Every Christian needs a good theology of suffering. Why do bad things happen to people? Why is there hunger, poverty, and war? Moving overseas can bring these questions into stark focus.
The guy who sells coconut snacks looked at me the other day and said, “This is all I do. I have no future. Can you give me a job?” He has no education and no other skills. He makes next to nothing driving his motorbike around selling the snacks. But can I give him a job? No. The best thing I can do is be a customer.
I wish I could give better paying jobs to the millions of others in my city who live as he does. But then, when would I be a minister of the gospel or an employer? It’s these and other questions that haunt the missionary. How do you reconcile your privileged background with the poverty you see around you? Can you enjoy a nice meal as a blessing from God and not feel guilty? How can you genuinely help people in a culturally appropriate way? Many books by people much smarter than I have been written on this topic. But all that theory is weak and distant when looking into the eyes of a lady who is waiting for medical care that she can’t afford at the local hospital—and if you hand her money, what will you do for the other 200 who are also waiting? Would your gift actually shame her further?
We need a robust theology, and we also need to daily feel the sovereign, all-encompassing goodness of God in our own lives. We need the Holy Spirit’s wisdom to help others without hurting them. We need God to remind us that He is the one who cares for all, and we can trust the Judge of all the Earth to do what is right.
Pray for wisdom for our missionaries around the world. They need daily wisdom in dealing with such things in a culture that is not their own.