One of the first times I can recall fighting with God was a real Jacob-wrestling-God kind of moment in a tiny village in Malawi, Africa, where views are spectacular and resort-like, but poverty is brutal and debilitating. Poverty shoves itself in your face and demands that you respond. Having grown up in a stable, comfortable home in the US, I had a lot to process. I had to wrestle through the confusion – Am I even on the same planet? – the anger –Why are children dying as a direct result of poverty? – the guilt –Why isn't this my story? Why have I been given so much?
I was shocked by the world I was suddenly facing.
Maybe that’s it. Poverty, orphans, widows and refugees–are we even shocked anymore? I catch myself frequently turning the TV off or scrolling quickly on Facebook or hiding the post or changing the station because . . . I don’t want my heart to break. I tell myself that it’s because I get it–I know what’s going on in the world and I know I’m supposed to do something about it. Don’t tell me the story. Don’t make me feel sad. I get it. Do I really, though?
Do you? Do we–in a society that promotes comfort above all–allow ourselves to feel heartbreak?
In some ways, I feel immuned. I’ve been on the mission trips. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve seen the pictures, but then, sometimes there’s that story or that picture or that moment I didn’t expect, and I feel real pain, and I’m surprised. Have we forgotten what it's like to empathetically hurt for one another? Are we afraid to hurt? Are we afraid to feel convicted?
What would it look like if we started letting ourselves feel heartbroken? What would change if we, as Matt Maher so famously sings, let God “break our hearts for what breaks [His]”? What breaks God's heart?
God "defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigners residing among you, giving them food and clothing." Deuteronomy 10:18
"Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17
"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5
"This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hands of their oppressors those who have been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place." Jeremiah 22:3
"The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked." Psalm 146:9
"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." James 1:27
So, as we look at those who face poverty, orphaning, and every kind of human injustice, let us "weep with those who weep", but let us not merely sit in the heartbreak and the weeping. Let us use that heartbreak to spur us on to something more, something crazy . . .
. . . something we hadn’t previously considered. Adoption. Foster care. A mission trip. Creating that nonprofit. Pursuing that job. Taking that risk.
Love isn't a word. Love is a verb. It often begins with empathetic heartbreak; however, it certainly doesn't end there.
Where can we start?
- Get educated. Learn about global injustices, how the church is addressing those injustices, and how we should be addressing those injustices in the future. Looking for some reading materials? Check these out:
- Revolution in World Missionsby K. P. Yohannan
- Generous Justice by Timothy Keller
- Love Doesby Bob Goff
- When Helping Hurtsby Steven Corbett and Brian Fikkert
- The Poor Will Be Gladby Peter Greer and Phil Smith
- Get involved locally. Find out what ministries your church or community organizations offer for the marginalized in your area, and get plugged in somewhere. If you choose to serve with a local nonprofit organization, be sure to do your research, verifying that money is being stewarded well. Consider helping with:
- After-school programs and programs catered towards underprivileged youth. (Your local schools should know what programs are currently available.)
- Tutoring and literacy training. (Find out if Literacy Volunteers of America works in your area.)
- Assist with job skills training and preparation in your area. (Learn more through Jobs for Life.)
- Minister to those in prison.
- Can't find a ministry that makes use of your gifts and abilities? Start your own.
- Get involved globally. You can get plugged in with a variety of international ministries. Remember, though, to always do your research on how donations are being used. World Orphans is dedicated to using resources well, as we grow projects in 12 different countries. Opportunities for involvement through World Orphans are abundant:
Weep for a season. Allow your heart to break. Cry out to God. Then, . . .