When Your Definition of Suffering Needs an Overhaul

Another job fell through today for My Man. Unlike so many in the past where it was just a possibility, he had actually been hired for this one and was ready to fly to New York tomorrow. The timing was perfect because a) any time we get a job these days it’s perfect and b) it would have been a great way to fill the week while his girls are gone and give him a place to stay since he has to move out of the house today.

And then some BS comes up about it needing to be an all union crew and he gets bounced. And the budget quadruples. No wonder they call states that aren’t being strangled by unions “right to work” states. But this is not a political rant. Just yet.

I want to sit and mope and go drown my sorrows in ice cream, muttering about how unfair it is and questioning God for the umpteenth time about when we’ll get a freaking break. But as I’m just getting comfortable in my sweat pants and sad face, I’m pulled up hard by something I read today.

Nine year old Yezidi and Christian girls can show up in headlines: Impregnated. Held, taken, violated and discarded. Sides round and swollen. Sent back to shame their communities. Pregnant little girls with dolls still in their hands. While we are having out wheaties and reading the day’s news.

ISIS sells nine year old girls in slave bazaars.

You can walk into any mall and buy a pair of NIKE running shoes for what they are buying a Christian or Yezidi girl from 1-9 years of age — $172 dollars. And she’s yours. For whatever you want, for as long as you want, to make do whatever you want. Sit with that. Yeah, we’re all done living in a world where a pair of shoes can last longer, have more worth, be treated with more value, than a fondled, raped and discarded 9 year-old-girl.

The United Nations reports this week that at least one young girl’s been “married” over 20 timesand forced at the end of each violation to undergo surgery to “restore” her virginity.

So it could be ripped open and destroyed by the next highest bidder.

My breath catches in my chest and I’m sick. Sick at the thought of this being done to little girls right now as I sit here comfortably typing my complaints on my laptop. Sick at the thought that this is the living hell that children around the world endure who make up the multi-billion dollars sex trafficking industry.

Sick at my own petty faith and small understanding of suffering. I am not diminishing what we each go through but could we in the West perhaps use some education, some reordering in what it means to “suffer”?IMG_3292  

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I can’t seem to keep my daughter clothed in anything but too-short pants and shirts that don’t fully cover her stomach. She’s slept in a pack n play for almost a year. And our family’s fall back option when we can’t afford an apartment is a free lake cabin for the next three months.

Yeah, I need a new perspective on suffering.

A perspective rooted in the Cross because I think when we all get to heaven, my brothers and sisters in war torn Iraq are going to have something in common with Jesus that I never have. They’re going to share something that is lost to me because my suffering consisted of moving around and living paycheck to paycheck, while theirs was fleeing and dying in the name of Jesus.

And yet….I know that God is gracious to me in my own struggles. He is patient with my gasping for breath in what would be a luxury problem for others. He is faithful to walk beside me as I take stumbling baby steps forward in faith. And He is gentle as He slowly opens my eyes and breaks open my heart to the things that break His. When I pray for more of Jesus, what I’m really asking for is more of a broken heart, more suffering, more eyes to see and ears to hear the cries of the downtrodden, the broken, the maimed, and the lost. It is a prayer to join him in his persecution, his Passion.

That’s not a prayer we are accustomed to in the West. We pray for more of Jesus thinking it somehow gets us more houses, more stuff, more comfort from our surroundings. But playing Bible roulette over and over again only keeps brining up men and women whose circumstances and life fell apart the closer they got to Jesus. The more of Him they gained, the more of this world they lost.

I suspect that is what these fleeing ISIS are learning. The more their world burns, the more fiercely Christ burns in them. The more they lose, they more they are gaining of Jesus. And somehow, that is enough. How else do you explain 21 men who die with “Lord Jesus Christ” on their lips as their heads are being sawed off?

Oh, I have such a long way to go, so much that needs to be reoriented and upended in me to shake me from my naval-gazing. Tonight, I’ll put away the ice cream carton and drop to my knees in prayer for those 9 year old little girls and their mamas who are braver than I will ever be. And pray for a faith that is courageous and bold in the face of real suffering.

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