The truth of the matter is that most of us are just trying to get through the day without experiencing too much adversity. I think most people don’t mind a bit of a challenge as long as the effort produces some kind of reward; a financial benefit, a lesson in character, or even a social perk.
Another truth is that some of us are set up a little better than others to overcome some challenges, even to the degree that those challenges could hardly be called adversity.
Personally, most of my ‘struggles’ are on the other side of having had my primary needs met. Outside of an occasional emergency, what I most often find myself preoccupied with wouldn’t have even been an issue if my basic needs weren’t met.
It is quite the privilege to read a book that offers me counsel from the wise of some other time period, translated from some other language, from the other side of the world, or to do so sitting in a room sheltered from the cold due to the benefits of proper building techniques. It’s comical when I catch myself thinking things like, “I can’t find enough time to read all these great books!” or getting up from my cushioned couch to adjust the thermostat from 68° to 70° because “it was getting a bit chilly in here.”
As you know, many aren’t in a position to reflect on these trivial concerns, or laugh at themselves. Their basic needs are not met and their needs are not trivial.
This is not an article to make you feel bad about what you have. Gratitude for what benefits we experience because our basic needs are met is a healthy disposition. I have deep hopes that all people could be in a position to express gratitude upon such reflection. However, it’s very difficult to get to that place of gratitude amidst suffering.
Unfortunately, if we allow our minds to go that place where little compassion exists, our response would be to note the “opportunity” for character development amidst such suffering.
I would like to challenge that approach and note that while such character lessons are available amidst suffering, a human being can only handle so much suffering before character lessons turn into dehumanizing mechanisms that rob the person of any semblance of hope, let alone a tangible possibility for change that manifests that hope.
I’ve heard many people with the above mindset tell me stories about that “one time” or that “season” in their life where they had to “spend conservatively” because money was in short supply, or they couldn’t “ever go out to eat,” or they had to take public transportation because they “didn’t have a vehicle.” These one time, or seasonal experiences could very well culminate into a character lesson. However, this is not the kind of adversity I’m talking about.
I’m talking about the kind of suffering, due to a deprivation of basic needs, that leads to hopelessness. This kind of lack can’t be so easily considered in the context of a “season” or “a time that will (so quickly) pass.” There is a kind of suffering that mars the image of God in the human vessel and in its distorted form, these precious people are subject to animal-like environments and experiences and subsequently, animal-like behavior.
Once, when I was at a slum in India, there was not one latrine in the entire village. So when the time came, I was escorted to the perimeter of the village, near the pigs and cattle, where I was pointed to urinate into a dirty stream that appeared to be the sewage system of the slum. As I reluctantly continued the act, just a few feet from me, a malnourished and poorly dressed child scooped the water into a small cup and used it to wash his body and lap the water into his mouth. I had seen dogs do that...
Water. Sanitation. Food. Shelter. Clothing. Education. Healthcare.
Meeting these basic needs are fundamental for any person to have the opportunity to experience all of the wonder attached to being alive.
I believe there is a responsibility given to those who have to make consideration for those who don’t have--especially when it comes to the basic needs.
Matthew 25:34 - 36, 40b: Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me...’ ‘...Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
This most provocative passage, where Jesus describes the rule of heaven through the Son of Man amongst the nations, positions the Lord amongst the poor as a recipient of basic needs.
All of us, you included, can make a difference and ensure that the image of God, the image people were created in, is not marred by allowing people to remain in such positions of suffering.