I know what it’s like to put off things we need or scrape toward a payment due date, but really, the financial uncertainty that many of our friends live with is just plain terrible. Life for the working poor in America is a carefully constructed tower of cards and just one card slipping will bring the whole house down. Recently, one of our families had a car that broke down. The car that they didn’t have money to repair set in motion an almost unbelievable string of calamities great and small, causing fear, anger, heartache, tears and the crushing of faith and hope in a God who loves and cares.
When hardships pile onto each other and it seems that not one good thing can happen, it is inadequate to offer Bible verses or try to defend God. It brings to mind the friends of Job who seemed to have all the answers to the hard questions about why bad things happen. Here are some of the questions: Why was I born? Why was I given a family that was messed up and full of chaos? Why did I always have to take care of myself? Where was God when I was abused and molested? Why do I get up and go to work every morning? Why do I even try to do what’s right when it seems like every time I start to make it out of the hole I was born into, bad stuff happens and I’m right back where I started? Where is God? Where’s the love and peace in my life?
At the point of suffering and anger, some times all a person can do is be there to share in the tears and the pain and the sorrow. Sometimes there are no words. It is painful to feel so helpless. It makes me feel worse when $500 or $800 could make some problems go away and I don’t have it to offer. But the truth is, no amount of money can mitigate the injustices that can result from being born into poverty and God isn’t responsible for the sin and greed that perpetuates disparity. No amount of money can compensate for the pain some of my friends have had to live through.
So, what do we do? We pray. We share in the time of suffering. We pray for God to show us if there is anything we can do to help and we try to do it. But our most important task is to be there to walk along with somebody and love them through it all as we try to hold on to hope and carry the trust that our friends can’t quite manage for the time. Because even when they can’t see it or feel it or know it, when it seems like the devil and the world have total sway, God is still there and God is not just watching, but is loving and working toward healing and redemption and resurrection, not just for the whole world and not just for the comfortably off, but uniquely and individually, for that person and for their family. Even when none of us can see it.
We all know that sometimes we need someone to trust and pray for us when we are in the time of trial and trouble. I am truly grateful for those who remember us in prayer and in this work.
In this season of Thanksgiving, I am praying to have a grateful heart and to trust with gladness even when things are hard.