It hit me hard, there in the In N Out drive through lane. The reality that half a world away mothers were handing over babies to evil men, while I was handing over burgers and fries for lunch. I pulled over and wept as my children ate. Then I told them the truth as gently as I could, people were dying in the world today because they would not disown God. The next day I couldn't bring myself to eat, because my faith felt small. Calling it fasting doesn't seem right. I needed to hear from The Lord and food just didn't seem the right highway to His voice. So again I pulled to the side of the road, metaphorically this time, and bowed low. All day long. And after much heartsickness I felt God meet me in the posture of my broken faith.
(and) I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; (Revelation 6:9)
In my hunger for food and my hunger for Him, God reminded me that He sees each pain, hears each cry, and catches every tear.
However atrocious evil acts are, God's mercy hands which grab hold of His saints are more glorious. And the martyrs throughout history and around the world, who in their death actually see God's face, have experienced His powerful presence more than our safe souls can fathom. And a deep part of me yearns for that nearness. Like Stephan, and so many since, "to see Heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!" (Acts 7:55-56)
Oh to see His face,
And to know He sees mine;
Fear, joy, and the forever promise of glory must mingle in the exchange.
We went to a fundraiser a few years back, my husband and I, for a ministry that trains local Christians to preach the Good News of Jesus' love within the borders of the Islamic world. That was the weekend "suffering for the Lord" became more than words, as they took on the faces and stories of real people.
Testimony after testimony flooded over safe people with deep pockets.
The story of the pregnant woman who was kicked in the belly until she gave up her child. Her eyes lit up at the retelling, for she saw Jesus' eyes and heard His voice. And a young man shared his story or those same eyes, for in his suffering he saw them too. And the two women imprisoned and abused, that just had to preach truth to their captors again and again, for the spirit of God's nearness compelled them.
Then Robin Williams died, and a new sadness washed over me. More than grief over one lost life, more than another great talent gone too soon, I was heartsick again over a hurting world. Hurting people in a hurting world, needing Those Eyes to penetrate their pain, my pain, and yours.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3)
And Ferguson. Does He see the ongoing pain of His black children too? My heart's still digesting this one. And I've never moved past those dear girls in Nigeria, stolen. How can we ever move past that?
Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His Sight.
In. His. Sight.
And He sees throughout the land of Israel and into each Palestinian home, and across all the desert lands surrounding. He sees.
Seeing into the fearful hearts of children, stranded and scared on the other side of their border-home. And into orphan hearts and prostitution rings.
I know He sees, but the hurting parts of me cry out "Why"? Like the elderly man who stood beside me looking at the gold-leafed, brilliantly illustrated pages of the Gutenberg Bible a few years ago.
We spoke of the historic achievement of Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, among other things. It was a nice, albeit short, conversation. And when he turned to leave I said something I rarely say to a stranger. Maybe it was the presence of the Bible in the room, or the very Spirit of God leading us into what would come. I said, "God Bless you today."
In an instant he turned with twisted face and hissed, "God? God ?" Then rolled up his sleeve and laid his forearm bare. The numbers on his old thin skin spoke of an evil unfathomable. "God? You really believe there is a God? A God who would allow this... evil?" Shaking his fragile fist he waited for my answer.
This is what spilled out of my mouth that hot afternoon, out into the cool, dark room where history is stored. "I am so sorry you've had to endure such hatred. But God does love you, Sir. God loves every one of us, however He doesn't force us to love Him back. He gives us all the freedom to choose. For that is love. But with the freedom to choose love, comes the freedom to choose hate. And evil. And those who chose evil did evil to you. But God does love you, Sir. He does." We both stood there, strangers, with tears rolling down our faces. His old and weathered, and mine still young. Both wet.
He took a step back, and said, "I've never thought of it like that."
Today I am thinking of it like that.
Because, again, pure evil is being chosen out of free will. Again and again. And so I pray for the innocent oppressed by their hatred today. And I'm praying for you. And I'm praying for me.
How are you coping today? And how is your faith faring these storms?
- My current series on "knowing my children" can wait another day.