Have you ever broken a bone? I have. When I was 11 or 12 years old I broke a finger playing in what was likely a fierce game of handball. Yes you read that correctly. I was one of the cool kids who played handball in elementary school.
The thing with breaks is, they need to be reset to the way they were designed so they may mend and heal properly.
When I first learned of the realities of modern day slavery, it felt like a bad break. How could things be so off set, out of order, out of place and in desperate need of healing and resetting? I felt a burning rage boil up in my gut and an overwhelming desire to barge into a brothel or brick kiln to rescue the oppressed and give the oppressor a piece of my mind, or, let’s be honest, my once broken middle finger gesture.
Have you felt it too? Have you felt the burn of wanting to do more, wanting to set things right, to mend, to heal, to seek justice?
The truth is, the reality and pain and brokenness associated with modern day slavery is completely overwhelming. This is why it is vital, we begin with the One who is the beginning and the end of all things. We must stop and intentionally seek the One who holds all things together, both the things in Heaven and things on the Earth. We must approach the Great Physician, the Healer and the Hope of the world before taking one iota of a step towards freedom for another.
Because without the Lord mercifully fueling our efforts we simply cannot sustain our passions for justice and freedom for the long haul. And this work of justice, it demands the long haul. Burn out is inevitable, if done by our own accord. Our efforts, while good, are futile without the strength of the Spirit of God fanning the flame to persevere. The work of freedom is not for the faint of heart.
As a marathon runner would never consider starting a race without fueling up on food and water to sustain the duration of the race, we have been created to fuel up on the Spirit of God to sustain us throughout a life lived in a very broken, desolate world, where something as vile as slavery holds captive more individuals today than the total of those enslaved during the horrific trans-Atlantic slave trade.
What do we do? Where do we start? How do we seek God first in all things and find our rest in Him when the state of the world resembles an all-night out of control rave party with a tornado of chaos reeking havoc around ever corner?
The starting place is often the most startling place. The starting line in the race for justice begins at a stop sign. It begins with slowing, with stopping, with resting and with remembering who God is and what His plan for justice is. The first step is to take no step at all and to recognize the One who is able to heal and free has been at work from the beginning of time and will continue His redemption and restorative work long after our days have passed. Nothing gets by Him unnoticed and in His supremacy He rules and reigns the world above all else.
He is our source. He is living water, the author of life and it’s only by His design and command, we utter the very breath we breathe. It only makes sense then that our lifeline is found in Him, the sustainer of our lives and the sustainer of the call on our lives.
Phew! The pressure is off! You and I don’t have to carry the burden and weight and heaviness of modern day slavery by our own efforts and by our individual strength.
I’m a full-time working professional with a demanding job, wife to a very busy husband and mom to a threenager. Stopping to do anything at all – even to sleep – often feels counter intuitive. It’s certainly counter-cultural. The struggle is real isn’t it? I get it. And yet, as Mother Theresa said, “Everything starts with prayer.”
In Jeremiah 29, we read a letter Jeremiah wrote for the Israelite’s who were in exile in Babylon. You probably know the well versed part of the letter that reads, “I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and to not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I take comfort in what comes next. “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jesus would later say things like, “seek the Kingdom of God first and all these things will be added to you” and “remain in me and I will remain in you.”
This work of justice – of setting brokenness right – is the Lord’s work. It’s the very work He sacrificed Himself for. And it’s the very work He is in the process of restoring for all eternity. Like a good and loving dad always wants to be near his children, God out of His love bubbled over, deeply yearns to have all His children near to Him, to remain in Him and to be known in Him. Therefore, when we stop and take the time to really know Him, it changes everything. By His love we are compelled to love the world around us.
To love God and to love our neighbor always starts with spending time with God. This is the work of justice. This is Sabbath. There is a stop sign where brokenness ends and the road to justice begins.
January is human trafficking awareness month. Wouldn’t it be earth shattering if the global family of God spent every moment available in prayer for the enslaved, for change of heart of the oppressors and for all men and women to find their breaks mended and healed in Jesus, including our own? Now that’s an overwhelming thought I can live with!
For further reading and help with keeping sabbath and seeking justice, check out Bethany Hoang’s book, Deepening the Soul for Justice. It’s 40 pages are packed with helpful insight, encouragement and hope as together, we seek the God of justice.