Mothers and Daughters
Today is Mother’s Day (or Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day or Mothering Sunday, take your pick) in most of the over five dozen countries where this holiday is observed. Hopefully it is a pleasant, even meaningful occasion for you. Keep in mind it is not so for all. Many of us have lost our mothers – this may be the first Mother’s Day without her – and there are a great many women who’ve lost their children, or wished to have children but never could. This is a painful reminder of loss for some – maybe you, too.
It is particularly painful to the mothers in Nigeria, where in the last few weeks hundreds of their daughters have been stolen from them by members of the Islamist group Boko Haram. A small handful has escaped; God grant more will join those who’ve gotten free.
Mentioning God may cause you to ask why he doesn’t prevent this from happening. Some atheists – Dawkins and Harris, to mention a few celebrity non-believers – assert that the absence divine intervention in situations like this is proof God does not exist. I suggest otherwise.
The sad reality is the Sovereign of the universe delegated authority over this planet to us, and we are notoriously flawed. You are. So am I. Sure, there are things you and I personally won’t do, but as a species we are self-centered, corrupt, and quick to devolve into barbarism. The example of Boko Haram serves as a reminder that for most of its history the human animal has practiced rape as a legitimate form of warfare.
So why doesn’t the Lord of creation intervene when evil occurs? I say he has been and is still intervening – but in ways that do not countermand mankind’s divine rights. God, you see, rarely invokes overt raw power; he is much more likely to orchestrate change by persuasion, not coercion. It would seem he prefers to work from within.
That is very likely what is happening in Nigeria and surrounding countries. And we are a part of it.
The media persists in saying these young women were kidnapped. They were not. They were abducted.
What is the difference, you ask? No ransom for their return is being demanded. Boko Haram has no intention of returning them. They will be sex slaves or wives – and, under Boko Haram’s dominion, there is little difference between the two.
And I suspect this was God’s plan all along. Why? Because this pattern has been seen before in history.
Consider: for almost four centuries, Vikings were the terror of Europe. They were efficient, ruthless killers who pillaged and destroyed in waves of raids that were not confined to coastal areas of central and southern Europe; they would set up base camps by the sea and make forays deep inland for months at a time. Few could withstand them. Historians tell us that by the eleventh century the Viking militant culture was dead, primarily due to economic and religious factors – the latter, specifically, meaning that the Church by that time was deeply integrated into Norse society. How did that happen? It was by the influence of generations of Christian girls and women whom the Vikings carried off as sex slaves and wives. Cut off forever from their families, isolated from almost everything familiar, they clung to their faith – and that faith enabled them to transform their homes, neighborhoods, and an entire civilization.
As it turns out, this is precisely what Scripture said might happen.
It is long, slow process of transformation, and incredibly sad and painful. The cost is great, but the cost of not effecting change would have been far greater.
God did not spare his only begotten Son. What makes you think he will spare his daughters?
Don’t for a moment blame God if in his permissive will he has allowed these Nigerian young women, and hundreds more besides, to suffer a cruel fate in order to transform the hearts and minds of fanatical, totalitarian killers. If he was wrong to do so, how much more are we – we who have done exactly the same thing, prompted by baser, political, motives rather than spiritual ones.
It was not God who sent millions of US taxpayer dollars to build schools in sub-Saharan Africa and encourage girls to get an education. It is not God who is now tweeting hashtags and holding rallies and doubling down on the call for the sisters and cousins and daughters of the victims to likewise put themselves in harm’s way. It is we who have done this. We, from the safety of our shores and the comfort of our coffee shops, have knowingly put these young women in danger, because we wanted to use them as tools in a subversive campaign against so-called radical Islam. We made them targets; we invited military intervention against them from a group that correctly our actions as a threat to their ideology. We are partly to blame for their suffering.
We cannot hope God will come along and clean up our foreign policy failures. That is not his responsibility. Our agendas are not his agendas; our ways are not his ways. What we can hope for is that he will take our messes and make from them something far better than we could possibly have imagined.
Please pray for these young women. Pray for comfort and peace for them, and for their families. Pray they would be bold and courageous, that their wills would not break under pressure. Pray that the life and power of God within them will be evident to their captors. Pray for their captors to repent of their evil ways. Pray for justice, but no less than you pray for mercy – for them, as well as for yourself.