Last night I stopped by my kids' room to check on them before turning out the lights and heading to bed. Anna was asleep sideways on her bed with her feet hanging off the side. Eli was only partially covered and his bare arms looked cold. I moved Anna back onto her pillow, covered them both, and stood gazing at them from the door. My heart was so filled up and I was thinking "I love them so much!" I saw at Eli clinging tightly to his stuffed animal and recognized the comfort that little toy was bringing him as he slept deeply and peacefully. Then the thought came to mind: there are children in the world who live lives of horror every day; children Eli's age who are sold into sexual slavery; children who have no one to tuck them in at night and fear what each morning will bring; children who have nothing to cling to to bring them security. There is a child right now who is being raped for profit. I walked toward my room and had to stop in the bathroom because I was weeping. My heart cried out to God: How long will you allow evil to crush the innocent? How long until you make it right? The words of the psalmist seemed to fit my feelings best:
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, "The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed."
- Ps 94:3-7I have been reading some books lately that have really opened my eyes to the world as it truly is today, in more parts of the world than we want to realize. It started with reading the book Sold. It is a fictional story about a Nepali girl tricked into living a life of sexual slavery. I read it in one day. It was so compelling because the author based the story on her personal experiences of meeting women just like the character in the book. Most often these young teens were told by an acquaintance that there was a job for them in the city that would help them provide for their families, only to be sold by their new "friends" to a brothel. The women are given no hope of ever escaping from this life, and therefore live lives without hope at all. For over a week after reading Sold I could hardly do anything without feeling grief. Grief for the millions who are forced into slavery in one way or another around the world each day. Grief for the children who have their innocence stolen from them and are forever damaged by the loss.
The other book I have been reading is Terrify No More. It is the real life account of Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission (IJM) and his team's mission to rescue children from sexual slavery in Cambodia. The book recounts many of IJM's successes at bringing justice to opressors and freeing the oppressed, but its focus is on a raid in one particular town in Cambodia where children as young as 5 years old were being openly sold for prostitution. After months of scouting the area, gaining support from the government, and training the local police force they conducted the raid and were able to rescue over 20 girls, at least 10 of whom were under 10 years old. As I read this book I am constantly being reminded that this could easily be my child if I happened to live in a developing country where the government simply does not have the resources to combat the disease that is human trafficking.
My heart has two reactions to all of this. The first is deep and longing grief for those who are suffering. The other is anger and frustration that evildoers are allowed to prosper; that people are actually making money off of the suffering of others. Many people come against these same feelings and it causes them to question or turn away from God. They wonder how a omnipotent and good God could allow such injustice in the world. Since they can't reconcile the idea of a loving God with the overwhelming oppression we see in the world they conclude that there really is no God. I however have the opposite response. I see what sin has done in this world. It has made us greedy. It has made us blind to the plight of the voiceless. But I see the fact that there are organizations and individuals willing to sacrifice their time, their financial security, and even their lives for the sake of the oppressed as evidence of God's Spirit at work in the world. That love and passion, the desire to make circumstances better for the opressed, to heal their wounds and remove them from a place of despair, and to bring them to a place of joy and peace; THAT is the evidence of God. I know that ever since I prayed that prayer "I want my heart to expand outside of myself" before leaving for India, God has been doing just that. As His Spirit works inside me I respond with a passion, love, and willingness to sacrifice that I did not have before. I am able to want less and give more; I am satisfied with what I do have; I am burdened with an expectant hope for the future - one that I have a part to play in.
While I cannot fully comprehend the timing of our God, I believe that He is holding out his judgment in waiting for the oppressors to repent. In the mean time He wants His people to be His voice of justice in the world. We cannot stand by and see people being crushed and not respond. I don't know exactly what that looks like for me (I do know this post is part of it), and I most certainly don't know what that looks like for you. But I am confident that if we are willing, God will show us how to respond until His final word is spoken. As the psalmist writes later in the same passage:
14 For the LORD will not reject his people;
he will never forsake his inheritance.
15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart will follow it.
- Ps 94:14-15 (emphasis mine)