The Big Picture: “God Is Just Love, Especially When We Are Suffering”

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Bolivia

“God is just love, especially when we are suffering.”  Excuse me?!  That is the opposite of what most of us believe and experience.  We experience God as love best when we are feeling blessed, successful, rescued or well-provided for.  People write books in order to convince sufferers that God is Love even, not especially, during the bad times.  There is an entire branch of theology called theodicy that seeks to explain how God can be good and powerful when there is suffering and evil in the world.

Our spiritual resilience, our capacity to experience the love of God in the very worst times, requires that we flip the common perception and learn:       

God Is Just Love, Especially When We Are Suffering.

Bolivia

I will give you an example of how this astonishing, mysterious and miraculous transformation takes place.  Hold on tight, because this ride will take you to exactly where you and the children you love need to travel if you all are going to learn to find hope and be love, no matter the circumstances you confront.

For centuries, indigenous peoples in Bolivia have lived bountiful lives in the high country.  Water, the elixir of life, always flowed the mountain glaciers.  Global Servants from the American Baptist Churches, USA, were among those founding churches and medical clinics.  Abundant life was possible simply by living close to the land and in harmony with the creation.

The glaciers melted; one of the earlier consequences of “global warming.” (This is happening all over the planet to peoples who have done nothing to cause the crisis. They are suffering the consequences of the actions of industrial civilizations elsewhere in the world.)  The mountain peoples of Bolivia became climate refugees.  Their villages died.

They fled, to the cities.  Millions of climate refugees are fleeing to cities or trying to cross borders. But the cities also are facing a water crisis.  Jobs are few.  At the same time, the covid epidemic has been having a far more deadly impact than in the wealthy west and north.  Everyone is suffering.  The third wave of the coronavirus has just begun to assault the people, again.

The Reeds

Last Wednesday, I listened to American Baptist missionaries, JD and Rhonda Reed, tell these and other stories grief among the people they love and serve.  They are in the states now, hoping to return as soon as they have been vaccinated.

One listener asked them, “How do you sustain hope in the midst of all this anguish?”  Rhonda answered, “We have hope when we are with the Christians of Bolivia.  With their faith in Christ, they do not know how to give up on God.”  I experienced the same kind of faith when I was in Romania in ’82 & ’92, the Dominican Republic in ’94, Mexico in ’96 & ’97 and El Salvador in ’09 & ’11.  This experience of trusting God, no matter what, is pretty much universal among believers where they are poor, oppressed, or suffering devastating losses.  Exactly as it was among the first century Christians.

I learned to trust like this from the Christians I love in Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Central America.  I also learned through my own seasons of depression and crisis.  In is when life is the most difficult that we learn:

God Is Just Love, Especially When We Are Suffering.

The bottom line is simple for those with eyes that see and ears that hear.  The glaciers are melting.  The weather and storms are random and extreme.  (To the initiated, I can summarize the variety of predicaments we face by adding that we long ago overshot the carrying capacity of the planet.) The soil is disappearing.

Our mission partners around the globe are a source of our hope.  Love them.  Learn from them.  Serve them as you can.  Now. 

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