Monday, September 13, 2010

Real Perspective for a Real Question

Why does a merciful God allow suffering starvation and poverty? That's the question. I want to thank those of you who left comments sharing your thoughts and insight regarding this question in the previous post. I'd like to begin by stating that my answers to this tough question are simply my opinions based on my own personal experience of what I have been through and seen in my own life. I believe everyone must come to their own conclusion to this question. It does help to gain perspective and hear the voices of others in order to have something to juggle in our own minds. We must challenge ourselves with these tough questions from time to time. You know I am a visual gal so I will begin by showing you pictures of situations that have helped me come to the conclusions I have from some of my trips in the past year or so.

The first pic above is the reality of injustice, poverty and suffering of children thrown in the face of my friend, Lori, while we were all in Sierra Leone to open an orphanage. She told me on the plane ride there that she didn't really even know why she was going on that trip. She didn't know what her purpose was. Then, within a day or two of being there, she, like all of us, was hit with that overwhelming feeling of "Lord, this is horrible! There is just so much need everywhere....what can I do?"

Then, one morning while we were all spinning in our minds over what in the world to do about all that we had seen, a young boy shockingly showed up at our guest home. He was 14, way too thin, and had been abused. He was a part of the group of kids that we were fighting for. He was so worried that we wouldn't come back to help that he ran away from that awful place and went to his uncle for transport money and then traveled two hours by himself to come find us to ask for help. Lori was immediately drawn to him and him to her. Her heart went out to him and the Lord began laying things on her heart. Because of his bravery, and after a lot of drama, by the end of the trip he and his two siblings were free from that place of abuse and residing in the new center we went there to open.
And guess what two hearts were knitted together in the meantime? This boy's mother was dying of Aids and Lori stepped in and began showing him the love of a mother like he hadn't seen or experienced in such a long time. She came home, talked to her husband and kids and now they are thankfully adding this sibling group of three to their family through adoption. You see, this boy and his siblings were suffering, they were experiencing poverty and injustice. Lori went on that trip not knowing her purpose but found it by God placing her in the path of a hopeless child that needed her. She is the picture of Jesus, above, and what He longs to do for all those who suffer, through us.

Then there is Tina, above, who had a heart to help the orphan.
Because God laid a call on her heart for the suffering children in Sierra Leone, she now takes teams over who have found their call. You can see above that one little starving child is looking into the eyes of the closest thing to Jesus that she can have right now while she is still in this fallen world and needs Him now more than ever.
Above, you can see the joy that Tina has brought to her child's birth mother by stepping in to love this woman's daughter as her own through adoption. This mother could not even feed her child due to poverty but look at the picture above. Again, this is such a picture of how God wraps His arms around all of the suffering through us....his hands and feet, and takes care of the need. Now look at those still waiting for someone to do the same for them in the background. Remove Tina from the picture and someone would look at them and ask "Why would God allow them to suffer so?" I believe God asks the same thing of us. Why do we allow them to suffer? Where are His people? It only takes one person helping one person to make a difference, as you can see. But you have to start with the one that you can do something for. But the great thing is it never ends with one. There is a ripple effect that begins to move when you start with the one.
Above, you see us with our son just days after we picked him up for the first time in Ethiopia. He never had a father and his birth mother was deaf and mute and too poor to feed him. Because of her suffering she made the brave choice to place him up for adoption, never knowing if she would see him again, but praying he would have a better life than her. God had his life planned. In the midst of this mother's suffering He had already provided the answer. It was us. We didn't find this little boy....he found us through us allowing God to lead the way. I can't tell you how blessed we are to have this precious child. Nathan is such a gift to us. He is a gift we never would have had, had his mother not suffered and made the decisions she did. But God saw the bigger picture. The picture beyond her suffering.

When I found his birthmom and his older sister, the Lord opened the doors for us to love them and help them in their greatest time of need. We just saw where they live for the first time on this last trip to ET. Now his sister just took her exam to go to a much better school and we are preparing for them to move to a place that will fit their needs much better than what they were in. How did I find them on this last trip? We walked through a village with her picture and God found her for me. Yes, amazing! But again....look at the above picture. God would have us step in and provide hope where there is none. If we, the ones who are made in His image, don't....then who will?

