Category Archives: lament

Our Anchor, Our Hope

By Sheryl Haw

Our anchor, strength and hope is in the wonderful truth revealed throughout Scripture and through the life of Christ; that affirms what we believe: we believe that there is one living God, who is the creator, owner and maintainer of the whole universe. Our God is accessible and personal; He is trustworthy and good (in him there is no darkness at all); He is loving and compassionate, merciful and just (not wanting one life to be lost – 2 Peter 3:9); He is all powerful and is sovereign over all the earth.

The question that will arise in many people’s hearts and minds is if that is true why has God allowed this virus outbreak? If he is all loving, all powerful, is against all evil and suffering, and can thus act to stop this crisis, why are we where we are at now?

The first thing we learn from Biblical examples of facing such suffering is that the question, the lament, the protest before God, is first and foremost not to ask why but to ask how long?, and to pursue God persistently for his intervention.

Chris Wright in his book, The God I don’t Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith, has some helpful thoughts on this and we highly recommend this book.

The why question is a tough one. We are always looking for a cause and effect rationale.

I remember the dilemma I experienced when working in South Sudan some years ago. A young teenage boy presented at the clinic with classic signs of Type 1 diabetes. We had the knowledge to treat him, but we had no access to an ongoing supply of insulin. He lived in a war zone, in poverty and oppression. I had a list of why questions. Why would the warring factions persist in their fighting? Why could we in other countries have access to great medical care and this young boy could not? Why could some people buy multiple houses and cars and this boy be destitute? It is not that people were not aware of poverty, war and oppression – information was constantly available. So why didn’t the world act? Who was to blame? Was it inequality and the selfishness of humanity? Was it the unjust colonial powers? Was it the rebel fighters? If someone said to me it was the boy who sinned – I would’ve been so angry as he was the one person in the setting that was not to blame for his poverty and illness! Of course, we could blame God. Why didn’t He save the boy? And then I reflected on in what way should He have saved the boy? Should He have reconciled the warring factions as a peace maker? Should He have pressured the rich to share their wealth and enable the country to flourish? Should He have sent the medical experts to have a hospital for the boy? What did we want God to do? Or had He not already done all of this?

Had Jesus not died on the cross to break the power of death? Had he not accepted to carry all our pain and sorrows? Had he not called a people out to be an example to the new humanity he has inaugurated, to be peace makers, reconcilers, to be healers and builders? Had he not sent us to this very boy to love, to serve and to care for him? Of course, the answer was, and is, yes, yes, yes.

So, though there is undeniably a mystery of evil (the death and loss this virus is bringing), exacerbated by the selfish, sinful actions and inactions amongst us all that increase the impact of such a virus (for example, the selfish hoarding and stock piling of items, the non-sensical violence and stigma against people of Chinese origin), I know with absolute certainty that God has acted, is acting and will act on our behalf to respond to this crisis and every other. And, he has called out a people, the Body of Christ, to be demonstrators of his love and care at such a time as this.

Jesus, thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do. Here we are – send us to live it out amongst every community today.

#LiveHope #Coronavirus #LoveYourNeighbour

Resilience and the Expanding Kingdom

It has been a slam-bang beginning. This early, we have seen the ravages of wounded nature fighting back. Bushfires raging without letup in the wild outback of Australia. Taal volcano erupting, spewing a black plume of cloud-like ash falling on miles and miles of towns and cities. The novel corona virus killing hundreds in Wuhan and spreading silently and quickly its deadly menace across the globe. 
All these, plus the never-ending wrongs inflicted by corrupt governments in rogue states and the dying of democracy in this country (Philippines) — the oldest republic in Asia — and elsewhere.

In times like this it is easy to bury our heads in the sand and make what some call ‘a separate peace.’ In the face of despotic governance, many take to the high seas like our sea-faring ancestors who fled from the rule of the fabled Madjapahit empire. We do not revolt; we just migrate to other climes.

Church people see in all these signs of the ‘end times.’ Some see no reason for re-arranging social reality; it is a dying world, it is said, let us just evangelise and save as many as we can from this sinking ship.

This line of thinking misunderstands the nature of our good news. The gospel is not just about securing a ticket to heaven. It is about making this earth a bit more like heaven.

When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, he told them to bring this message to the lost sheep of Israel: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ The longed-for restoration of the Davidic kingdom, the best in their memory of what a good government is like, has come in the person of the Messiah Jesus.

The good news is that a new social order is coming into being, this time backed up by supernatural signs and wonders: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10.7-8) With the coming of Jesus, the powers of heaven have descended. A new reign of justice and righteousness has begun.  

