Believing God is Good

 “One of the reasons I believe the Bible and love the Bible is because it deals with the hardest issues in life. It doesn’t sweep painful things under the rug — or complex things or confusing things or provoking things or shocking things or controversial things” ~John Piper

Her tiny hand was crusted with filth.  Her fingernails were rimmed black and I cannot imagine the last time she was bathed.  She was barefoot, dirty, skinny, and wearing tattered clothes.  She looked to be about 5 years old and her chocolate brown eyes were an ocean of heartache. She held her cupped hand in front of me, mumbling something that I could not understand and although others say not to, I reached into my purse to grab a couple of coins to place in her hand. My heart was heavy and I felt helpless. I know giving money encourages those who make her beg, but what happens to her if she doesn’t deliver?

“Where are you God?  How is this ok,” I silently screamed on her behalf as I watched her walk and beg every person waiting for the bus alongside of me.  Others nudged her away or treated her as if she was invisible. After several minutes of doing her best at what she has been forced to do, she walked back by me to go beg somewhere else.

Time froze as this precious, enslaved one walked by and looked at me over her shoulder. Amidst the hubble-bubble of people running to catch buses, my heart was fine tuned to this treasure who represents the least of these. The wind caught her wispy hair and her hopeless eyes locked arms with Hope who lives in me, and I smiled at her.  The look on her face begged for so much more than money or food – her eyes begged for help. I pictured my own daughter who is about her age.  These two children live in opposite worlds yet side-by-side on this earth.  The trapped girl is forced to beg all day (and possibly night) on the street and most likely has an adult who is making her do so.  I’ve been told and read about what happens to these babies if they do not deliver and supply the adults with earnings from the day.  It can be horrific and it’s wrong and it’s truly more than I can stomach.

With tourist season upon us, I watch wealthy tourists from all over the world taking pictures of young children who are dressed up and forced to sit and play an instrument or simply just beg, and it fills me with so much emotion.  To these tourists, these children seem to be some type of novelty – something to take a picture with and then forget about as they go onto their next tourist destination.  But I see these kids on a regular basis and I see the truth. I see children who are not being educated and who are forced to work and sit on the streets all hours of the day.  I see children who could be headed for a life of drugs, poverty, possibly prostitution, and repeating this same lifestyle with their own children.  I see mothers my own age, sitting on the street and their stories are all the same.  They sit there in filth, holding a baby that is said to be sick, but a local woman told me that the babies are commonly drugged to appear that way. Sigh. I see sadness and sin and because Jesus the Messiah is not known to them, I see the hopelessness that they have yet to escape.

I see why the world needs Jesus.

A couple days later, I sit at Burger King with my husband, children, and family that is visiting from America. I look up at my daughter who is happily eating chicken nuggets.  She is a picture of childhood and that blissful ideal of what life is supposed to be like is quickly shattered as a young street child about her age stands one foot behind her with her hand held out, desperate for help on every level.  What do I do?  How do I process this?  My heart that is filled with the love of Christ cannot stand to see the innocent be abused this way.

“Oh Lord, where is Your goodness?,” becomes the transparent cry of my heart as I look for the goodness of God in a darkly oppressed country.

After leaving Burger King, we walk through crowded streets and I am again hit head on by the sin in this world.  A little boy about the age of my son stops right in front of me.  He holds out his dirt covered hand and my face bends towards his as I see his maimed face.  His eye is missing – could he be one of the children I have been told about who has endured physical abuse to make him a more profitable street beggar? The wind is knocked out of me and a mixture of sorrow and anger wells up inside.  I have nothing with me but a brand new box of baklava. I am swarmed by fast moving people on a very busy sidewalk and in the split second that I have before I get separated from my family, I place a piece of baklava in his hand and just like that, he is gone. And he may be gone, but the memory of his face haunts me still.

And as I continue on in this season of breaking every chain that binds me to the comfort of America that I still long for, I find myself comparing all that I grew up knowing to all that I see in my life abroad.  With the comparison comes reflection and with reflection comes being still before the Father and watching Him remove the veil that covered my eyes. When I was in America, life was one of luxury that was far removed from suffering on this level. The occasional trip down to the local rescue mission would often redirect my focus and remind me of ways that I can be the hands and feet of Christ, but once I got back in my air-conditioned car and drove back to my house, sadly the inspiration to be Jesus to the hurting slowly faded out of mind.  When you are living your life in a beautiful neighborhood only surrounded by Christian friends of the same social class and fill your time with only church activities (like I once did), the war that is waged every moment of every day for the souls of the hurting, hungry, abused, and oppressed can be brushed under the rug and forgotten about.  Out of sight, out of mind. The forgotten are simply forgotten.  The unloved remain untouched by Love.  The invisible are never seen.  The outcast are never included. Being far removed from this degree of the results that came from Adam and Eve’s eating of the fruit and only being surrounded by educated, wealthy Christians who love to declare how good God is when life is easy, creates the perfect storm within the heart, setting the stage for a crisis of faith when you are suddenly thrust into a world that is 99% Muslim and full of sin on every level. This enlightenment to the suffering He wishes me to stand in the middle of as a light is painful and beautiful and gut-wrenching and hope-filled. It is joyful sorrow.

