Responding To Suffering

IMG_2018“The more I think about the human suffering in our world and my desire to offer a healing response, the more I realize how crucial it is not to allow myself to become paralyzed by feelings of impotence and guilt.  More important than ever is to be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do and hold on to the joy and peace they bring me.  I must  resist the temptation to let the forces of darkness pull me into despair and make me one more of their many victims.” (Henri Nouwen, Here and Now)

There are so many levels where this quote hits home for me.  Not the least being trying to process my feelings about the horrific shootings which happened in Orlando this week.  Trying to think about all the people who will never see their loved ones again, families and friends who are hurting and heartbroken right now.  Trying to try to wrap my mind around the reasoning behind this attack and the evil that seems to have won in this instance.

I don’t have all the answers to my questions right now as I attempt to comprehend the suffering going on in that community and the ripple effect it is having on so many others.  But I do know that I serve a God who sees, who knows, who loves and who cares.  And that can somehow be enough for me.

“He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5)

On a different note, within my church I just started co-leading a six-week community group on “Orphans and Vulnerable Children: How We Can Respond.”  We went through the first session this week, which included a page with some important facts and statistics about the global orphan crisis.  This section was a bit overwhelming for me to say the least.

One bullet point that really caused me to pause was this: “Poverty, not lack of caregivers, is frequently cited as the reason for placing children in orphanages. Other causes of separation of children from parental care include disabilities, abuse and neglect, and emergencies such as natural disasters” (Journeys of Faith Study Series, Session 1).  This opened my eyes to the importance of a following point: “The quality of material components of care (such as food and housing) is not nearly as important as consistent and responsive interaction with a child’s caregiver, especially in the early years.”

It broke my heart to think some parents feel they have no other choice but to leave their child in an orphanage because of their level of poverty.  Especially coupled with the fact that consistent love and care, and not adequate food or shelter, is considered most important to a child’s early development.  The amount of suffering a child must go through in the midst of this loss and change seems insurmountable.

Our group talked about how statistics (at least 2.2 million children in the world live in orphanages and many estimates are higher) are helpful in understanding the scope of a problem but can sometimes paralyze a person from acting upon them – “What difference can I possibly make in all this?”  We can begin to shut down and withdraw from the enormity of the situation.

Yet, when you realize each of these numbers represents a precious kiddo who just needs to be loved and cared for, it becomes easier to think of helping.  I began to realize I simply need to “be very faithful to my vocation to do well the few things I am called to do,” as Henri Nouwen said in the quote at the top of this post.  We may not be called to help 2.2 million children but we can help that one, and then that one, and so on and so forth.

I’m not sure where this study will lead me but I do know that “feelings of impotence and guilt” should have no role in how I react to what I learn.  “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).  In this case, I can be free to care, free to love and free to respond!

**I’m linking up with Holley Gerth’s Coffee For Your Heart today.  Click on the image below to find some other great posts in the linkup**

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Love to Hear Your Thoughts!