This new order inaugurated by Jesus is here now, though in many ways hidden. It becomes visible when the people of God behave like true people of the Kingdom – fighting injustice, treating with kindness and compassion those in the margins, and walking with God in such a way that we ourselves are transformed. (Micah 6.8)

At the end of the day, the story that God is weaving through the travails of our time is our own re-making as a grand ‘poem’ – a ‘workmanship,’ created and crafted by the Lord Jesus for the good work he has prepared for us beforehand. (Ephesians 2.10)

This ‘good work’ is not just the bits and pieces we do as good disciples in our lives and professions, but no less than the making of “a new heaven and a new earth.” We have been saved, not just to sit around and wait for the rapture or some such thing, but to storm the gates of hell in this sad earth. The church is not just a hospital for the walking wounded, but an army, tasked with reclaiming, inch-by-inch, territory already won by Jesus on the cross. We are to be at the center of the fray, battling against principalities and powers that are entrenched in our systems and institutions. For this reason we need to be spiritually resilient, strengthened by the Spirit and wielding the Word as a mighty sword that pierces through all sorts of fake news.

The end of this story, we are told, is that we shall be like a spotless Bride coming down from heaven, inhabiting a new Jerusalem set in a new earth that we shall inherit.  (Rev.21.1-7)

The Bible tells us that we are not really going anywhere, but here. In Jesus, heaven has come down, and the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdom of our God. (Rev.11.15)

Melba Padilla Maggay
President, Micah Global 

Protest and Lament

by Sheryl Haw

It was a hot Sunday afternoon in Somalia, good for siesta after a busy week of work at the clinic. We had some sick children in our care, but all seemed on the mend. A tap on my door by one of the Somali nurses led me back to hospital. He had asked me to check on a 2-year-old patient who we were planning to discharge. To my horror on arrival I found the child had died. The mother was weeping, everyone was shocked at this unexpected loss. I was angry – confused and then determined. I took myself into another room and started to wrestle with God. I protested, lamented, grieved, ranted, debated and then decided this simply could not be God’s plan. Decision taken, I sought the rest of the team and explained that I felt we should pray for the child to be raised from the dead! The team looked on, wide eyed! They agreed to stand with me.

We set the scene as best we could “according to the Bible”! Placed everyone out of the room bar the mother and the translator. We explained we wanted to pray for the child and asked if they would give permission. They agreed. Before I could start, one of the team began a prayer which went like this “God, we would like you to restore this child, but if it is not your will please keep her safe with you”. This prayer frustrated me – why give God an out clause!? So, I jumped in and prayed “In the Name of Jesus rise up”. I had my eyes open as I did not want to miss the first breath. I repeated – but no breath came.

We all started to weep, not just for the child and the family’s loss, but now we also wept for ourselves and our faith in God. What followed were some of the most profound conversations we ever had as a team. One member shouted at me as he challenged me as to why I would test God. He then broke down and wept because his brother had died of leukemia and he had also prayed for healing and none had come. Some exploded in anger at the injustice and evil death represented. Others questioned whether we had sufficient faith, others lamented the helplessness we all felt.

Then we had a knock on the door – the translator came to see us. He was deeply moved that we had cared so much as foreigners for this little Somali girl. He was amazed that we had demonstrated love to her family through prayer and comfort and tears of solidarity. We sat in stunned silence. Is that what they had seen?

Of course, we could argue the theology and practice around our approach to deciding to pray – yes, we had a lot to learn. But what I had not anticipated was the witness we gave of love, through lament and protest, through solidarity of grief and the presence we gave to stand in the gap for this child and family.

I have seen God heal miraculously. I have held people as they died. I have not understood why some are healed and some are not. Why some die and some live? The Bible is full of protests, lament, anger, grief and questions. The struggle with God over this is based on the tension of knowing that God is a good, compassionate, just God and a giver of life. The Cross was His demonstrate of his desire to see redemption, healing, restoration, liberation and reconciliation for all. Therefore, we protest when we see pain, suffering, injustice and death.

The Cross is also our hope. It is at the Cross we see the ultimate assurance of God’s love. It is the Cross that carries the pain, the lament, the protest, for it exposes the worst of evil and reveals the breadth of grace, mercy and love. Knowing full well every terrible thing, every painful reality, every agonising thing we face or go through, Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem. He would remove the sting of death, wipe away every tear and set things right. It is done!

And so until he returns, we protest – “How long O Lord” – we lament and grieve – “Lord, the pain is great“.

God receives our cries, he weeps with us, he carries our pain and he reveals his plan. Behold God will make all things new: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4).