God Knows What I Don’t

Jennifer wonders what God might be doing with what we’ve undone.

June 10-11

Beirut => Frankfurt, and then two days and two nights in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt => ORD

I’ve been thinking about Joseph: Jacob’s Joseph, the favorite son, he of the Coat of Many Colors. After the coat, after the dreams, after the pit, after being sold into slavery by his brothers (his brothers!), after the brothers put the blood of the lamb on the many-colored coat and told Jacob his favorite son was dead, after Potiphar and Potiphar’s wife, after prison and more dreams, after pleasing the Pharaoh and being put in charge of Egypt’s storehouses, Jacob’s other sons arrived, sent by their father: a whole community hungry, in the midst of famine. Perhaps Egypt’s wealth of grain could save them?

Unexpectedly, the brothers find themselves face to face with the brother they thought was dead. He was certainly dead to Jacob. And they lived with the guilt of their choices each day. As they begged for grain — and forgiveness — Joseph says this:

“You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

For me, this captures the essence of the doctrines of God’s providence & omniscience. God is good. God knows. He is in the business of transforming evil and making good things.

To be honest, it’s hard to make sense of the poverty we saw in Lebanon. It’s hard to make sense of the poverty we see in Chicago, or even in Carol Stream and Wheaton. Why would God allow such things? Why would God allow violence and war and child brides and hunger and human trafficking and filth and hatred between religions? If He is omnipotent, why doesn’t He simply put an end to the evil, to the hatred, and to the violence?

I don’t know.

I wish I did.

I wish I could see the good God intends from the evils of this world.

I choose to believe that He intends good, even when it is not evident.

Another thing I wonder about is whether God might allow poverty and the evil in the world to exist in the world to help form the souls of His people. Is it possible that evil exists so that those in the midst of it might learn to trust in Him? The persecuted Church tends to thrive; why is that? Is it possible that evil exists so that God’s people might learn compassion and learn to listen to hard stories? Is it possible that evil exists in the world so that God’s people might learn how and when to take action on another’s behalf?

The word advocate comes from the Latin — one who speaks for another. Is it possible that God wants His people to learn to speak for one another, to speak for the other, to speak for the stranger and the refugee? Is it possible that this, in fact, is why poverty and evil exist in the world?

I don’t know. I do believe that as His people, we are called to all of these things, because we are His people.

Because we are His people, we are part of His plan to make the world right. We are part of His plan to make beauty out of ugliness and sacredness out of the mundane and the profane.

All Lebanese people speak Arabic, whether they come from Muslim families, Catholic families, evangelical families, or any other kind of family. Arabic is the language in the home, the one you are born with. Educated Lebanese learn English or French (or both) in addition. Many educated Lebanese are comfortably tri-lingual.

Similar to British English vs. American English, there can be slightly different terminology in Arabic, depending upon the region. Angela tells me that her friends from the past 9 months use a different word, but Lebanese and Syrian Arabic speakers have a word that means many things: come, come on, come here, let’s go, hurry up, and some other variations.

The word is yalla, sometimes spelled yallah. Some say the origin of the word is an acknowledgement that wherever we go, God goes with us. That is to say: “Let’s go, Allah will be with us.”

I think we need to be about God’s business — God’s business of righting the wrongs and making the bad things good. Perhaps we can simply look around us and find what God is calling us to.

Yalla! Let’s go!