by Carlan Wendler
“Why does God hate my family?” It was an earnest query by an exasperated black man.
“What do you mean? What is happening to your family?” was my reply.
The next half-hour was spent in a poignant conversation with this medical student who had seen multiple family members die in separate incidents, accidents, that felt like divine targeting of his family for punishment. He was in deep emotional distress, compounded by that kind of self-doubt that comes when you “know” you shouldn’t feel a certain way about God but nonetheless you do. He was looking to me as a missionary and mentor to help him sort through everything. I honestly did not know what to tell him in that moment. My mind raced to retrieve any information that could comfort his weary heart. I wanted to help him but could not settle on any counsel that would anchor his soul in his storm. As I often do in Burundi when faced with a situation that is completely out of my depth I sent up a flare prayer — “Jesus, help!”
The Spirit directed my mind to 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
“OK Lord,” my heart whispered back. “It doesn’t seem like that will help but it is Your word, Your will.”
Our next hour was tremendously blessed as we talked about faith, taking God at His word, and choosing gratitude. We reviewed the Good News and spent some time in prayer together. We both left that conversation with more peace, hope, and joy than either had felt initially. I am forever grateful to that young father, for honoring me with his trial, and our Heavenly Father, for showing me again the power of trust and obedience in confusing times.
These have been trying times for everyone I know. Our community in Burundi has experienced the unexpected death of a well-loved president while while COVID-19 continues to afflict a population that does not have a lot of margin in health care or economics. Our community in the US continues to fight against the pandemic while conflicts over policing, racism, and inequality wreak havoc. My family is “stuck” in California while leaders in many nations decide when airports will reopen and what type of quarantine to require. Locusts and dust storms and earthquakes and sectarian violence touch other parts of our worldwide network of family and friends. It is enough to make my heart despair.
So what to do? Here's what I did this week.
-Sent up a flare prayer: “Jesus, help!”
-Remembered that it is always God’s will for His children to give thanks.
-Tried to chose gratitude.
(And since going to church is still restricted where we are, I got out into nature and into prayer. It is the next best thing for me. I can tell you from experience that it has been balm for my soul and rest for my heart to spend even 15-20 minutes in prayerful thanks.)
-Then I wrote a little poem:
Today I read
of fear and dread
of pestilence and pain.
I hung my head
and anxious fled
To Christ my soul’s sustain.
“What can be done?
We’re overrun —
by anger, pride, and greed.”
“Be still My son
and worry shun,
Your suffering is seed —
“Which Heaven sows,
My Spirit grows;
it burgeons forth in praise.
Its blossoms yield
and grace revealed
When humble thanks are raised.”