Today’s question comes from Sandi, who writes: “Malala Yousafzai and Tyler Perry each survived heartbreaking childhood events, while others apparently do not (school/church/shopping mall mass murderers). Did their belief in their own God play any part in their survival?”
While I don’t know Malala or Tyler’s stories well enough to give you an unqualified, “Yes!” to your question, I will share a thought that I had in regard to your question – one that is drawn from years of working with those in pain. My thought is drawn from the wisdom of a former congregant.
When reflecting on what draws people into their spiritual journey, Bob said it’s a thing called “surely”. As in – “surely, there is more to life than what I know or have now!”
More than the pain…
More than the suffering…
More than the fear…
More than the doubt…
That was certainly true for one of my congregants who told me about years of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse she endured at the hands of both of her parents. For most of her first years on the planet, this woman thought pain and suffering were all life had to offer.
When she reached elementary school, one of her friends asked her to go to church with her. It was there she connected with a sense of the “surely there is more” through the song Jesus Loves Me. The song told her that she was worthy of love. So, every time one of her parents would corner her and start yet another session of abuse, the woman told me she would sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” to herself – and that simple chorus got her through the rest of her childhood.
When the woman got older and was able to move out of her parents’ home, she continued down the path that “surely” led her on. And she came to know a powerful faith that got her through unimaginable challenges.
Sadly – as the shootings in Parkland, FL reminded us last week– not everyone is introduced to this concept of “surely”. Consequently, such people come to believe there is anything greater than their pain, their suffering, and their despair. So they give in to those things – and go to very dark places.
Many folks have asked me over the course of the past week, “What can I do to help stop what seems to be this never-ending cycle of violence?”
My answer is to find those in your life who are hurting and introduce them to this “surely”. That simple word can sew seeds that can grow into powerful expressions of healing, hope and love that we can find in our relationship with God.
So how about how? What does Sandi’s question raise for you?