When you grieve what’s going on a world away

My heart has been so heavy lately, for two things that I know have been all over the news.

For the people of Haiti and the region where I have Haitian friends, Haitian families and pastors that have been impacted by the earthquake and heavy rain. For the families whose houses were devastated and now have nowhere to take shelter. For the ones grieving with loss. I know this region. I have been there, multiple times. I have driven the streets of Jeremie, and seen the buildings that now are split in two. I have crossed the river that must be swollen with rain, walked the muddy streets. In many ways I feel utterly helpless.

My prayers have been that the schools New Life for Haiti built, the organization I traveled with, would be a shelter from the storm, that the people would be there for each other – helping – not selfish, and that the small but resilient body of Christ would be his hands and feet with the little they have to take care of them. I know that when things like this happen, there is a mad rush for tarps for makeshift shelters and rice and beans so that people can simple eat. My prayer is that those that know God and put their hope in him would BE the light and hope for their fellow villagers, even in the midst of their own pain. Not because they can fix things or have endless resources, but because they can love them and walk with them in the devastation, because they can cry with them and bring their tears to God.

My heart has also been heavy for the women of Afghanistan as I read stories of them rushing to get birkhas and the fear they are now headed into. Fear of losing freedoms they had enjoyed like working and education and freedom to go wherever they wanted. Stories of wondering how they will even feed their families, if they are not allowed out without the presence of a male in their family, yet they are widows so what will they do?

Reuters has a beautiful picture library of many of these women – police officers, university graduates, TV reporters, soldiers. There are women on a robotics team, engineers working to restore a temple, musicians practicing for a concert, cyclists. All free. I cannot even begin to imagine what it will be like for them if all this is taken away.

It is not right

It is not good at all, and we all know this don’t we?

The Taliban is telling the world that they want peace, that they will not rule militantly, but we have yet to see if they really mean it. So much of me wants to cry EVIL!!! for that is what I see on the TV and read about on any news channel, no matter what their slant. But even these men are human. As a follower of Jesus that tries to take his call to love enemies and pray for those who persecute – I struggle to have compassion, to say as Jesus “Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing”. I want justice. I want to set it right, to fix it…. but I can’t.

… and so I will see and I will hear, thousands of miles away.

And I will never stop praying for change

My reading this morning was from Psalm 142. How perfectly timed.

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned or me. I have no refuge, no one cares for my life.”

It never ceases to amaze me how clearly the psalmists from thousands of years ago express the cry of the human heart. Yet they do it believing there is a God who hears, and does not sit idly without feeling.

And so I say to my fellow Haitians, I grieve with you for the loss of your home, your hungry bellies. The hardship of how to move forward, yet again. I see you, and you are not alone.

I say to the women of Afghanistan my sisters and all those who are fearful and grieving – I see you, you are NOT alone. I mourn for your freedoms lost, and we are praying for change to come again.

We will not stop

The rest of the psalm is a perfect prayer to start this day (slightly tweaked):

I am crying out to you, the God of all the Heavens – can you help those that are grieving find you as a refuge somehow? I have no idea how, but please. They need you.

Will you be their portion in their village, in the midst of those around them also struggling? They are still alive, even if they feel dead, and you are the living God! Keep them alive! Keep their hope alive!

Hear their cries, for you see and you know they are in desperate need; rescue them from the ones who pursue them to steal and take what is not theirs, to arrest and condemn when they have done nothing wrong.

You know those that would be their accusers are too strong for them

Set them free from what feels like a prison, that their voices will rise and thank you

Show your goodness to them in the smallest of ways, through people around them, through your creation, through your quiet voice and whisper in the night, that they will know you see them.

Amen

Just a little discontent

So I’m going to be honest about something. There are days when I look back on my faith even a few years ago, and I wonder if I had a polly-anna view of life? I have always been someone who can see the bright side of things, have hope when all seems lost, and find joy in hidden places. I have struggled to understand why people walk away from God and faith when things get hard, or when prayers go unanswered.

