to be adopted by the first person who showed her any attention.
I won't even start on the new stories from the Middle East. To be honest, these make me emotional enough. I've looked in these people's eyes. I've seen the broken. I've cried with them. I've held their hands. We've helped them the best we can.
And it still hurts.
I said at the beginning, one thing I've learned, humanity doesn't like pain. I've met many in counseling sessions who spend their lives trying to avoid it. We turn up the radio at the sign of the homeless man on the corner, we turn the channel when the news shows it on tv, we refuse to go to "that part of town", and we're all together uncomfortable when they're sitting outside our grocery store. Why doesn't the city do something to make us all more "safe"?
Again... I still find myself here sometimes. Do I really want to put my heart through that again? I know what awaits me when I get off that plane or when I walk into that shelter.
Pain. Brokenness. Dysfunction. Hopelessness?
The feeling that maybe I'm smaller than I think and I can't just fix their life in an hour or less.
All so easily avoided by sticking to my "normal" church life.
Unfortunately when I go back into that Secret Place with the One whose eyes have captivated me, I see them in Him. When I pull out that Book that guides me, I see Him beckoning His Bride to sit with the broken.
He never said it would be easy. He never said it would be comfortable. But, He did say He would be there when we do. He did show us that He preferred that crowd anyway, for we all know, It's not the healthy who need a Physician.
Around us are the broken and the hurting. Within reach are the poor and the destitute. The ones the world tries to forget and yet Jesus keeps their faces close to His as He cries out for us to get to know them. To sit with the broken. To be an example of who He is. To love the hurting whether they believe the way we do or not. Ironically when the lost encounter Love they rethink their beliefs.
This morning as I sat with Him, my heart felt pain. I felt pain for the millions world wide who are dying in wars they didn't start, the ones dying of hunger because no one has come near, the young ones trapped inside a sexual driven culture where they'll be used for someone else's pleasure, the orphan, the widow, the broken, the hurting.
Today I refuse to look away. Today I look injustice in the face. Today I ask Jesus what is my part to play.