Following God Into the Unbearably Hard ~ Isaiah Series ~ Part 8
~ Isaiah Series ~
Following God Into the Unbearably Hard
As we talked about last week, it is clear from scripture that we— little old messed up me and little old messed up you— are invited to participate in what matters to God.
He wants us to join Him in bringing life and joy and wholeness and healing to all the many broken people and areas of society. He even promises to be with us and to meet our needs and to give us the strength and the wisdom we need in these very situations.
It is a mind-boggling honor, right?
But just a little disclaimer here: “Doing our part” in co-laboring with God like this is not easy. The work itself is HARD. Sometimes unspeakably so.
While it is certainly true that “we cannot just sit idly by and do nothing about the fact that people are being abused, misused, neglected, treated unfairly, and perhaps even systemically held down,” it also true that proactively engaging in this type of work is no picnic.
Let us not make the mistake of reading passages like the ones we’ve been looking at (Isaiah 58:6-7 and Isaiah 1:16-17 ) with stars in our eyes and a foggy filter hiding the reality of how truly challenging it is to follow God into the hard places.
A couple years ago, I heard a woman share about how, when she first started working with sex trafficking victims and hearing their stories day after day, she broke down crying in her office. In this moment of overwhelming despair, her boss (the boss of the nonprofit who organizes the rescue and post-traumatic care of these victims) walked in and asked her what was wrong.
“I can’t do this type of work,” she said. “It’s too hard. I’m not built for this. I’m not strong enough to keep seeing all of this brokenness day after day like this.”
It was then that her boss, a former victim of long-term sexual abuse herself, said to this newbie, with absolute love, but absolute firmness: “Of course you can’t handle this. No one can handle this. It was never God’s will for any human to ever experience any of this. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, it’s too hard to bear. BUT WE’VE JUST GOT TO DO IT ANYWAY. Because there are people out there getting hurt and abused and tortured every single day— and they can’t handle it any more either. So we’ve just got to keep moving. And we’ve got to keep clinging to God and begging Him to help us every step of the way. Because somebody’s got to help them.”
I think of that story frequently when I feel myself shying away from the painful places in my life. I think of it when I hear about a family going through trauma, when I hear about another broken marriage, when I hear about a friend with an extremely or terminally ill child. I thought of it this week as I received text after text from a friend whose newborn baby is courageously fighting for her life.
“This is too hard. I don’t have it in me to walk alongside this person this time around,” I sometimes think to myself.
I think of this story when I look into my husband’s eyes after yet another trying day at work (in law enforcement). I see the brokenness in him. I see the angst and the absolute disgust for some of the perpetrators and abusers he interacts with every day. He constantly wrestles with what “grace” really means and how to live out the Jesus-following-life in a job like his. It is wearying. And heart-breaking. And it seems to erode him a little bit more every day.
To be honest, all I want to tell my husband on those especially hard days is to quit and find another line of work. To get away from it all and do something less stressful, something less dangerous, something less PTSD-inducing.
And, so often, he struggles with the same thought: “Just quit,” his weary soul keeps telling him.
And yet… if he doesn’t do this type of work, who will? If he, as a desperately tender-hearted, good-intentioned, God-loving, God-seeking man— who, by the way, is very, very good at what he does— if he quits and chooses to step away from “holding the line”… then who will??? If my husband stops showing up and being the level-headed guy in the midst of complete disorder and danger… if he stops being willing to be the soft-hearted daddy who is incredible at comforting and caring for the child victims of sexual abuse… if he stops doing the hard work of locating and confiscating the stolen guns and the mass quantity of illegal drugs that are coming into our area to destroy the lives of all the addicts and their loved ones… if he stops getting to know the “who’s who” in the gangs in his jurisdiction and if he stops making sure the extra dangerous ones stay clear of the ones they plan to prey upon… then who will?
Yes, it’s hard. Unbearably so. It’s hard for him and, to be frank, it’s hard for me and our kids to live this life we live. But… somebody’s got to do it. Right? Because there is a world out there that is in absolute darkness. And each of us, though it looks different in how it plays out in our lives, has something to offer the dark and broken world around us. Each of us has something in us that can help bring life and light to the world. For my husband it is his incredible ability to remain calm, discerning, and tactically capable in the midst of chaos and danger. For the sex trafficking woman I told you about, it’s her ability to offer empathy and compassion to those victims as she figures out how to use their stories to wake the world up to their plight. For another friend of mine, it is organizing a text prayer chain and bringing gift cards to our friend with a sick newborn. For another friend of mine it is being a swim coach with a listening ear to a bunch of middle schoolers who who feel more comfortable talking to her about some of their struggles than they do their own parents.
As for me… I’m still trying to figure out what I do best. In the meantime, I pray hard for anyone I know going through crisis, I offer a listening ear, encouragement, and maybe a good laugh when I can, and I try to just be a person who is present where I’m at and who makes space for others to be their flawed and broken selves.
It may not be much. But it’s all I know to do right now.
There is a world out there that needs hope and light and gigantic doses of God’s big love. And, somehow, we— you and me— have got to follow God’s lead in bringing that light and love to it.
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Over the last several weeks, as I have been diving into Isaiah, and as my church has been studying this book in depth during our weekend services, I’ve shared several thoughts here on the blog. If you missed any of it along the way, you can hop over to this page— it is serving as the home base for this Isaiah Series. And feel free to listen to the solid teaching that has been happening on the weekends, as well, if you feel so inclined. (Click here to listen to the sermon series.)
It has been a pleasure hashing out this incredible ancient book with you.
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What about you?
What need do you see in the world? How can you help bring life and light to that need?
Please share your journey in the comment section below.