What I knew about ISIS is what I heard in sound bit size reports on NPR on the drive to and from work everyday. I knew this group
was terrorizing cities and citizens in Iraq and Syria. I knew they were recruiting members all over the globe. I understand that this is a fundamentalist Islam group. An article in the New York times told me that ISIS is a disgrace to true fundamentalist. But sometimes, many times, it’s personal stories that break through our desensitized hearts. The beheading of 21 Christian Egyptian men in Libya started creating cracks in our hearts, making this violence more real. Then Ann Voskamp went to Iraq with Lynne Hybels. She came home and told the stories of mothers and kidnapped daughters.* The cracks in my heart are now breaking and my heart is pounding hard.
I recently started reading the book of the Bible called, Habakkuk. Last weekend Bonnie Keen, a special guest speaker and singer at the Western Michigan Northern Indiana Division’s Women’s Retreat asked us to flip to the back of Habakkuk. We read the last three verses:
“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.” (Habakkuk 3: 17-19)
That burst into tears, hang my head low in humility feeling overwhelmed me. God is still good when life is no good. This isn’t a new revelation in my life. It came as another reminder in recent days, that God promises to be with us and rescue us were indeed a guarantee that there would be days, months years in life with spiritual crop failures and barren days and that had nothing to do with God’s goodness.
I flipped to the front of Habakkuk again yesterday, just after reading Ann’s Into Iraq article. With the question fresh in my mind, why God? Why would you let a nine year old girl be passed around and violated beyond what we can imagine? WHY? Why are you letting ISIS destroy, terrorize and take over, in the name of evil? Habakkuk had the same questions for a similar landscape and scenario. The Babylonians were terrorizing, capturing, taking over.
“They are notorious for their cruelty. They do as they like, and no one can stop them. Their horses are swifter that leopards. They are fierce people, more fierce, than wolves at dusk. Their horsemen race forward from distant places. Like eagles they swoop down to pounce on their prey. On they come, all of them bent on violence. Their hordes advance like a wind from the desert, sweeping captives ahead of them like sand. They scoff at kings and princes, and scorn all their defenses. They simply pile ramps of earth against their walls and capture them. They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their own strength is their god.”(Habakkuk 1:6b-11)
God replied to Habakkuk’s prayers of concern and question. Justice will come. In God’s time.
“But soon their captives will taunt them. They will mock them, saying, ‘What sorrow awaits you thieves! Now you will get what you deserve! You’ve become rich by extortion, but how much longer can this go on?’ 7 Suddenly, your debtors will take action. They will turn on you and take all you have, while you stand trembling and helpless 8 Because you have plundered many nations now all the survivors will plunder you. You committed murder throughout the countryside and filled the towns with violence.” (Habakkuk 2: 6-8)
As we wait for justice, keep praying. Pray that the victims will be sustained. Pray that they will be protected and rescued. God is still good during all this, even though we don’t get it. If anything it draws us to Him with lumps in throats, pounding hearts and clenched fists.
*UPDATE: By sharing Ann Voskcamp’s experience we are not endorsing her or her fundraising efforts. If you are interested in supporting The Salvation Army you can give HERE and ear mark the donation for ISIS victim support.