I Refuse to Look Away

For I desire mercy not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
~ Hosea 6:6

With the recent news of first Afghanistan, and now Ukraine, my heart is heavy. Lives changed in a matter of moments. Losses quickly calculated: what do we take; what must we leave behind? Hundreds of thousands spilling over the borders, with many more likely to follow. Men from 17-80 waiting in line to take up arms and protect their country. The Ukrainian president himself, donned in military gear ready to die beside his fellow Ukrainians.

In these days, I am reminded of how fallen this world is, of how much I hate war, and hate people who wield their unyielding power for only evil. And I am growing more and more restless here as I sit and watch all of this unfold knowing what I am about to step into, but not quite there yet.

I know that often I talk about suffering and grief in this little space of the internet. You may read my posts and think these are so depressing. But I refuse to buy into the cultural lie, which sadly American Christianity has often perpetuated, that life, once we have found Christ, is simply rainbows and butterflies. That suffering is no longer a part of our DNA. That it does not exist in this fallen world we still call home.

There are currently 84 million forcibly displaced people in the world (UNCHR). Billions of people are currently affected by conflict, fragility, and violence. Then there are the people who, though having witnessed peace for some time, still carry the trauma of conflict and violence deep within them.

I think of so many of the ones I love in Northern Uganda. Though the war seemed far removed and distant, its heaviness still seemed to cover everything within reach. I saw it in the eyes of my friends when something returned them to that place in time. In visible and hidden scars, in people that no longer were, in places around town.

There used to be an IDP camp over there…
I slept in that Shell gas station’s parking lot every night for years…
This radio station is where we first made contact with Kony….

I returned home with so many questions wondering if the work I had done really mattered. Deep down I knew it was God glorifying, but I could not seem to shake this darkness that still shrouded parts of my time there. Did justice really matter if someone’s heart still wasn’t healed? How could others find true healing on this side of heaven? I was weighed down with these heavy questions.

I simply don’t believe that healing must wait for heaven. That somehow we must remain broken until we see the face of God. While true healing will only exist there, I do without a doubt think God wants to comfort and heal our hearts in the here and now. Mercy and compassion ministry is as fundamental to the Gospel as salvation itself. How can we come to know the richness and fullness of God without it. After all, when Jesus sent out his disciples, he sent them to not only preach the kingdom, but to also heal the sick (Luke 9:2). Countless Scriptures talk about the healing power of our God, Jehovah Rapha.

“But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the LORD…” Jeremiah 30:17

God is the ultimate healer. He refuses to look away from this world’s pain and suffering. Jesus ran to the hurting and dying. Splagchnizomai, the Greek word used 12 times in the Gospels to describe this compassion literally means “moved to ones inward parts”. So moved with compassion, feeling it so deep within his soul he was moved to action. He could not look away, and like him, neither should we.

But in order to have mercy and compassion; in order to be moved within our souls, it means we will have to endure hard and uncomfortable things. It means we will have to sit in that heaviness, even when we want to run away. It means we will have to step outside of ourselves and acknowledge the collective grief that binds us together. My heart breaks as the world groans and cries out. I cannot stand idly by, because in the face of unspeakable suffering…I refuse to look away. Maranatha! 

Kuc Obed Kedi! May all those suffering come to know the Lord’s immense peace and healing.

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