Pieces of hope

This past month in Bangkok has been a bit tense. Before I returned many of the staff here had gotten involved with a high stress case involving some women that needed help. Since then, the whole atmosphere has been thrown off a bit. Every day this is more news and it is not always encouraging.

This month also brought in another run in with the young teenage boy we took in off the street about a year ago. After finally getting him back home with his mother and connecting them with the right people for counseling, things finally stared to look up. Him and his mother had even begun coming to church every week where his mother miraculously accepted Christ. A couple of weeks ago, however, he had run away once again and showed up on our doorstep. After trying repeatedly to get a hold of his mother, we decided it would be best to let him stay with us for the night, but with a bit of a frustrated heart. It was Valentines Day and a had planned on hanging out, instead I found myself staying home caring for this troubled individual… not exactly what I had in mind for a Valentine’s date.

But the frustration did not lie so much in that I could not carry on with my original plans, the frustration was more that we had all put so much time and care into getting this boy in a safe place with plenty of help, only to see him right back where he started… back out on the streets in the red light district.

Sometimes it is so discouraging to know of so many people wanting to help and see justice and restoration prevail yet to see such little progress being made. As is common with this type of work, you see the same issues rise again and again and you begin to wonder if there is any hope in sight.

But I suppose that is where a certain kind of faith comes in. A number of years ago I remember reading a book called God on Mute. It is written by Pete Greig who happens to be the guy who started the 24/7 prayer movement. He wrote this book during a long struggle with a sickness his wife had of which she did not receive healing. This can leave a man who has witnessed many healings in a very confused state. In this book, he describes something calls a darker trust:

“As we mature in Christ we begin to understand that God’s logic is rarely ours and that his path to joy is often marked by suffering. The world is full of people willing to trust God for promotion, prosperity, and popularity. And this is good, because God loves to give good gifts to his children; it is certainly better to trust God for these things than to trust ourselves for them. But as we mature spiritually, God asks us to trust him in the hard times as well. There is faith in God’s will when it is our will too, but there is also faith to trust God when his will is not what we would choose.”

It is in these times of uncertainty that we have to lean into this darker kind of trust. And in many ways, this is the more comforting kind of trust. The kind where you simply get to let go and trust that you know God is handling it, even if you don’t understand.

Sometimes it seems like every month we have another financial crisis. The questions linger… “Are we going to have enough money to pay our workers… to buy more materials… to keep things going?” But every month everything miraculously comes through. It is hard that there is never enough money to feel comfortable about our finances from month to month, but it sure does keep us clinging to God.

There is a story in the Gospels about a woman who comes to Jesus with a request of healing for her daughter, and at first, it doesn’t look like he will be helping her out. “He says to her, a Gentile, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread first and feed it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). Jesus had a mission, and it was to the Jews, which she was not.

Ouch. Here she is asking in faith for help, not for riches, not for popularity, but for the healing of her child, and he seems to be telling her no.

But her reaction is something to take note of. She doesn’t stomp away, she doesn’t get mad at him or start to feel sorry for herself. She simply answers with more faith, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

“Lord,” she starts out with, a title most of his own people haven’t even given him yet! She knows who he is, even if she doesn’t hear the answer she wants. Willing to settle for even crumbs, she responds to her Lord with intense faith, regardless of how he responds.

Ultimately, her daughter is healed and this turns into a story of miraculous healing. But what stands out to me most in this account is her faith, almost more than the healing. Because lets face it, sometimes, things don’t always work out the way with want them to. Sometimes the miracle we are looking for doesn’t happen.

It feels like a lot of life is standing in that place of faith this woman is in before the healing happens. Waiting in a place of hope and trust, even if the healing never comes.

Not that God doesn’t heal, he does, in the most amazing ways, as he eventually does with this woman’s daughter. But there is a greater healing we are all waiting for, the healing that comes when Christ returns in his fullness and makes everything as it should be. For the complete restoration of all things… we still wait. And until that time comes, life will be full of hard, unexplainable things.

So as we wait in this in-between time, wading around in the mess of injustice and brokenness, we hold on to that hope that God instills in us as his followers.

Even in these stressful times as a ministry, there are still many pieces of hope. The young teenage boy is back with his mother now and they retuned to counseling together. Just last week, a few of us who have been working with him got together with him and his mother to celebrate his birthday. And as we were all sitting in a circle laughing and eating cupcakes…I could sense hope settling in again.

Our God is good and he will make all things right.

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