It’s not that life has been easy for me. I have dealt with hard things, just like anyone: two miscarriages, lots of church hurt, moving and losing friends, feeling alone and hopeless. I have navigated life with an ex and a daughter with mental illness. Seasonal depression of my own. Loss of dreams and starting over. Sure, my stuff might not compare to yours or someone else’s, but we all have our own journey, right? Yet in all this, somehow I still never understood why people questioned God’s faithfulness or love. I just didn’t get it.

Now I do.

I put the house on the market three months ago. I figured it was the best way to be a good steward of my finances, seeing as how I didn’t need a huge house just for me. Maddie had moved out, Maia was up at school, and it was a chance to slim down and save money. I prayed, I trusted God would provide a buyer. My parents had finished their basement, so I had a small apartment I could move into until I figured out the next step. That never happened.

I had all sorts of conversations with God about how I needed Him to provide – not just in this but in other areas as well. Nothing. No offer… even after reducing the price. Oh – its not that the house isn’t beautiful. I got GREAT reviews. Then folks either decided to build their own (I should get commission for that from the builders I think.. LOL) – or had complaints about the parking or yard. Ugh. So, needless to say, the house is off the market now and I figure God must have something else planned.

But it was in this process that I began to understand why people question God when things don’t go the way they prayed, or how they wanted them to go. Mind you, I have heard a ton of sermons on this over the course of my life. How sometimes the answer is NO. Sometimes the answer is NOT YET. God always knows best.

None of this brought me any peace or change in my perspective. I know it should have, and I should have graciously said in faith “ok God I trust you, do whatever you want”. Don’t get me wrong: I could acknowledge this externally. I knew in my head this was true. It was my soul that wasn’t quite letting go, and I couldn’t figure out why. My guy (yes.. I know I haven’t told you much about him yet. Keep waiting) kept asking me if I was patient. I kept saying yes. Obviously all my verbal process/fretting/questioning betrayed that!

I finally realized it wasn’t an issue of patience for me.. it was that I had stopped being content with the way things were playing out.

Yes, yes …. I know the verse in Philippians where Paul says “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation”. But I couldn’t just throw that verse at my life and then say “see Tama, you should be content”. I am a planner. I am a logical person. I am the kind of person that organizes for vacation. I schedule fun. Weeks out. (Yes I am a type “A”… go ahead and proceed with the mocking.. I can take it. … ). So when what seemed to be a really good plan wasn’t working, I struggled to understand why. All the praying in faith that the Lord taught me about years ago just felt like I was trying to manipulate God now. I finally had to just stop asking and pay attention to the reality, and accept that maybe MY plan wasn’t exactly what HE had in mind.

Wow. Imagine that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been at this place before.

I am also sure some of you are laughing or chuckling at this very moment.

But I get it now. Why, when for our best laid plans, sometimes people walk away from faith. God, you didn’t provide. God, you ignored my cries. God, you didn’t rescue me or save my child or my relationships or my job. God where are you? So we walk away out of our misunderstanding and frustration.

Do we realize we are not the only people in the world who have those questions? We are not the only generation that has asked that. Look at the Psalms. Look at stories of people whose countries are at war, who are in hiding for their lives because of their faith. We have it easy here folks. Our world is broken, we are weak in keeping promises and being faithful and we do a really good job of trying to make things go our way even when we don’t realize we do.

But GOD’s character never changes. He is good, He is faithful, He is near, even when we miss him, don’t get it, or are blind. Jesus gets it. Heck, look at how often his own disciples didn’t get what he was doing, didn’t understand God’s plan, and struggles to make sense of what was going on in life.

Is your faith strong enough to hold on? Can you remind others who are struggling, and help be their anchor when they can’t any more?

Around Christmas, I had blogged a bit about not seeing what God is doing until we look at our lives AND the lives of others around us, and only then sometimes it makes sense. I have a feeling that is what is going on here for me, and I’m finally starting to be curious about what that might look like.

Don’t give up friends, your faith is worth more than gold. There is so much more to know about our God, and your life has just begun!