The following is a reflection based on my last trip to Ethiopia. I've really enjoyed writing letters to the people who are dear to my heart, so hence the format. Enjoy.
I am up very early thanks to a good case of jet lag and thought I'd take the time to write you about my most recent trip to Ethiopia. It is a bit surreal to think that less than a year ago, I was dreaming of exploring new worlds and seeing new cultures. And here I am, learning more about people than I ever thought I would.
I was riding in a taxi cab with a new found Ethiopian friend last week in Addis, looking around and observing the stark difference of the urban rich and urban poor. The contrast seems to be more blatant to me. As I was observing, I thought back to the women and children I had just visited in the country side who would consider the urban poor of Addis beyond wealthy. All of these thoughts began to swirl together and I turned to my friend and said, "I don't understand this sometimes. I don't understand why God would permit for this to happen. And I'm not saying that I have to understand- in fact, I know that I don't, but this is hard to process, you know?" He didn't even miss a beat when he turned to me and gently responded, "Habakkuk asked the same question of God. Why do you let the traitors and evil men live in peace and let the righteous suffer?" His response to me was unexpected. Not necessarily because of what he said- though I'll get to that in a minute- but rather the peace with which he said it. The focus of the discussion shifted from "Why does God" to "we have been asking this question for a long time".
And as I've been thinking about that exchange, I realized a couple of things. First, the world is currently not as it was originally intended to be. We are sinful, separated from God- a fact that has invited all kinds of morose evil and injustice in this world. Secondly, it seems as if there is something within many of us that is not ok with this situation. We are angered by the horrific consequences of human decisions. It causes us to ask the question, "Why, God?" But the sad part, Sadie, is that so many people stop at asking that question. We use it as an excuse to ignore. We see our fist-shaking temper tantrums as a contribution to the solving of the problem. But how wrong we are.
Really- think about this a little deeper. God created us, right? That means He knows what He was doing when He instilled in us a discontent with the effect of sin. He also created minds to think, create, plan. He also created the endorphins that result in risk taking and courage. He created a human race that would have- through His mastery- the ability to address the very issues that anger us. So, I wonder what would happen if we changed the question. What would happen if instead of asking "Why God", we would turn first to ourselves and then to others and ask "Why are you not moving?" God's response to sin and evil is pretty incredible, isn't it? There are 6 billion+ people on this earth. All have the opportunity to contribute in some way to serving each other.
I looked at the Lord's answer to Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2. The righteous shall live by faith. At first glance it looks completely disconnected doesn't it? Here's a man asking God- why are the righteous suffering?? And God replies- the righteous shall live by faith. It is a very serious and difficult concept to swallow here, Sadie. It is one that demands that we take ownership. That answer should beg the questions- what does it mean to live? What does "by faith" imply? Faith is demonstrated in the way we make decisions, isn't it? The righteous have life in their faith- because their faith inspires action that brings love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.
I've had this conversation before with several people here in the states. The conversation is often quickly ended by an attempt to write off the lack of understanding (and I've even responded this way). But after driving through the poverty-stricken streets of Addis Ababa, I have discovered that the question should not be one directed at God. In fact, the weak and lazy will ask this question and use it as an excuse to live an idle life. But those who truly see the world will ask, "How am I using the skills and abilities I have to make sure that those who are suffering are being heard, provided for and loved?" And if, in asking that question they find that they are not living accordingly, they will change their course and live by faith.