But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you ~ 1 Peter 3:15
I work in an organization that helps the under-served. The neighbors in this community are dealing with lack of jobs, reliable transportation, education opportunities, access to healthy food options, and more. There are several things that need development in this community. I have a friend who has been a skeptic for years. Religion and God rub him the wrong way, but we get to have some interesting conversations about life and its meaning.
One day, he asked me a question about my job that I will not soon forget. He asked me, “Doesn’t your job kinda prove that there is no God?” I said, “What??” He responded, “if your God existed, why wouldn’t he stop the injustices that you’re fighting against in your community?” In my friend’s mind, I seem to be more passionate about justice than my God is. That is a valid question. If God is all-powerful and good, why doesn’t he waive his hand and bless this neighborhood that we are toiling over? Now, this post is not about addressing the “problem of pain” as C.S. Lewis put it. There are many wonderful resources on the topic of God and suffering that I would be happy to refer you to. This post is about the believer’s response in the face of suffering.
My friend did not understand why faith is the response to the poor and marginalized. He did not understand that I am simply trying to respond to others the way the Lord responds to me. I serve the community because God is good and he cares. The Church is the expression of God’s desire for justice and mercy. But, we do not serve merely because it is how Jesus served. Our service is driven by our hope.
My friend could not see why I would have hope when there are so many recurring issues in people’s lives, but his view is more limited than mine. All he can see is the brokenness in the world, but I can see eternity on the horizon! I can see a day when God will make everything new (Revelation 21:5). As John said, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) I look expectantly toward that day, and it motivates me. It gives definition to my hope. This world is not all there is. We pray to the Lord, “your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.” That is a prayer of justice and restoration. It is a prayer of hope.
When our eyes are set on eternity, it should put everything else into perspective. I like how Paul said it, “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) We should be ready to share that with anyone who asks.