God is in Control: Going through Pain as a part of Christ’s Plan

Four men, arrested and held under the Nigerian military’s control, kneel under the hot, scorching heat of the Northern Nigerian sun. As Boko Haram commanders, caught by the Nigerian military, these four men seem relatively normal. Dressed in “civilian’s clothes,” these men are not touting black flags, rifles, or military wear. Shackled, and side to side, these men are seen for who they really are. Without their frightening front, they seem much less terrifying, and much more mortal. Running into shortages of food, ammo, and fuel, these seemingly horrific men have been reduced somewhat to their cowardly reality: going to such measures as to recruit young men to smuggle them fuel, Boko Haram has been lessening in power, though not without lashing out.

There have been a series of five attacks by Boko Haram on Maiduguri, and their effect has been nothing less than horrific. Killing at least 9 people total, these suicide attacks have happened close to refugee camps, with one holding approximately 16,000 refugees, filled with people who have ran away from their villages, in an attempt to be saved from Boko Haram. One cannot fathom the fear they must feel, knowing that Boko Haram has now “found” them out, and tried to come into their only earthly place of safety.

But, in the chaos of it all, one Truth remains. As described by Amos, one of the fathers of the 21 Chibok girls rescued, “‘”Those selected to be released were done so practically at random. They were called and asked to form a line, and after a number of them were counted, it was stopped, …Fortunately for her (his daughter, Comfort Amos), she was among those released. They were told that the total of girls to be released was 21 and that by the grace of God, the rest would be released later“‘” (source). In all of the “chance,” Christ was present.

In all of the unknown, “chance” things that might have happened, Christ was not only present– He was Sovereign. As Psalm 37 joyfully proclaims, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives” (Isaiah 37:23, NLT). If this is true, then does that mean that Christ cares about, and delights in, even the darkest details? And if God is Love, why do such horrible things, like the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, happen in the first place?

 

While no human can have the full, complete answer to this question, this topic is very much one of the themes of the book of the Bible, Job. 42 chapters long, this epic, true account of one man’s life is centered on God’s Sovereignty, even in the face of suffering. While Christ, many times, does not directly cause something evil to happen, He does, sometimes, let bad things happen– even letting mankind make it’s own decisions–if those decisions are evil, or not.

The book of Job opens with a description of Job: “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1). Not only was Job “a man of complete integrity,” but verse 2 says, “He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3). The father of seven sons and three daughters, Job regularly interceded for, and purified, his children, “For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts'” (Job 1:5, NLT).

This man– this righteous, holy man– loses everyone and everything. His livestock, his servants, and his children are all taken and/or killed, either by other people, or by natural disaster, and he loses his health, becoming covered from head to toe with painful blisters (Job 1:6-19; 2:7-8). If one person could be put on a billboard for seemingly suffering unjustly, it would be Job.

 

 

Ultimately, though, these trials could never compare to Christ’s suffering. More righteous than Job, Jesus Christ was completely sinless– yet was “…the Lamb who was slaughtered” (Revelation 13:8). Not only does Jesus grieve the loss of His loved ones, like John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13); He grieves temporarily losing His oneness with the Father, as He took on mankind’s sin (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). Mocked, beaten, and bruised, Jesus Christ dies the most horrific, unjust death in the history of all mankind.

But, God the Father was not absent, or unfair, from the scene of these horrifically painful things. Rather, God the Father was completely in control; and, when the suffering was over, His will had been done: in Job’s suffering, both Job and his friends, who thought they knew how God operated,  experienced a deeper, more real understanding of God’s Sovereignty. At the end of the book of Job, Job stands before God, after God shows Himself to Job and humbles him. Job’s words, though few, are incredibly profound:

“‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 ‘You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”‘ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'”
(Job 42:1-6, NIV)

 

Job, now clearly seeing the Unsearchable, Amazing Goodness of Christ, becomes blessed once again: He gains twice as many livestock as before, and he has 10 more children– “Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers” (Job 42:15).  Most of all, they learned that, though Christ’s ways are infinitely higher than mankind’s, He is eternally, and ultimately, good.

On a much grander scale, Christ’s suffering was also apart of God’s plan: “from the beginning of the world,”Christ died, and rose again, for the forgiveness of all sin to those who believe (Revelations 13:8b). From the beginning of the world, Christ was going to be the sacrifice to save us from our sin. While this is an amazing, and, if one confesses, confusing prospect, the one thing it obviously shows is that, while many people would say otherwise, suffering is, at times, the will of God– and He is ultimately good, above it all.

