We’ve all heard it, the age old question: why does God allow evil and suffering in the world? Nothing makes this question more relevant than the present experience of pain. There is brokenness in this world, some call it sin—the point is that things are not as they should be. At least, that is the opinion of the Text, the Tanakh, the Bible, Holy Scripture.

The Jews, similarly convinced of the brokenness of the world, gave us the idea of “tikkun olam,” that is, “fixing the world.” The world is in distress. When this distress comes into our view and we open our mouths to ask God, “Where are You?” He replies to us, “I am here; where are you?” Thus, it is our responsibility and privilege to partner with God to bring healing to this fractured world.*

I have recently been brought to a heightened awareness of the brokenness around me through my struggles this summer to find steady work, to make just enough to pay rent and buy food, only to then be entrusted with more challenges—insurance payments and auto repair bills. It’s a veritable cacophony of people exclaiming that you owe them, that you’re in debt to them. If only I could flay myself open, lay my life bare before each one and show them that I’ve not been irresponsible. Your good intentions, however, mean nothing in a consumer society… doesn’t that strike you odd? Competition means someone loses, and I’ve been losing a lot lately. Perhaps, at least in my thought life, I find a little bit of the brokenness of the world within myself.

So in the midst of the brokenness, I ask God, “Where are You?” and He responds to me, “I am here; walk with Me.” God is the only person wholly outside of brokenness, yet He chooses to be affected by our broken world by loving us. I believe that as we choose to walk with God in the midst of the broken world and let this very real problem enter into us as our responsibility, we will find the wholeness of God restoring our broken world. Yet, before we can see the wholeness of God, we must first be confronted with the utter brokenness of the world and feel the painful despair of knowing that we are powerless to fix it. That’s why we partner with God to fix it. He has the power, and He has asked us to represent Him.

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*Credit for this thought goes to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He has several books full of deep spiritual and philosophical insight.

I Am Not Afraid

Do you see the emotion?

I stand at my window with dread welling up in me. It’s a mild, sunny day, yet I can’t help but feel the weight of my opposition. I’ve heard it said that when you taste defeat, Almighty God weeps with you. I’ve heard it said that God restores the years that the locusts have eaten; He brings beauty out of ashes. I’ve heard it said that what the devil means for harm, God uses for good. I have heard it said that there are powerful lessons to be learned through pain, rejection, and hardship.

Maybe it’s all true.

But I have been through these things many times. I have tasted defeat. I have endured much pain. I have come through the desert and arrived at this place a different, new person; and who I am become and the things I have gracefully and humbly accomplished have been rejected and scorned time and again by people who have no idea what I’ve come through and have no respect for the passions of my pure heart.

And I’m not sure I want to go through this again.

I’ve seen a side of God that victoriously displays His glory and upends injustice, and I don’t know if I can bear His weeping. I’m not sure I can bear another defeat. So bitterness knocks at the door of my heart once more and I lock and deadbolt it. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out; and whether or not I let bitterness in, the stagnancy of me will, in time, become bitter and stale anyway. That’s not who I want to be.

I have to try again.

I have to offer the best of me and my passions to the judgment of others who may or may not deem me fit for their own vision and plans. I have to bare my heart to the possibility of desolation again. If I pass, I share in my Father’s joy. If I am rejected, I reflect my Father’s heart in forgiveness and sorrow and hope. Whatever happens, I stay living alive; and I refuse to scorn this gift of life that has been given to me by my Father. I am blessed to rejoice. I am blessed to hurt. I am blessed to love. I am blessed to forgive. I am blessed to feel—to live alive. I am blessed; therefore, I will open my heart to pursue passion and purpose. I will move forward. I will conquer defeat by standing up, looking it in the face, and telling it I’m not afraid of what it may do to me because it can only demonstrate that I’m alive.

Life-Cycles and Repetition

This morning, I woke up with questions on my mind. Let me explain some history: the space of time between this post and the last has been considerable. Here is what you need to know. Sometimes in life, people will hurt us and circumstances will crush us. It’s a very general statement, I know, but it’s a start. Since the start of this semester at college for me, I have had people enter my life who have reminded me of past hurts: friends who say that they enjoy your company but then don’t spend time with you. It seems contradictory to me. It makes me wonder what kind of baggage they must be dealing with. But I digress, throughout life, I believe you will always encounter people who lift you up as well as people who bring you down. You will always encounter situations that energize you and circumstances that drain the life-blood out of you. Which leads me to the question: why?

Why do we go through these situations? Are there lessons to be learned? Am I supposed to grow through my circumstances? None of these questions are explicitly invalid; however, it might be simpler than I thought at first. Circumstances will cause us to grow and lessons can be gleaned from our interactions with people, but maybe it is mainly our job to endure. Endurance is an interesting character trait. It can provide ground for bitterness to take root, or it can become a bed of rich spices and much joy.

I believe that one of the most significant reasons that we continually face certain types of hard circumstances and difficult people is simply to remember where we have been. Maybe the point of pain is to remember. Maybe the point of remembrance is to hold on to my identity. Maybe, just maybe, the goal is to endure, and the fruit of endurance depends on the seeds I sow as I persevere. Maybe whether I produce bitterness or joy depends on the thoughts I entertain while I am in the midst of enduring. The Bible says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Ps. 126:5-6)

Maybe, as I continually go through my different life-cycles, I will learn to grow closer to Jesus. Maybe, as I walk closer with Jesus, I will begin to see His power work through me to redeem my circumstances and plant seeds of faithfulness in the people who hurt me. Maybe, just maybe, it all starts with enduring.