I bend down and pick up a broken concrete block, a piece of a fallen wall located outside a rescue home in a small village in Thailand.
Concrete blocks lay scattered across the yard, evidence of an earthquake that struck the area, toppling a wall, leaving the yard strewn with trash and rubble.
We were told that the earthquake occurred after a worship service where the words were sung:
“Every high thing must come down. Every stronghold shall be broken.”
Nobody was hurt, but the irony was present.
Sometimes when we talk to God, we do not know what we ask for.
Inside the building, girls rescued from brothels study English and make jewelry, while curtains on the windows sway in the hot breeze. They are rebuilding the pieces of their shattered lives, destroyed by greedy brothel owners and men who made them into objects for their own gratification.
Like the wall outside, their lives had crumbled, and now the slow work of rebuilding had begun. They were starting over again, each day of freedom another block in the wall. Everything they had once called familiar was gone. Their families. Their old neighborhood. Their childhood. They were beginning again. After all the heartache, they were discovering that grace covers it all.
It’s a lesson for the broken: No matter how much we’ve failed or fallen, there is always more grace.
I was starting to see it too, the evidence of something unfurling in my soul. I was picking up the pieces from my own personal earthquake, learning that the pain I thought would kill me, had not.
All of us, eventually, come to a place where the walls of safety and personal comfort fall down. Our lives will look something like a wall ruined by an earthquake–destroyed and irreparable. We will lose something we thought we could not live without, while discovering something much greater than ourselves.
In the midst of hard trials, people sometimes say they did not feel God’s presence. “Where was God in the midst of my pain?” they ask.
Whether you feel God is not evidence of his presence. God is present no matter what the heart tells us. He is there in the quiet still of the morning. He is there in the blinding flash of a tumultuous thunderstorm. He is there in earthquakes, downpours, snowstorms, tornadoes, and typhoons.
In the wreckage of life’s greatest heartaches, God is still there.
When the girls sang out, “Every high thing must come down,” God was there in the tumbling of the wall–even though that wall protected them from the world outside–the brothels and bars and men prowling the streets looking for something to satisfy their thirst for pleasure.
I don’t understand why God allowed the wall to topple when he could have chosen a wall in a seedy brothel. With one earthquake, God could have taken down the whole red light district the way he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. But he didn’t.
These are the hard questions that wake us in the dark of night.
Why didn’t you save us God?
They choke us with tears, leaving us sobbing in dark corners.
Although we accept the suffering of the wicked, we cannot understand why sickness, death and pain inflict the good. This is the question that plagues the righteous.
Why did you do this?
Why did you make me sick?
Why did my loved one die?
Why did this happen to me?
I wish I could say I am immune to uncertainty. But of all the questions surrounding my son’s death, one repeatedly taunted me.
Why did God allow a family who couldn’t have biological children to lose their only son?
It’s the Old Testament wrestling match between Jacob and God. We know who’s going to win when we wrestle with God, but we need the struggle.
And God, in his wisdom and mercy, can handle our questions, as long as we understand that sometimes he will not answer us—at least not in the way we want. Job learned this the hard way.
When Job questioned God about his suffering, God did not answer Job’s question. Instead he says,
Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” (Job 38:4)
Instead of answering Job’s question, he reminded Job of who He was.
Perhaps that is the point of our wrestling: We are forced to learn who God is when we struggle with the hard questions.
In our wrestling, we see with new eyes our own inadequacy and brokenness from sin. We recognize our need for a savior.
Where there is brokenness, there is always more grace to rebuild whatever has been destroyed.
We are loved, despite the broken pieces of our souls, despite the rubble of all this pain, despite the ugliness of sin. It’s always the same: There is more grace.
The broken pieces of cement blocks, cleaned away, clear a space of open dirt. I see it now–how we are laying groundwork for something to grow.
Where brokenness once littered the landscape, there is only the beauty of a life made new, a chance to begin again, a time to leave the questions unanswered and trust in a God whose grace is always bigger than my uncertainties.
When I finish picking up the pieces of that fallen wall, I feel like this small act is the start of something bigger.
The rebuilding of lives.
The song of freedom coming from the lips of those no longer held captive by sin, singing the sweet refrain:
Every high thing must come down. Every stronghold shall be broken.