Six years ago, I stood in a slum in Africa for the first time in my life.
I saw human suffering face-to-face. I stepped over raw sewage and followed armed bodyguards into hell. I shook with fear. I stood helplessly as gaunt little children pulled at my clothes and begged for food.
I shook my fist in the face of God with hot tears splashing the ground and I asked questions good Christians aren’t supposed to ask.
I doubted and I raged. I sobbed and I regretted.
I came home and before we started Mercy House, I wrote a raw, gut-wrenching story about what I had seen and how I felt about it for a large Christian women’s online site.
And it was rejected…
Along with these words: “Kristen, we love your heart, but the article you submitted is too honest, too messy. If you would like to edit your story so that it is encouraging and tidy, we would love to read it again.”
Every piece of the middle-class, comfortable Christian good girl I had been for the first 37 years of my life had been shattered.
I remember standing in front of the mirror wondering, “Who am I now?”
I don’t always fit neatly into this safe and sanctified Christian world.
I don’t know how to wrap grief and sorrow, disappointment and discouragement up with a pretty bow. I can’t edit what I’ve seen or erase the tragic stories I’ve heard.
So, I’ve stopped trying.
Because life isn’t always good…
Just in the last week, I’ve been reminded of that truth:
Maureen, my heart-daughter in Kenya, messaged me at 4 a.m. to tell me she would have to bury another immediate family member…the 4th one since I’ve known her.
A couple of friends lost jobs.
I’ve heard unthinkable stories of abuse towards oppressed women.
A non-profit leader from India stood in our Mercy House warehouse and told me how he had rescued a 5 year old rape and trafficking victim.
God doesn’t answer every prayer the way we want Him to.
He doesn’t move every mountain when we ask.
He doesn’t heal every sickness in the way we would like.
He doesn’t always part the waters for us to walk through.
He doesn’t answer every cry.
But that doesn’t change a thing. I will trust Him.
Because even when life isn’t good, God is.
He pressed his fingers into the sore of the leper. He felt the tears of the sinful woman who wept. He inclined his ear to the cry of the hungry. He wept at the death of a friend. He stopped his work to tend to the needs of a grieving mother. He doesn’t recoil, run, or retreat at the sight of pain. Just the opposite. He didn’t walk the earth in an insulated bubble or preach from an isolated, germfree, pain-free island. He took his own medicine. He played by his own rules. Trivial irritations of family life? Jesus felt them. Cruel accusations of jealous men? Jesus knew their sting. A seemingly senseless death? Just look at the cross. He exacts nothing from us that he did not experience himself.
Why? Because he is good.” -Max Lucado
It’s been six long and short years since I stood in that hellhole.
I’ve witnessed redemption in unlikely places.
I’ve seen miracles.
I’ve taken off my shoes on holy ground.
Maybe the hell you’re enduring today doesn’t stink like sewage in a slum, but it stinks nonetheless. Hold on, friends. God is near. He is in the middle of this hard, messy, unedited life. His ways don’t always make sense in our limited understanding, but we can trust the Way Maker.
Some days I still ask hard questions. I shake my fist and cry. I stopped searching for that pretty bow to tidy up all these broken pieces a long time ago.
But I know that even when life isn’t good, I can trust that He is.