How to Approach Brokenness and Injustice

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“Bet you can’t catch me!” she yelled from behind a fence, flashing a toothy, playful smile at me. Before I even knew what I was doing, I was chasing a six year old through the backyard of the women’s and children’s shelter I was volunteering at with a group of my peers from school. The little girl and I played on the swing set where we came up with a secret monkey code language, we played hide-n-seek where of course I was always “it,” and we did a math worksheet and read Dora together as she sat on my lap, nestled into my arms. As we played, she was the one to invite me in, to loosen me up to a state of pure silliness, and to make me feel at home in a place that felt very different from home to me. I connected to her in a way I have never connected to a child before.

At times I was distracted by the brokenness we were surrounded by in the forms of the neglect and poor stewardship, but she made me keep my focus on her as if to say, “Don’t worry, this is normal, I’m used to this.” I, however, was not. I was not used to seeing children forgotten about by their parents in very real ways, or used to witnessing firsthand, children living in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. The biggest thing I was not used to or prepared for though was the goodbye this little girl and I would share. When she realized that our ride was on their way, she clung to me and said, “You can’t leave, who will take care of me?! I don’t know where my mom is. No one is here to take care of me.” She was not wrong. There was no parent or worker in sight. This isn’t right. Where are her providers? My mind raced with questions as I tried to say goodbye to her and as she clung on to me tighter and tighter. When our ride came, she had to be pried off of me and set down on the other side of the fence, and then watched us get in a car and leave - leaving her wondering if these people who showed her love and care would ever come back, and leave us wondering if this sweet girl and the other children in her situation will ever be truly loved and cared for how they were made to be.

How does one wrestle with an experience like that? How was I supposed to make sense of what seemed like a completely hopeless situation, one that had personally impacted me? It’s one thing to hear stories about brokenness and be moved, but it’s something else to personally experience or witness it and be absolutely shaken. God had plopped me right down in the middle of immense brokenness for just a few hours, but I had days worth of questions for Him coming out of it.

Many of you have probably had an experience of brokenness that has shaken you up, too. After all, we live in a sinful and broken world. It’s not confined just to children being neglected- it takes on many forms such as natural disasters, discrimination, violence, abuse… the list goes on. Unfortunately, it’s one thing this world is not short of. When we have personal encounters with deep and obvious brokenness, we often come out with a broken heart and a lot of questions. God, where were you? Are you going to do anything? How can you let that happen? What does this say about who You are? What can I even do?

Initially, the first thing I wanted was to know everything. why God allowed that situation to happen, if He will turn it around and bring hope, if that precious little girl will have a promising future, etc. The second thing I wanted was to be able to fix that situation and all other situations of brokenness. However, I quickly realized that I cannot have either of these things. I am not God, therefore, I am not all knowing nor all powerful. As I have wrestled with this, He has shown me some things that we as His Kingdom workers can do as we approach brokenness in our world. We can:

Acknowledge it.

Brokenness is so daunting because it seems so out of our control, and I think our natural tendency is to pretend that it doesn’t exist. I mean, how quick are we to avert our eyes from the homeless man or woman we see sitting on the sidewalk? However, ignoring the brokenness we see only hurts those who are in it because it implies the message that they are not worth it-  not worth the eye contact, the simple hello, the time spent trying to right the wrongs. This only multiplies hurt, which can lead to more brokenness. Let’s have the courage to say, “Yes, this is exists, no, I don’t have the answers or solution, and that is okay.”

Pray and wrestle with it.

Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters, those we know and those we don’t, who are deep in the pit of brokenness. God hears us on their behalf. By praying to Him and asking Him those tough questions we have, He strengthens us in the truth of who He is, equipping us to serve in the ways He’s calling us to. We don’t have to fear asking Him tough questions because He already knows everything that’s going on and our every thought. He longs for us to engage with Him about it.

Keep talking about it.

Friends, there is so much power in our words and the stories we tell. Talking about brokenness can seem pointless, as people may not understand because they have not experienced it how you have. However, we plant so many seeds with our words, more than we will ever be aware of!  Let’s not shy away from uncomfortable conversations just because we may not know all the answers. All we have to do is tell our stories and let Him use us as witnesses.                                        

Look for ways to help.

As a young adult, it can be easy to wonder what power we even have to combat injustice. How can we help when we are college students and have jobs, responsibilities, etc.? One of my favorite Mother Theresa quotes says this: “If you cannot feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” There are many everyday ways we can fight brokenness, we just have to ask the Holy Spirit to make us attentive to situations or people to serve in some way. I also think it’s incredibly worth it to get involved locally with organizations that align with the causes God has placed on your heart. It’s incredible how our eyes and hearts can be opened right in our own backyards.

Keep trusting in His Sovereignty.

One way that I can see good in brokenness is in how it leads us to surrender. To say, “God is God and I am not.” A devotional I use called Jesus Calling really spoke to this- “From your limited human perspective, it may look as if I’m mismanaging things. But you don’t know what I know or see what I see. If I pulled back the curtain to allow you to view heavenly realms, you would understand much more. However, I have designed you to live by faith, not by sight. I lovingly shield you from seeing into the spirit world. Acknowledge my sovereignty by giving thanks in all circumstances.” Woah. We can thank God for being bigger than us and having sovereignty over the earth, even if we don’t understand the ways He works. We can trust that He is a Good Father who loves His children more than we can even imagine. We can trust that He is on the throne, and that brokenness doesn’t win. For He says,

“Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eye." Revelation 7:16-17

Erin McCallum // @Erin_mccallum