 

Surely, Job and those in his life– could not understand why these tragic events were taking place. Even Job’s wife, during the suffering, advised him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). All seemed out of control, cruel, senseless, and random.

Those who loved Jesus, as He hung on that cross, no doubt, were filled with extreme grief, frustration, and confusion. Their Messiah, their God, their Friend, was dying a death He never deserved, yet foretold many times (such as in Mark 8:31-33). In the middle of this pain, they could have never seen a Good, Loving God’s plan being laid out; but, as Christ says in John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” Though death, suffering, and pain, came salvation and eternal life for billions of Believers.

So it is, with suffering, today. Though Boko Haram seems wild, they, just like the four men under the Nigerian military’s control, are under Christ’s control, whether they believe it or not.

No one can fathom the kind of pain that Nigerian refugees, the loved ones of the Chibok girls, and those hurt by suicide attacks are going through. One can’t see the redemption that is in store, when there is so much grief. While this redemption and insight may not “make everything okay,” knowing that Christ– the All-Knowing, All-Seeing God, who is everywhere at once, and who gave Himself up for us in Love—is Sovereign over all, gives us hope. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). Through it all, Jesus’ Sovereign, Good Hands will make every broken thing beautiful. Stand on that promise.



Do you know Jesus?

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
(Romans 8:28-30, NIV)

Romans 8:28 is a passage of Scripture that has given hope and comfort to Believers in Christ for centuries. Through suffering, Christians have clung to this promise: that though it hurts now, Christ will turn “everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

But what about the next two verses? God knew His people in advance… that is a really complex, heavy, mind-blowing thing to read, much less believe.
But, when Christ died for the sins of mankind, as according to God’s plan before the beginning, He still chose to submit to the Father’s will, no matter how fatal, or painful, it might be, modeling how humanity also has a choice. And so, there is a Truth found: that while God knows His people in advanced, they still have the freewill to either refuse or accept Him, as Lord and Savior.

ALL people, Believers and Non-Believers alike, will stand before God one day, to be judged for what they do and do not do (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6). Only Believers will enter into heaven– those who have accepted Christ’s payment for their sin, on their behalf. And no one, at the end of their lives, will be able to tell God that they did not receive an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, taking away their sin and granting them eternal life (Romans 1:20). It will all come down to if they knew and accepted Christ, or rejected Him.

If you have not yet received Christ as your Lord and Savior, “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT).

Learn more about, and accept Jesus’ free gift today, here.



Please pray for…

– The 22 (now 23!) Chibok girls who have been freed from the clutches of Boko Haram. Please pray that they would seek and know Jesus, and that their loved ones would also reach out to Christ for the wisdom, understanding, and truly, all they need to love their newly freed loved ones.

– For the 196 Chibok Girls, who are still in captivity. Please pray that, even in captivity, they would seek Jesus, and would be freed spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically from their bondage to Boko Haram.

– The Refugees who have been terrified by recent suicide bombings. Please pray that they would seek Christ, as their true Refuge.

– The Nigerian military. Please pray that they would seek Christ, for the wisdom, guidance, and resources they need, both spiritually and physically, to defeat Boko Haram.

– Boko Haram. Please pray for it’s members– that those who are Christian captives in their midst would be used powerfully by Christ, to call these men, women, and children, to Himself.

Thank you for your prayers. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:3, NIV).

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Resource: Christian Non-profit Organizations working directly in Nigeria/the Boko Haram Crisis (UPDATE: additional secular organizations added)

As a follow up to the last post, this quick post is to help equip you, as readers, in practically living out what was written, and encouraged in this post.

A lot of the time, money– or another physical contribution– is one of the most valuable things we can give, especially in a fight that includes poverty, and extreme physical need. But, it is sometimes difficult to choose a target for a donation, that is reputable, financially accountable, and actively working in the region one feels led to give to.

After much prayer, and searching, I have found a couple of non-profits that are working directly in Nigeria, and/or especially pertaining to the Boko Haram insurgency, all for Jesus’ glory. Praying that this blesses you as you choose where to give, Here it is:

**I HAVE NOT BEEN ASKED BY ANY ORGANIZATION FOR PUBLICITY OR RECOMMENDATIONS, AND THIS BLOG IS IN NO WAY SPONSORED BY ANY NONPROFIT. THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST; I HAVE SEARCHED FOR, READ THROUGH, AND CHOSEN THESE NONPROFITS BECAUSE OF THEIR MISSION, FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY, AND ABILITY TO HELP THOSE AFFECTED BY BOKO HARAM. It’s my mere opinion; but I pray it really blesses you! Please let me know if you know of any reputable nonprofits to add to this list. 

