Minibus Theology is a thoughtful, boots-on-the-ground approach to cross-cultural theological issues in plain language. An explanation you might give on a crowded minibus, say, with 3 minutes to spare. Enter “Minibus Theology” in the search box to read more.
My husband and I are raising two little kids in the Middle East. By choice.
That raises more than a few eyebrows. People from our neighborhood are always asking, “Why are you here? Everyone here wants to move West, and you’ve come East!”
We love our host country, our neighborhood, and our neighbors. We know God is with us and He has guided us here. But there’s no escaping the fact that we do live in a region of terror and uncertainty. A region terrorized by ISIS, affected by massive refugee need and pressures, political uncertainty, fear… a region where toddlers wash up on the shore.
But glance at world news headlines and it becomes evident that uncertainty and danger aren’t confined to the Middle East.
I woke up this morning to news of a mass shooting in California. Another mass murder – and this time at a community center for disabled people. The Washington Post published a startling, sobering map of where mass shootings have taken place in the USA this year. Hundreds of shootings in 2015 alone.
Just two weeks ago terrorist attacks in Paris, France left 129 people dead. “Paris has suffered its worst attack since the Second World War, and the consequences are incalculable” reports the BBC.
What do you tell yourself when evil shows itself so clearly in our world? What do you tell your kids?
So instead of 3 minutes on a minibus, here are the 3 things I say to my fearful kids (and myself) at bedtime.
1. “No matter what happens, Jesus is with us.”
For a while my daughter had nightmares that bad men came into our house and were attacking me and my husband. She would wake up in the night and come check on us. “Mom, are we going to be ok? What if something happens to you or to Daddy?” It was a poignant question, because, though she didn’t know this, some local believers in our country had been attacked in the night and forced to flee from their homes.
I wished I could say “Don’t worry, nothing’s going to happen to us.” But it’s not in my power to promise something I can’t control.
One of the gifts I’ve received over the past few years in the Middle East is a more robust understanding of the theology of suffering. Paul writes of his hardships in a letter to Timothy, saying:
“But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:17-18).
Paul writes “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack.” If you left the sentence there, what message does that send to victims of the Paris attacks? to those who live through shooting sprees? to those who have seen loved ones killed before their eyes?
But Paul continues, AND “Will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom.”The Lord stands by my side. Rescues me. Brings me safely – through death! – to His heavenly Kingdom.
Safety defined as “
Here’s what I replied to my worried daughter:
“Darling, no matter what happens, Jesus is with us. He’s real. And He promises never to leave us. He’s here with us right now, and He will ALWAYS be with us.”
Our safety comes from the nearness of God. In hardship the Lord is at our side and gives us strength! He doesn’t watch from afar – he walks with us through valley of the shadow of death. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
2. “One day everything will be made right.”
The Bible’s meta-narrative is such comfort. It tells us that though we live in a broken world, it will not always be so.
If we zoom out from that oft-quoted verse in Jeremiah 29:11 about God’s “plans to bring you hope and a future,” we can understand that those plans may include walking through the shadow of death into a glorious future, face to face with Jesus.God’s justice is rock-steady comfort in a world full of evil.
I’ve often gone back to God’s description of himself from Exodus 34 – both with those I’m discipling and for my own soul. “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (34:6-7).
He doesn’t wave a wand over murder and rape and domestic violence: “Never mind, it’s all ok.” No. He forgets the sin of those found in His Son, yet he remembers our tears and will demand an account for every evil crime.
I’ve become very open in telling my kids I don’t know why bad things happen. They see child refugees in the cold with no coats. They see kids picking through trash during school hours. “Why did they have to leave their homes, and they couldn’t even take their favorite toys?”
“I don’t know,” I tell them, as the mother heart rises up in me, “It’s not right, and it makes God very sad. But one day He will make it all right.”
In His Kingdom tears and sorrows are no more. Justice has been ultimately meted out. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into His city, and in that place of ultimate safety the gates are never shut.
3. “Let’s talk with God about it.”
The best way to lay this topic to rest on a dark night is to talk about it with Jesus.
It sounds so obvious, but I have to continually remind myself to take all these things to Him in prayer.
“God, we can’t understand why these things are happening. But we know you’re with us. And one day it will all make sense – you will make everything right. So please, Jesus, we’re asking that you would start making it right, now. Please comfort every person who has lost someone they love. Please give coats to children that need them. Please stop the people doing these terrible things, and show them who You are.”
Don’t click away from a horrific news story without taking a moment to talk with Jesus about it. Don’t let your mind wander into fear. Take those thoughts captive and bring them to Jesus.
Last spring I woke up one morning to the sounds of my kids talking about heaven in the adjoining room.
(I wake up plenty of mornings to the dulcet tones of sibling fighting, so this was a definite improvement!)
My girlie said: “In heaven there’s no fighting.”
My son: “Yup, and no getting angry.”
Girlie: “And the best thing is there’s absolutely NO crying.”
With that, she took on an older sister, teaching tone.
“You know, everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. But you get to see Jesus.”
“It’s going to be GREAT.”