My early morning routine – of reading the newspaper and news blogs alongside my coffee – has been especially difficult recently. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of articles and updates that simultaneously make me incredibly angry and make me want to cry.
The violence in Gaza and the necessity of wading through polarized and antagonistic media coverage of this on-again, off-again war. The crisis in the Central African Republic. Famine in South Sudan. The refugee crisis in Syria, and the growing number of those displaced in Syria and Iraq due to the cruel ISIS regime. And now – the heinous killing, possibly genocide, of Christians in Qaraqosh, Iraq.
My heart hurts.
I’m losing sleep. I can’t stop thinking about the children growing up in war zones or makeshift tent-cities. Children who have seen more violence than I can comprehend, and who spend their days hoping that they’ll just get enough food and water to make it to the next day. I’m a numb and weepy mess. I can’t fathom the vile persecution facing our Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ.
I just want shalom: the everlasting peace and wholeness that God promises us. I want the dream of turning swords into ploughshares. I want that part of the story where God comes in and saves the day and makes everything right and good and beautiful again. I want humanitarian aid to be unnecessary and human rights to be automatic.
And I think creation groans for those things too.
There’s something in all of us that knows these events aren’t okay. Our hearts scream at the injustice. And we – whether out of faith or out of skepticism, or maybe even a bit of both – find ourselves asking: Where is God? And more specifically: Where is the God of justice?
Certainly, this isn’t a new question. Throughout humanity’s long history of wars, violence, corruption, and catastrophe, the question of God’s presence and goodness in the midst of evil is not a novel one.
We have a God who weeps with us now and a God who will never abandon us to the darkness.
And it’s a question for which the church has long sought an answer, as if a succinct and emotionally satisfying answer can be found. On one hand, it can. God is good and He is faithful. Even circumstances that make those statements hard to believe do not negate their truth. God’s love and justice can be seen in the strength, resilience, and grace of His people – seeking justice in all spheres of society even when all seems lost.
On the other hand, life is messy, fundamentally complicated, and systemically imperfect. Injustice persists. Horrible things happen. Governments fail us. People fail us. Our bodies fail us. We will never reach the end of seeking, searching, learning, and wrestling. Any efforts here on earth to mend, to rebuild, and to restore are imperfect offerings. But in their imperfection they are no less worthy of our time, resources, and consistent efforts.
The upside-down message of the Kingdom of God is that hope – even if it seems a million miles away – is never lost. That peace endures, even if set against the backdrop of war. That goodness can always be found, even if it seems to hide elusively in the shadows.
The profound reality is this: beauty and banality are not mutually exclusive realities.
I don’t have an answer to the problem of injustice, but I do know this – the best news about injustice is that God is against it. Because of His Spirit at work (in and through us as his hands and feet) and in His promises to redeem and restore and renew all things, injustice will not win in the end.
In Isaiah 61 God paints an incredible picture of the justice that is to come. In the midst of captivity and persecution, God speaks of exceedingly good news. A day is coming when the poor, the brokenhearted, and the captive will taste healing and freedom. When mourning will turn to gladness and celebration. When devastation will become strength, and when ruined cities will be rebuilt.
Wildflowers sprouting in deserts.
Water flowing where land is barren.
Life where there is death.
Cities where there once were ruins.
Hope where hope once seemed lost.
That’s the promise of the God who stands beside us in brokenness. God’s Spirit is present in refugee camps and shell-shocked war-zones. Even in the brutal killing of those who follow Him, He is there, remaining always as the exceedingly great reward worth more than life itself. And, in Him we have a God who weeps with us now and a God who will never abandon us to the darkness.
The world will never know lasting peace until Christ returns. We long for that day. Until it comes, we must be people who stand in the midst of injustice and pray boldly for peace. We need to be people on our knees asking that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. We need to be people that proactively walk in the way of peace and people who charge the darkness with the light of Christ in us.
Because the God of justice is here. He is in us. And He will not let us down.