 

  • CHRISTIAN AID MISSION

 

Founded in 1970 by a man named Dr. Robert Finley, Christian Aid Mission focuses on supporting missionaries, ministries, and churches that are already in places where there are few, and/or persecuted, Christians– especially in nations where foreign missionaries are unwelcome, or cannot legally enter. Their own website says, “Christian Aid Mission seeks to establish a witness for Christ in every nation by assisting indigenous ministries that share the gospel with unreached people groups.” While Charity Navigator cannot rate them due to not being required “ to file the full IRS Form 990,” they claim to have extensive ethical and financial accountability (learn more here). They are working to both help Christian ministries in Nigeria flourish, as well as to help those suffering because of Boko Haram. Support native African missionaries, and the persecuted African Church through Christian Aid Mission, here.

  • CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES

Since the early 2000’s, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has aided numerous farmers, local non-profits, and catholic churches in the Niger and Nigeria region. More recently, CRS has increased its aid to those displaced by Boko Haram in the region, especially in Diffa, Niger (source).

Working with Niger’s local non-profits like Demi-E, CRS has provided clean drinking water, as well as access to food through food vouchers, to hundreds of displaced peoples in the region of Niger and Chad.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Bishops’ international aid and development agency, aims to “to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching” by helping aid in disaster relief, as well as encouraging and supplying third-world communities with the resources to “achieve their full potential.”

Catholic Relief Services have come under fire in recent months, being accused of going against traditional catholic teachings, such as prohibiting the use of birth control, and collaborating with secular charities and non-profits to achieve the giving of aid, globally. Catholic Relief Services have replied to these accusations, in this webpage— and affirm that while they do work with “secular” organizations to give aid, they do not participate in projects or causes with secular organizations that go against catholic values (source).

While many core doctrines of Catholicism focus on earning one’s salvation, by good works (which is completely unbiblical: Ephesians 2:5), there are many Catholic Christians, who have been saved, by faith, through grace, and have received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (Ephesians 2:8-9). Catholic Relief Services supports, and supplies, millions of Christian Catholics (and people, in general), with the resources to give in a reputable, and financially responsible way, to those in this disaster who need it most. Learn more about what CRS is doing in Nigeria, here, and how you can donate to the cause, here.

  • SIM USA

SIM USA has been working all over the world, spreading the Gospel, and helping to educate those within Nigeria. They are passionate about letting Jesus be known, everywhere. They are also working to evangelize unreached people groups, “developing SIM teams in strategic centres in the core north, working with Evangelical Mission Society personnel, focusing on evangelism, discipleship, general and theological education, community health, development, and literacy” (source). Learn more about them, here.

  • CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN IN NIGERIA (NYE)

Church of the Brethren in Nigeria works directly with Church of the Brethren in various parts of the United States. The Church of the Brethren is very involved in the Boko Haram insurgency and in the kidnapping of the Chibok girls. Learn about how you can help them to help brothers and sisters in Nigeria, here.

  • *RECOMMENDED: GLEANING FOR THE WORLD

Gleaning for the world is a faith-based nonprofit, helping all kinds of people, regardless their backgrounds. They are helping within the US, in Syria and Iraq, and have worked on the ground in displacement camps in Nigeria, to do as their motto says: “alleviating suffering by efficiently distributing humanitarian aid.” They have provided food supplements and vitamins to displaced people who would otherwise have to go without in their bland, nutrition-less basic diets. They are also providing medical first aid to those hurt in fleeing Boko Haram. Because of their financial transparency, and high percentile of how much money actually goes toward their program, I recommend this nonprofit. I have NOT been asked to promote any one certain nonprofit, here; I am literally just recommending them completely of my own, unpaid volition.
Learn more about how you can help, here.

  • VOICE OF THE MARTYRS

Voice of the Martyrs says that they are “committed to providing widows and children of martyred Christians” through the support and encouragement of connecting them with churches, vocational training to widows (and quite possibly older orphans), and through discipling widows and orphans. They also help those “Front-line workers” who are working to share the Gospel in such hostile regions like Northern Nigeria. You can find a direct link to donate to VOM’s Nigerian Widow and Orphan offer here.

OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WORKING DIRECTLY WITH/IN NIGERIA

 While these organizations are not Christian, they are reputable charities currently helping those displaced by Boko Haram.

  • ALIMA (THE ALLIANCE FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL ACTION)

The Alliance for International Medical Action is a highly productive nonprofit, founded in 2009, with its headquarters in Senegal. Dedicated to eradicating treatable diseases within Africa, ALIMA has created 10 research projects in progressive medicine, partnering with other nonprofits and those on the ground in crisis areas to provide cutting-edge medical relief, primarily for malnourished and otherwise ill individuals (source).

ALIMA has worked in IDP camps in Northern Nigeria, specifically helping those who are malnourished. To read more about ALIMA, and help out their nonprofit, click here.

  • THE CARTER CENTER

The Carter Center, in its own words, “in partnership with Emory University, is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.” The Carter Center has been involved with various Nigerian medical and political phenomena and events since the early 1990’s, and even annihilated Lymphatic Filariasis (a disforming, mosquito-created illness) in Nasarawa and Plateau, Nigeria in 2017. The Carter Center has supported the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health in other ways, as well. Learn more about their effect in Nigeria here.

  • THE FISTULA FOUNDATION

The Fistula Foundation aims at surgically healing women who have gone through traumatic childbirth, and have become incontinent through it. Women who give birth in third world countries can have many complications in childbirth, often resulting in the loss of their child. More than this, a woman can develop obstetric fistula, a condition where the vagina tears down to the anus. As a result, these women are left incontinent, and are at times rejected by their husbands and communities because of the incontinency.

The Fistula Foundation funds the best organizations known for fistula operations. Learn more about them, and how you can donate, here.

  • SAVE THE CHILDREN

Save the Children is focused on helping children to grow up healthy and strong in communities where these resources are lacking. They are working in Nigeria (or, at least, were working hard there in 2017), fighting back against hunger. On their website, it says, “Save the Children in Nigeria is distributing food to vulnerable families, reaching nearly 16,500 people. Our teams have established therapeutic feeding centers and outreach centers that provide food for infants and young children suffering from malnutrition.” They have 3 out of 4 stars on Charity Navigator. Learn more about Save the Children, here.

  • INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS

The International Committee of the Red Cross is well-known for giving aid, but caught my attention after seeing that they now have a “Nigeria and Lake Chad Crisis Appeal,” an area that helps reassure donors that these monies will more directly be applied to everything happening within Northern Nigeria and Lake Chad. Read more about this fund, here.

  • CARE

Care exists to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice. They started working in Nigeria in 2017, though it is unclear on if they are still working there. They were working to remove gaps in food security and helping women from gender-based violence, among other things. You can find them here.

 

 

Again, let me know if you know of any other nonprofits I could add. Thank you, for reading and praying! Praise Jesus for you! 🙂

“Dear Father God,
I praise you, Father, for the community of people, here, who both read, and pray, over the requests written, here.

As these men and women are led, by Your Holy Spirit, to give for the cause of those caught up in the Boko Haram insurgency, specifically those in IDP Camps, the Church there, and those otherwise affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, I pray that You would bless their hearts with remembering all that You have done, for them.

Dear Father God, Thank You for giving all, Father God, so that we might have a Personal, Saving, relationship with You! I pray that, in view of Your Kindness, You would search our hearts, and show us anything keeping us from a closer, richer, more beautiful relationship with You (Romans 2).

Bless them, today, Father God.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen!”

He Owns the Dust: Aware and Strong in Christ

Just as the dust settled, it was flung back up again by the hurried, panicked, quick steps of those who ran for their lives from Boko Haram’s latest attacks. Gathering what and whom they could, they ran from the violence as the insurgency shot at Nigerian militia. Like an ominous mass of demonic monsters, Boko Haram came in droves, shocking the people with their huge numbers, coming to take back what was once so evilly theirs. As the terrorists ascended, they brought with them the very things the Nigerian townspeople were trying to do away with, to forget: panic, incredulous fear, and the deep, haunting emotional trauma that scarred their hearts and minds. Just as victory was imminent, and freedom and relief were becoming a reality, Boko Haram’s vicious attacks upon the Nigerian people expressed one disheartening, somber truth: that though a severely heavy, horrible darkness has been lifted from them, the fight against such a malicious enemy and ideology is never truly over. Continue reading