Yes, American’s shout “God is good” on Facebook when their already huge house sells and they can start building their dream home from all their pins on Pinterest.  American’s shout “God is good” when they get job promotions and when they find and purchase their dream car.  American’s shout “God is good” when their child is born in a clean hospital with no complications. And God is good.  He is perfectly good and sometimes He chooses to bless His children with enjoyable gifts…but…

But as my naivety has been removed and all that I’ve ever known has been challenged, I’ve found myself questioning. I’ve found myself searching to understand God’s goodness when it’s hard to see…

How is God good when children are mutilated so they can be enslaved to the streets?  How is God good when mothers drug their babies?  How is God good when children are forced to beg instead of going to school?  How is God good when my son tells me he watched a man hit his wife at the bazaar? How is God good when your disabled child is born in a hut? How is God good when you hear your neighbor beat his wife? How is God good when Christians in America are free to do as they please and Christians in other countries are tortured and killed….how is God good when I watched my mom die from cancer?  How is God good when my dad committed suicide? How is God good…

“God uses sorrowful tragedy to set the stage for surprising triumph—whether in this life or the life to come.” ~David Platt

All that I see and feel doesn’t change the fact that God is good and that Jesus is coming back. Triumph is on His way and His name is Faithful and True. This hope for redemption leads to faith in His goodness.

God is good because the Bible says He is good.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” ~Psalm 34:8

God is good because when man chose to sin and destroy the perfect harmony of all things, God chose to send His Son, Jesus, who is the one and only Hope for all of mankind. Hope in our secured eternity makes our hearts strong as we wait in the midst of suffering. Hope expects to see God’s goodness when the world tells us our only option is despair.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.” ~Psalm 27: 13-14

God is good because He Himself is the highest and greatest good. He is perfect and holy and all-knowing, and from Him flows all that is good. God is good and chooses to bless some with material blessings and God-fearing families.  God is good because even if your life on earth is spent in utter isolation and slavery, Jesus offers Hope in the life to come. The sin of man may steal away your possessions, innocence, or even your very life, but nothing can change the permanent Truth found in the promises of God and in the saving power of Jesus. The acceptance of God’s sovereignty is the beginning of accepting what God allows in your life as good and as something that will be used for not only your good, but for the good of others. God gives and God takes away – He is good and deserves all of our praise.

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” ~Job 1:21

My misguided blame and angry questions have been quenched by realizing that suffering from sin will always be prevalent this side of eternity.  It sounds basic, but part of my journey overseas has been putting into practice all that I have ever known and believed in.  Part of my journey has been re-learning some of the very same and basic lessons in a new and more difficult context. My suffering and my seeing of suffering has become the testing ground of my faith in His promises and the Truth of His character that was instilled in me during easier seasons of life. As I press on and endure the tests, my faith emerges beautifully refined and fueled by refreshed hope. Yes, it’s just God and me in this world – a world that I see as my classroom. And although there are moments of shocking disbelief when I am confronted by pain and suffering, God proves faithful to always redirect me to hoping in His promises. His promises are full of grace and hope and truth and there will be a day when all that we see will be made right.

And so I continue to hope.

I continue to look to Him to show me His goodness, and I believe that I will see it

I continue to endure and to ask God the tough questions, realizing that Jesus is always the answer

I continue to breathe in His grace as He sustains me through the learning of difficult lessons, knowing that there is a reason for everything

I practice saying truths about God and His love that I can quickly tell the children I see and I pray that God will reveal Himself to them

And on days that I simply do not feel like it, I am again learning the discipline of reminding myself of the permanent Truth that God is always always always good. His love endures forever.

Thank you Father for allowing Jesus to experience the ultimate and temporal suffering so that we will never have to experience the ultimate and everlasting suffering.

You are good

{ Hope lives on in a heart fixed on You and a mind stayed on your Word }

the view from my bedroom