And The Skies Were Silent

2011/04/uganda-child_600.jpg Photo ©Copyright/Courtesty of flickr

Tonight my husband and I watched War Dance, a documentary about children—mostly orphans—in a refugee camp in northern Uganda. Rebel forces have been murdering parents and taking some of their children captive to build up their armies, while leaving many other orphaned children to fend for themselves in the camps.

The movie followed three of these children in particular. One boy was abducted after his parents were murdered by the rebels, and forced to serve in the army. As a young child, the rebels made him kill three innocent field workers with a hoe, and told him that if he didn’t kill them, he would be killed. They also made the other recently abducted children watch, and told them they would kill any of them who didn’t watch the act or any who cried. To this day, the boy has terrible guilt and shame for killing innocent people, and believes God is angry with him.

Another girl told how she and her siblings were hidden in the bush by her parents so that the rebels wouldn’t abduct them if they came into their village. When the rebels came to her parents’ house, they denied having children, and the rebels took them. When the children finally came out of hiding to try to find the parents, the rebels took them to a place where they had large cooking pots full of human heads that they had cut off with machetes. One by one, they showed the heads to the children, until the children recognized the heads of their parents.

The girl explained how she had prayed to God to keep her parents safe, but that He didn’t. She begged Him to bring them back to her, but the skies were silent. Now she lives every day with a heartache the size of Uganda, and enough tears to fill an ocean.

Just today, before I saw the movie, my 20-year-old daughter said to me, “The more I learn about what people go through, the more I understand why there are atheists.” My daughter did not mean that she is close to becoming an atheist or questioning her faith, but she is learning to see the world through the eyes of others. I am very proud and pleased to see that she is maturing into a thoughtful person who realizes that you can’t use pat answers to explain away the suffering and loss that people endure. She is beginning to open her heart to the real suffering and emptiness in the world with a more reasoned faith.

My daughter and I both are learning that faith is not an option for everyone in this lifetime. Faith is a gift from God, given to each person in his or her own season.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given in its own due season” (1 Tim. 2:5–6).

Some people in this lifetime will experience very personal, convincing interaction with God that somehow overcomes the sorrows and questions of this life. Others will not. As they come up against some of the worst that life has to offer, and the skies remain silent, how can they then be faulted?

When it comes to my atheist and doubting friends, I understand. I truly do. I can’t explain why I have a reason to hope in the character of God, and to believe He is loving, merciful, and good, when many things in life seem completely counter to that belief. I can’t possibly articulate my own experiences where the skies have not been silent, and I have found pure love, comfort, presence, and even joy in my own grief.

But I can say that I am not special; I have only been cultivated ahead of some, but not instead of others. Though it may appear so under the constraints of time, God does not play favorites. I believe everyone will, at some point, be given ears to hear and eyes to see what many falsely claim are only for a few.

And I also believe that somehow, pain is only a teacher—a tool—and that someday it will morph into something beautiful and understandable to all.

In that day, the skies will no longer be silent.

Similar Posts:

Posted in categories: Edgy Thots | Orphans

Tags: , , ,

  • Aaaaaamen, Julie!

    P.S. I don't know how you made it through that documentary. I wanted to get up and walk out of Slumdog Millionaire I was so disturbed–but what you saw was real.

    • jferwerd

      This movie has a beautiful story line of how these children are finding healing and hope through music. They were invited to compete in the national music competition at Kampala, and I won't give away what happens, but it is a very inspiring story overall with an uplifting end.

  • Sarah

    That's so real Julie. I have an easy, easy life compared to these beautiful kids and I still wonder a lot if the skies aren't silent. I can only imagine how much more difficult it could be…

  • Mark

    This perspective seems like Calvinism to me (with the important caveat that the elect is universal)

    • jferwerd

      Not Calvinism, but definitely universal.

  • AnneTeresa Nyawira

    Hey Julie, This is a great article. Sometimes it also can be so hard to explain to someone who has gone through such horror, why God lets it happen. Although I still don't know why God lets such bad things happen, sadly I've heard some christians tell people who suffer such monstrosities that they deserve the suffering as God was punishing them for something bad they did or their community did, and thus diminishing their hope in God which I believe its not the case. After watching the Rwanda genocide & reconciliation, and later on after we went though the kenya post election violence in 2007 – as evil as things were, we see God in the forgiveness of those who killed and hurt loved ones and in the prayers to touch and soften the hearts of our enemies. However, no matter how bad the injustice we should ask God to help us in forgiving and in finding the correct form of justice for a person instead of keeping bitterness in our heart or finding ways in revenging those who caused the pain. It is a delight that there are people out there who have given these children healing and hope of a better future through music and I have faith that no-matter how bad the circumstances we face in our life although God sometimes may not deliver us when we want, he will give us strength to face what is ahead as he did in Luke 22 (42-44)…God bless you lots

    • jferwerd

      Annie, that is such a thoughtful post. I appreciate your perspective, especially coming from Africa! You have witnessed much more suffering and trials than most Americans and can probably totally relate to the premise of this blog. We certainly know that most people who suffer such terrible atrocities don't "deserve" it! And those who cause such atrocities, we have to leave it up to the Judge to decide. Who knows how those people might also be victims from being abused, or like this young man in this video, forced by others to act treacherously. Only God knows the whole story for each of us and "what we deserve."

      I really appreciated your heart of love for the offenders, as well as the offended. Thanks so much! Love ya!

  • Beautiful story, Julie. (You don't look old enough to have a 20 yr old daughter) I think people who suffer like that, don't need pat answers at all. Just lots and lots of manifesting love. Then, in God's timing, they will 'see' Him in us and know he's real.

  • Acushla

    As Ecclesia Christians we do not have the spirit of vengeance. Our LORD has said those who inflict pain on others will have that pain visited on them in Eternity. We know what our LORD has said about children so we can leave them in His Hands. We can do something about the agony of pain babies go through when they are aborted. Those who do this are not Christians no matter who they are.

  • My "pat answer": Lamentations 3:33. It was (part of) the first scriptures that I KNOW that He gave me… I was crying and asking where He was when I needed Him… and He showed up.

    Problem: I don't know if anyone has told this child that God WANTS to embrace Him. (How are they to believe in Him of whom they have not heard?) I wish… every atheist would experience God's love… even if you don't believe in the Lake of Fire (I do), life on this side of eternity without Him, is decidedly sub-standard. I have quite a few theories… but then they're exactly that; theories.

    Bad things happen because God is good. He is so good that He gives us the option to choose Him. But we choose not to choose Him, so chaos ensues. And, well, He gave us the earth (Psalm 115:16), so He technically needs our permission to fix what we've already messed up… and we won't give Him that,because: we're ignorant, and/or selfish and/or still won't choose Him. And the Enemy blinds people. And some other reasons. And that's it, in short…