One of the hardest parts of the changes that have happened in my life over the past year or so is the PAIN that comes from engaging with those who suffer. Well, maybe I said that wrong. It’s not the pain itself that is hard to handle, but what to DO with the questions that the pain raises. It can just be so confusing some days. I was telling my friend that this past year has been filled with so much personal and spiritual growth…that I have been grappling so much with exactly what my faith means…that I have been stretched more than ever before in my life. I feel more aware of God’s presence in my life…more alive, and yet I have felt so doubtful at the same time.
It’s been this mixture of finding TRUE life in loving the broken, the hurting and impoverished, while at the same time feeling angry and confused about why they are in the situations they are in to begin with…why God seems so silent sometimes.
Then this week we got word that friends of ours in India were getting ready to take the police on a raid to rescue 8 GIRLS from different brothels where they were being sold for sex. YOUNG GIRLS. The police, however, said they would only rescue two of them. Not all eight. WHAT???? I can’t wrap my mind around that. So, they went on the raid but when they got there they discovered there had been a tip off and the two girls had been moved. There would be no rescue for them after all. Not even for two of the eight.
So I of course started my musings…”But, God…there were so many people praying for them to be rescued. Why didn’t you answer? I KNOW that you want them to be rescued because that’s your very nature. You LOVE. You PURSUE. You do not RELENT. Could you not just smite the creeps who sell these girls from the earth? Would you? PLEASE??? Why must they continue to be allowed to even live??”
Then I read the story of Jonah today in the car. It goes something like this: God told Jonah to go to Ninevah and tell the people there that God hated their wickedness. Jonah didn’t want to go to Ninevah so he went the opposite direction, got on a boat, there was a big storm and Jonah got thrown overboard, got swallowed by a big fish, got vomited out on the beach, then went to Ninevah and did what God asked. (He sorta took the long way to get there). But the thing that hit me today was that Jonah wasn’t necessarily afraid to go to Ninevah. He didn’t WANT to go because he knew the very nature of God…he knew that he was going to tell the people of Ninevah that they were wicked and that they would change their ways and God would have compassion on them and not wipe them from the face of the earth like Jonah wanted. Jonah wanted them to get what they deserved... a lot like I want the “bad guys” to get what they deserve so often. Jonah got angry with God that He didn’t just wipe them all out. In fact, in chapter 4 verse 2 Jonah says to God essentially “This is why when you told me to go to Ninevah I went the opposite direction to Tarshish – because I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity”.
Nice move, Jonah. You’re ticked off at God for being gracious and compassionate. Smooth. So, Jonah goes outside the city and sits there in the sun to see what God does. It gets hot and God sends a vine to grow up and give him shade. Jonah was happy about the vine. But then God sent a worm to eat the vine in the night and Jonah was ticked off that the vine had been destroyed. Then God says “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. But Ninevah has more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left. Shall I not be concerned about that great city?”
Whoah. That hit me. Who am I to question God? I didn’t create or care for those 8 girls who didn’t get rescued. God did. He made them. He knows every second of their pain. You know who else’s pain He sees? The people who hold these girls in slavery. The people who violate them. And His nature is to have compassion on them, not to wipe them off the face of the earth. In my finite human thinking this ticks me off sometimes. I too, feel like Jonah. Just get rid of them, God! Please! But God LOVES the people He made…even (and especially maybe?) the ones who are SO lost in life. And let’s face it…I’d rather have a God who abounds in love and compassion any day than a God who doesn’t. Where would I be if it weren’t for that???
God’s awfully good to put up with me thinking I can give Him a hand with running the world. I’m sure He is sitting up there shaking his head at me thinking “Amy, if you only knew even a fragment of what I know…”
There’s so much I don’t get about this world. And let’s face it…so much I don’t get about God. But I know that He’s good. And I know that He knows every child by name who is suffering tonight. I know He can meet their needs in ways I cannot. So, tonight I am asking God to give me a compassionate heart…not just for the people who suffer needlessly in the world, but for the people who cause the suffering. They hurt too. God, help me to ABOUND in love and compassion just like you.