What began as a casual reading of WORLD magazine turned into a soul-searching that I had never experienced before. It all started when I had some free time in the afternoon. I flipped through the pages, reading of the fight for Cambodia and the battle for religious freedom in our Nation. But as I was going through it a second time, I found a story that I had missed. The story was from Burma. This interested me, because I’m praying for a Missionary named Ngun in Burma (Myanmar) and I think the country is very interesting. That was where Adoniram Judson served, after all.
But the story turned sickeningly horrible within seconds. Two young women, missionaries, had been tortured and killed. I read, almost in shock, as the story revealed a battle no one is talking about. These two girls were martyred, abused terribly… all for their faith. Throwing down the magazine, I asked myself “Why?”
The age old turmoil between what I see as just and what I see as merciful flared up again. These two girls were murdered. They were senselessly brutalized, and for what? What could God possibly accomplish in the death of these two workers? Why would He let this happen? They were His. Why didn’t God protect them? And those men who did it…how could hey be so cruel? Why didn’t God just strike them down where they stood?
All these questions and thoughts rushed through my head like a hurricane. Louder and more frightening by far, however, were the thoughts of revenge. I didn’t even know these girls. But I wanted those men to die. I wanted them dead and I wanted them to suffer for what they did. This thought scared me, so I turned to God and asked him to take away these thoughts. Then, like Job, I began to ask why he had let it happen at all.
My drive for justice and vengeance was as sinful as their rampage. I had to be reminded that Christ died for their sins as well as mine. Though I didn’t want to, I prayed for them to repent. I prayed that they would turn to God before it was too late. After a while, I realized I didn’t want them to suffer for their actions. Who would want anyone to suffer in hell? Just another sinner, I suppose.
Slowly, painfully, I had to come to grips with the fact that I don’t know everything. Me, who had been raised in the Church to the best parents in the world! Me, who knew all the answers! That hurt, maybe even more than anything else. That I was even thinking like this scared me even more. Was I becoming a Pharisee?
If I was, I was in good company. Paul called himself a “Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5) These were the people who thought themselves perfect. Strangely enough, the people who act most like them today are those who condemn them. But that’s something for another post.
It’s so hard to not condemn. I know, I know that we are all sinners. But why is it that everyone else is such a great sinner compared to me? It sounds silly, and perhaps it is. But when Jesus told us that we wouldn’t be able to see the beam in our own eyes, he had a very good point. We are so blind when it comes to our own faults. It’s so easy to think of ourselves as perfect. But we’re not. We’re so far from perfect.
But what of this….this atrocity? Was it wrong to want justice to be served? Well…I guess even Justice can be twisted to be used as an instrument for revenge. So it’s a good thing that I am not God. But oh, why do we have to struggle so hard? Why do we have to suffer through life? In my disbelief, I wonder if Heaven is really worth it. But in God’s word, I discover that it is.
Why does God take his servants, those who do his holy will? Why doesn’t he save them? Why doesn’t he let them live? There are thousands of sinners around who deserved to be treated that way. Why would God allow his gems to be violated? Why is it that only the good die young? Is it because they are the ones ready to go home?
In a scene from one of my favorite books, Rebel’s Keep by Douglas Bond, a Scottish leader named Cameron prayed that God would “Spare the Green and take the Ripe.” Perhaps God knew that these two girls were ready to go home, and he took them. But why then? Why that way?
As my mind rambled from topic to topic, it kept returning to the same question: why? Why would God allow this to happen? Why would he take away two young women who could have done such good in their ministry? They could have strengthened His church!
But something else echoed through my head. The blood of the martyrs grows the church. God uses his saints, even through their deaths. In fact, God uses martyrs to break the hardest hearts, and who knows? Maybe the murderers would remember them and God can use that to break their hearts and save them. God doesn’t always destroy. Sometimes he takes captives. These captives are people who are dragged kicking and screaming into salvation in the beginning, but in the end become some of his best workers. Paul is a good example of this.
The things that we call Mysterious Ways are named well. We don’t understand God’s purposes. I don’t know if we ever will. But it doesn’t matter. As far as we know, Job never found out about why he ran into all of his troubles. But God doesn’t have to tell us what he’s planning. It’s his plan, not ours.
If we knew about them, they wouldn’t be called mysterious, would they? We’re so curious about things we simply cannot understand. Curious to a fault.
It’s hard not to know what’s going on. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after a tragedy. Right now Baltimore is erupting into chaos, and Nepal is picking itself up from a massive earthquake. Bad things are happening. But they will not overtake us.
After a while, I came to realize that no matter what happened to these two missionaries, they are safe with God now. They have joined the company of white-robed martyrs, and their sufferings probably don’t seem that bad now. God is a God of justice, and those who hurt his children are hurting him. If they refuse to listen to Him, their justice will come to be after their deaths. And that is a pain that no one envies. That is a pain no one should wish on another, and I confess with shame my reluctance to forgive. God save me from my wicked passion!
To be truthful, I have no idea why God wanted to take two of his workers home early. I don’t know why he let them take them in this terrible way. I, even I, don’t have all the answers, and I probably never will. Job, as far as we know, didn’t until he died. But I know God had a reason for the events turning out the way they did, and I need to be content. God uses sin sinlessly: though he doesn’t orchestrate it, he knows that it will happen, and he turns it for the good of his Church. Even when it’s hard to understand.
Thanks for bearing with my rambling. If you have some free time, please pray for the families of these two missionaries. The murder happened in January, but their hearts are still broken. And if you have some more time, pray for those who did it. If we get some prayer pressure on them, perhaps they will finally come to see God’s love. It’s tough praying for those who persecute us. But it’s something we’re commanded to do.
Oh, it never gets easy. Even for me. Especially for me.
Philippians 3:4, 7:
Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more…But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.