You see floods everywhere these days. Our city of Nashville was hit with one that was just crazy and unheard of. People lost everything they owned and were left with lots of questions, "why?"
But then there were those who stepped in to help. Take the one blind woman and her husband who were flood victims that we recently helped. Had it not flooded then I would have had no reason to be in the place I was, which was out looking for flood victims. I stumbled upon them and now so many people stepped up to help that they have a brand new house, new friends, and saw the love of God in their greatest time of need. They turned out better in the end than they were before the flood.
Now look at the child above, and the one below. These are pictures of the lost, the fatherless, the hopeless, those without anyone to call Mom or Dad.....the orphan.
They don't look lost and hopeless, or like they are suffering at all do they? They are full of joy because of the love they are being shown by those stepping in to fill that void. All they need is us. Above, you see Ashley from our last OH trip to ET. She was so moved by the people of Ethiopia that she found her calling and is packing her bags. She leaves in November to move there permanently to serve the least of these as her life mission.
I have seen poverty and need like in the above picture of one of my favorite little buddies in Ethiopia. I about died when I saw his shoes. What are the odds that this little boy, living in a trash dump, with a leprous mother, would ever find his answer or his hope? Well, a bunch of crazy Americans stumbled across him and guess who not only has new shoes, new clothes, and is now going to boarding school?? Much to our surprise, God used us as the answer to his greatest need.

And then look at the joy that was on these orphans faces when we gave them something as basic as shoes. They LOVED them. We sometimes get overwhelmed at the need that is everywhere but really something as small as giving shoes can be an answer to prayer to a child who doesn't have any.

Something as simple as giving bread to children who are hungry can speak God's love to them more than anything else in that moment of their greatest need. Something as silly as purchasing a sheep for food seems odd to us but when you see that a sheep provides soup that feeds a doesn't seem so odd or silly anymore.

Yes, there are people starving, there are people hurting and there are people suffering everywhere. We can ask "Why" all day long. I believe the "Why" is simply because we live in a fallen world. A world that fell from the beginning through bad choices that were made that now we all see the ripple effect from. But just as we see that ripple effect from the bad choices we see God provide the solution which also produces a ripple effect which changes lives for the better. The solution is us.
One of my favorite stories in the bible is the story of Joseph. There are so many times he was treated unjustly and many times that I'm sure he asked "Why, Lord....have I not been faithful?" But you see God's purpose in the end. He turned it all around and used it as the fuel for Joseph's purpose in the end.

Genesis 50:20 (New International Version)

20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

There is definitely evil in this world. The fact is that we don't have all the answers because we are not God. But if we let Him direct our steps then He can turn the that which is intended for evil, around for His good. Love outweighs evil. Love conquers all. I have stared evil in the face in my own life in my younger years. But I now see how God uses that to fuel the fire inside of me to help others, as I too, know what it is like to suffer. No amount of suffering is too big for God's love, grace and redemption. He turned my life around and now it is my duty to show others that suffer, that He can do the same for them. I think the biggest answer to the tough question is that the answer lies within us. We may not have all the answers but we are the answer to someone in need.....someone who needs hope, a hug, a kiss, new shoes, or a new mom and dad. God's love can be expressed through us on this earth and there is no greater need for it then when we are looking into the face of someone suffering. We become the hands and feet of Jesus and are placed in their path for a reason. God's purpose for our life is always much bigger than our own. We just must always step out of our comfort zone to find it.

Again....this is only the conclusion I have come to based on my own life walk and experiences. What is your conclusion? Friday we will have another LETS GET REAL question. Thank you again for your insight as we all strive to make sense of this crazy world we live in.


  1. This is beautiful and FULL or TRUTH~!
    Many Blessings!

  2. Good write up.
    I think one of the reasons God uses suffering is to Glorify Himself and to save His people. Remember Stephen in Acts
    Acts 8
    On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
    4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ[a]there. 6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil[b] spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.

    When suffering happens, the gospel is spread and His people hear.

  3. As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
    "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
    John 9:1-3

    We are the hands of Jesus on earth. He puts each of us where we are, right now, to do his work. We fail him when we don't do what we are told - to love our neighbour, our Lord, our selves.

    "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." If one in every twelve Christians adopted one child, there would be no orphans in the world. We have the power to make a difference.