Tomorrow marks the 2 year anniversary since I decided to become a follower of Christ and was baptized. In looking back at the past two years, I stand in awe of God’s power and provision. I am still a sinner – that will never change. I will never live perfectly, but I am trying to at least live credibly.
I think as a new believer, you are marked by taking more than you give. It is a time where you are learning new things constantly, where you are building a personal relationship with the Lord, and where experienced and more mature Christians are pouring into you. Behaviors and attitudes and habits don’t change over night, but you gradually begin to see faith producing changes in you. As a new follower of Christ, there is a tendency to be self-focused in order to learn about who God is, who He created us to be, and how we are supposed to live our lives according to His Word. You need the basics before you can move on to the advanced stuff. Even Paul writes:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. 1 Corinthians 3:2
However, at some point you have to progress from spiritual milk to solid food. And I think one thing the Lord has convicted me and confronted me about repeatedly in the last year is that life is not about me or my happiness. This is not what the world tell us – the world will tell you do what makes you happy. Live in the moment. Do what feels good. Chase success, fame, power, money, attention, possessions, fun – whatever flavor of idol is most alluring to you. And even among people who claim to be followers of Christ, you see the ever-present and pervasive influence of the world’s ideology. It is ubiquitous and compelling and hard to resist.
One of my frequent prayers is that God would break my heart for the things that break His heart. In doing so, God lifts you up from your own self-absorption and opens your eyes to the fact that we are all His creations made in His image whom He loves dearly. And then He opens your eyes to the calamities that are befalling others.
God first broke my heart using the poor and homeless in Chicago. I had never lived in a place where the homeless were so visible and commonplace in a huge city marked by exorbitant costs of living and materialism. It’s impossible to turn a blind eye to the plight of the needy when you see them every single day – particularly during the absolutely brutal Chicago winters. Then God broke my heart over human trafficking – the thousands of women who are trafficked for sex every day in Chicago and the millions of human beings around the world who are trapped in modern-day slavery. God breaks my heart over the Yazidi women being sold by ISIS. God breaks my heart over women experiencing crisis pregnancies who feel like they have no choices. God breaks my heart for neighborhoods in my city that are devastated by gangs and violence. God breaks my heart over and over again as I see pain and suffering all around me. But what can I do?
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. Isaiah 1:17
He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Deuteronomy 10:18
The Bible is clear – as Christians, we are called to action to alleviate the suffering of those around us. Following Christ is not about checking the boxes of going to church on Sunday, meeting with a small group once per week, and going to social events to have fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ (although those things are good and important). We are called to so much more than that!
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. James 2:14-18
Sometimes it feels like everyone around me is asleep and I just want to shake them and say, “Wake up! There are people enduring incredible suffering. How can you see it and not act?”
My broken heart has taken me to ministry centers for the homeless in bad Chicago neighborhoods. It has taken me to the remote villages of Cambodia. It has taken me into the streets of Boystown on a Friday night. It has taken me out of myself and my own self-absorption, and I wish so desperately to see all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ do the same. I feel that each of us should have our own cause that we champion on behalf of the Lord. There are so many people in desperate need of love and help – we should each have one cause that we adopt as our own. And after we adopt it, we should invest our time, our energy, and our resources to it:
We are all broken in some way. We all have wounds. Some of us use that as an excuse to do nothing, to serve no one, but rather to sit and nurse our misery. That’s not what God wants, and not the model we see over and over again in the Bible. The biblical model is that God deliberately chooses imperfect vessels – those who have been wounded, those with physical or emotional limitations. Then he prepares them to serve and sends them out with their weaknesses still in evidence, so that his strength can be made perfect in that weakness. In fact, more often than not, it’s our weakness that makes us capable of serving, because those we serve identify with our pain. As always: God works in us so that he can work through us. –Christine Caine, Undaunted
Human trafficking is my cause. It may or may not be yours. The Lord broke my heart and led me to join the Human Trafficking Cause Group and to go to Cambodia to do human trafficking education. I am going through 4 weeks of training to become a volunteer in the Salvation Army STOP-IT Program, who operates a drop-in center a few blocks from where I live for girls currently trapped in prostitution. I am also going through training to be a speaker for Selah Freedom, an organization who is in the process of building a safe house for women rescued from sex trafficking in Chicago. The funny thing is that God doesn’t just break your heart once. It’s like a dam that starts to crack and then eventually completely breaks open until it’s impossible not to be moved by all manifestations of human suffering. So, I am also about to go through volunteer training to work at the Ronald McDonald House near where I live. I financially support Breakthrough Urban Ministries and go there with my small group from church to cook and have meals with the men there from time to time. And finally, I am in the process of applying to volunteer in the Prison Pen Pal program with Emmaus Ministries.
All of the above is not meant to boast about what a great humanitarian I am, because I am not. If left to my own devices, I am a selfish human being who would rather leave the dirty work of caring for people in need to others. But it is Christ in me that compels me to face the suffering in this world and then to actually take steps to alleviate it. It is the power of God that is responsible for turning me away from chasing a life of pure personal satisfaction, comfort, and happiness, and to instead invest my time, energy, and resources into helping others. It is the Spirit’s work in my heart and obedience to God’s call on how we are to live our lives as followers of Christ.
Who knows what the future holds? A year ago, I know I certainly would not have anticipated that my heart would be so changed, that I would be working with human trafficking organizations, or that I would go to Cambodia for 10 days on a mission trip. But I challenge you, particularly if you are a follower of Christ, to take an honest look at your time and your resources and ask yourself if you could be doing more. And if the answer to that question is yes, then I exhort you to ask God to break your heart over something…and when you find that something, to step up and champion it.
I will leave you with a few things: some of my favorite verses of late and a video or two that might just break your heart.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.