By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
At some point every human looks right in the eyes of agony
And through the tragedy asks himself how can this happen to me? -Odd Thomas from Beautiful Eulogy, “Anchor” from their album Satellite Kite
Tears of pain and sorrow flood the waves that my soul sails upon. By now, you may have seen or at least heard of the latest televised-tragedy of the bombing that occurred in Aleppo, Syria due to the continued civil war that has raged in that country in our recent times. Along with this, you may have seen the story of Omran Daqneesh’s family and how their home was hit in the collateral damage from the latest airstrike to have occurred in that city. You may have also seen the video of CNN news anchor Kate Bolduan barely holding back tears as she covers the story. Omran Daqneesh, a 5 year old Syrian boy caught in the rubble of what used to be his home, appears in the film after he has been exhumed alive…and he is in absolute shock, taking in all that has happened to him but unable to physically translate all of the emotion flooding his young soul.
Omran Daqneesh, 5 years old
You may have also heard the story coming from the state of Ohio of a 7 year old boy who was thankfully found by a police officer as he tried to sell his teddy bear for food. The young boy told the officer that he hadn’t eaten in several days. After officers fed the boy they showed up at his home to find 4 other children scrounging around in the garbage for food covered in cat urine.
You may have also heard the story of a 9 year old boy from Kansas City, Kansas who was asleep in his bed when someone began firing bullets into his home. The young boy named Jayden Ugwuh awoke and ran from his room, but he returned when he became aware that his cousin Montell Ross had not come out with him. It was when Jayden returned for his cousin while the rounds were still being fired that both boys were shot. In an act of just pure determination, love, and innocence, Jayden made it to his 12 year old brother Jayson Jr’s room and snuggled up against him in his bed– just moments before he died from his wounds.
Montell Ross, 8 years old and Jayden Ugwuh, 9 years old
Words cannot describe the anguish, and wounds will take time to heal.
All while I watched this, I began to mourn again, but I realized that mourning has become a catalyst for much of my waking hours. I cannot explain it except to simply say what has become a transforming process in my own life. God often uses the pain that He allows me to see and experience in this world to continue to write what I write, and to trust in Him how I trust in His goodness, and to proclaim His truth even when it is most inconvenient for myself and others. His truth exists outside of myself and my own actions, but reality as I live each day confirms his truth because His truth is reality.
We live in a broken family, faithful reader. Each one of these children pictured here is made in the image of God Himself, born into the same marred sculpture of humanity that we all bear, warped by sin inwardly as we are all born sinners from Adam. Every single one of these children is either my cousin, my uncle, or my nephew–and yours too. We are also fatefully affected by the sinfulness from outside of ourselves…even by the way that we respond to these tragedies.
Others reject God’s light and cling to invented worldviews that cannot but attempt to hold the same value as the solid truth, while others adapt God’s revelation in order to fit a confined secular viewpoint in order to “win converts.”
One social commentator working at The New York Times decries of how stagnant our news media and structural systems are when it comes to the suffering of human beings…particularly the refugees of war. Nicholas Kristof, in an attempt to write an appeal to the world via a secularized worldview approach, hits at some very major issues that I have brought up time and again. Kristof rightfully criticizes the option of inaction whenever tragedy hits a certain part of the world. Tragedy occurs as a daily occurrence, and it occurs to all human beings at various times in our lives. But just as Kristof, a self-identified Evangelical Christian, makes his secularized appeal, he makes a fatal error in his writing that is incidental to what he attempts to do.
Human beings are not worth just as much as golden retrievers. We are worth so much more because God made us all that way.
Here we are, celebrating the right for “incapable” mothers to murder their children in the womb while uniting around Simone Biles, a girl born to a drug-addict mother and abandoned by her father, as she stuns our hearts and minds in her stellar Summer Olympic gymnastic performance. How many other “Simone Biles-like” children weren’t even allowed to live to their first birthday amid the same jubilant cheers for “freedom” that Simone Biles now enjoys?
They are dying even now. Just as the children in war zones like Syria, the children abandoned in the alleyways, and the children in the ghettos die.
When we think of God as being particularly harsh on society by judging them based upon their rejection of the poor, or the outcry against their cities because of their oppressive ways, we often view God as some vengeful tyrant not even patient with His fallen creation and totally intolerant of the corruption that humans have caused from long ago.
Yet, such is a very warped and incorrect vision of God. God is exceedingly merciful, and His judgment against us all is as delayed as our final breath is from our first. Because I have brought these stories to your own eyes (and that they have been brought to my own), we miss upon the truth that the eyes of the LORD roam the entire Earth and that He is aware of all of these evils, yes even all of the stories that will never be told. And God is aware of all of these things constantly, and He judges the nations accordingly when He finally brings down His gavel upon us.
21 The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done…” -Genesis 8:21
This is why Christians cannot be silent and sit by idle even as we know that our humanity’s evil will continue until God alone comes to bring the final judgment and final condition upon His rebellious world. Till then, we proclaim His Gospel, not just to proclaim the freedom from oppression in this world…for such is a small thing. No, we proclaim His message so that others may have what we have, the full freedom and fullness of life that God came to restore unto all men.
“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
-Jesus the Immanuel, John 10:9-10
*Updated where previous posting misspelled Omran’s name as Omar.