By Jackina Stark
She stood at a fourth-floor window overlooking the city of Phnom Pehn. She had spent a week in Battambang, Cambodia, at Rapha House, working with those who minister to the girls rescued from sex slavery, and in Phnom Pehn, visiting hundreds of poor children who attend the Kids Club, a prevention ministry. Her fellow workers had gone to the street market, letting her beg off. In the room, utterly quiet now, her gaze fell on the area of the city where at that very moment she knew girls, some children, were being sexually used and abused. Her whispered prayer was not eloquent or admirable, though it was honest: “Dear God, I don’t want to know this.”
Surely there are so many things we do not want to know. Many years ago, a quote from a missionary provided the cover for Time magazine: “There are no devils left in Hell. They are all in Rwanda.”
That could also have been written about Cambodia, where 2 million were killed, about the Soviet Union, where 20 million were killed, about the People’s Republic of China, where 65 million were killed, about Afghanistan, where 1.5 million were killed. And now, if you can bear to watch the news, there is Syria. There is ISIS.
And if governments or rebels are not the ones killing their own people, the world faces the utter misery of famine and starvation. The United Nations says nearly 16 million people in Somalia, Nigeria, and South Sudan are at risk of dying soon.
This is not the only misery. Everywhere in the world, hatred and violence is being directed toward marginalized groups; individuals and families are broken because of weakness or sin. Sometimes diseases and natural disasters bring death, decimating the living. Of course, we can find much joy in this life, but we cannot deny that we also face much sorrow.
Isaiah called the coming Messiah a “man of suffering” who was “despised and rejected by mankind . . . and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3). Today Jesus is our “merciful and faithful high priest” who suffered and made “atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17, 18).
The cross story does not make sense to many unbelievers, but seeing so much misery around us, the “cup” he drank to save us, as horrible as it was, somehow helps believers. Jesus intimately knows the violence, shame, and misery of this world. We do not suffer alone.
And, glorious morning, he rose again and showed us the victory.
Jackina Stark is a retired Ozark Christian College English professor who lives in Branson, Missouri.