Social concern

On the streets?

Why are there homeless people living on the streets of your city? They are there because they want to be there, right? Your government provides enough housing, enough help.

Although there are people living on the streets because they want to ‘drop out’ of society, a significant number are actually there because of addiction, mental illness, domestic abuse, and a lack of governement support.

I read two interesting articles about this today. The first highlights how easy it is to become homeless, the second reports that homelessness in the UK has risen by 26 percent in the last four years, with a lack of affordable housing being one of the principal reasons for the rise.

As a Christian, the response is simple:

the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.    Matthew 25 v 34-36.

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“The deep truth is that our human suffering need not be an obstacle to the joy and peace we so desire, but can become, instead, the means to it.”

Henri Nouwen.  “Life of the Beloved”.

The brokenness that surrounds us on a daily basis in the form of homelessness, poverty and urban decay is clearly demonstrable, but isn’t it the inner brokenness that comes in the form of emotional, mental and physical suffering what really brings us as human beings together? In the course of our lifetimes, we will not be able to avoid periods of pain and suffering, the main issue that we are all forced to deal with, is how we view both the suffering in our lives and in the lives of the people around us.

Henri Nouwen states that instead of seeing suffering as an unwelcome interruption in our lives, something that has to be overcome as quickly as possible, we should step towards it, embracing it as something that is uniquely ours.

Do we all suffer in exactly the same way? When I am going through a painful time in my life, I find it some comfort to know that others can empathize with me because they might have endured a similar experience, but also want my pain to be uniquely mine. No-one else has lived my life before. I think I would agree with Nouwen that each person suffers in a way that is inimitably his or hers.

In the Western world, the answer that we readily have for the existence of God is that there is no need for Him; everything is just fine as it is. In this case, it could be true that God whispers to us in times of joy, but uses a megaphone in times of suffering [1]. In my experience, it is only when I have undergone times of suffering that I have been able to grow in small part both spiritually and as a human being who is a little more aware of other peoples anguish. It is only then that I can understand the call to stand with others in their pain as we are all bound together in our brokenness.

1. C.S Lewis. The Problem of Pain.

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