Here I am

Recently, I heard a harrowing story about a famous hospital in a country where power outages are commonplace. Hospitals like this usually have backup generators to cope with outages. But, due to corruption and mismanagement, the backup generator at this hospital was out of service, and there had been no electricity for several weeks. Consequently, life-saving operations were cancelled, and worse still, there were fatalities in their NICU department, including one who had arrived after a 12-year wait. It’s senseless and avoidable pain caused by avarice. I thought about the inconsolable parents and family and the distraught medics who are probably irrevocably scarred. Then, I thought of the God who sees not just one tragedy but every single injustice in the history of humankind. If my heart breaks, how must He feel?

Many accuse God of having the power to stop such tragedies, and He doesn’t. But that’s not the nature of God portrayed in the Bible. We see in Jesus a God who weeps at the brokenness of our world [John 11:35]. So, we know He isn’t indifferent to our suffering. Besides, as beings made in His image and likeness, we feel because He feels [Genesis 1:26]. Nevertheless, I can’t begin to fathom the cumulative weight of all the desperate tragedies in the history of humankind. We’re typically crushed by one or two; imagine witnessing every single one throughout time! Only God could bear such. Think of that baby whose life was snuffed out because of human brokenness. That’s a uniquely crafted destiny which’ll never be fulfilled [Psalm 139:13-18]. Who knows how many lives he would’ve blessed? Now imagine the cumulative effect of billions whose destinies were tragically cut short. We don’t see or understand that effect, but God does, and I’m convinced He’s grieved.

Someone might ask, ‘But why doesn’t He do something about all this suffering if He cares?’ God doesn’t need me to defend Him, but two Scriptures came to mind as I thought about that hospital. The first, Psalm 115:16, emphasises God’s premium on our free will. The psalmist says: “…The Earth He has given to men”. So, for now, humans, not God, decide what happens on Earth. God doesn’t compel our obedience or override our will, even when it results in the suffering of others. As one preacher puts it: “If God says ‘yes’, a human must agree and say ‘yes’ for what God desires to manifest on earth”. In heaven, what God wants always happens [Psalm 119:89]. But on Earth, it doesn’t without human cooperation. The second, Psalm 138:2, emphasises God’s integrity – He always keeps His word. So, He isn’t reversing what He said in Psalm 115:16 or any other Scripture because we messed up [Psalm 89:34]. For me, these two verses explain why many things that aren’t God’s will, like the senseless death of infants, continue to happen in our world. 

As I said earlier, God isn’t indifferent to our suffering. As such, He’s keener than any of us to do something of that hospital or such tragedies in general. So, probably for the first time, I imagined God scanning the earth, looking for men and women, eager to partner with Him to alleviate or prevent the senseless suffering of many [1 Corinthians 3:9]. He’s looking for people who won’t just pray: “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” [Matthew 6:10] but will actively step out in faith-filled partnership with Him to make it happen. For instance, God told Moses: “I’ve seen the oppression of My people…and heard their cries..and I know their sorrows…so, I’ve come down to deliver them” [Exodus 3:7-9]. Most of us would think: “Great…now deal with the cause of their suffering and sorrow.” But humans govern this realm, and God made it so [Genesis 1:26], and His next words: “Come, and I will send you to Pharaoh” [Exodus 3:10], echo the point. It would have been illegal for Him to charge in and obliterate the reason for their sorrows without a human partnering in agreement, even though that was His will.

As God witnesses the calamities going on across the globe today, especially the unjust suffering of the poor, the orphan, the widow and the stranger, He’s asking the Heavenly council: “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” [Isaiah 6:8]. Some shrug at others’ tragedies and carry on with their lives. Many sympathise but have no interest in taking any corresponding actions. Some of us empathise and would like to help but rule ourselves out because of our perceived inadequacies. Isaiah certainly felt inadequate [Isaiah 6:5,7] but responded as every believer should: “Here I am, send me”. God knew Isaiah’s shortcomings. But instead of ruling him out, He addressed Isaiah’s deficiencies, then commissioned and sent him out as his emissary [Isaiah 6:6,9-10]. Like all other biblical role models who said ‘yes’ to partnering with God, I believe Isaiah fondly looks back at that encounter, having accomplished far more than he ever imagined. 

Stories like Isaiah’s may seem beyond us initially, but we shouldn’t forget that everything they accomplished was because God worked through them to will and to do His good pleasure [Philippians 2:13]. These men and women had similar challenges and excuses to us and were just as inadequate as we are [2 Corinthians 3:5]. Yet, the same God will work in and through us to alleviate the pain and suffering of others if we also say: “Here I am, send me” [1 Corinthians 12:6]. 

You don’t have to look hard to find people experiencing awful situations. God also sees them but needs a human being to be His hands and feet. It can be overwhelming and scary initially, but God never gives us more than we can handle [1 Corinthians 10:13]. So, will you, like Isaiah, have the courage to say ‘yes’ when He calls?

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