Christmas—A God Who Didn’t Look Away

I spend significant time with refugees in my neighborhood. In fact, most of the people we serve are refugees. Often, they come to this country with few possessions but heavy hearts. Most days it feels impossible to hold their stories—to shoulder their burdens, to carry their load a little while, to give their aching backs a break. Honestly, it’s easy to become calloused, to hear another hard story and shrug. Everyone has hard stories on these streets. And although this might sound harsh to you, on the days I’m most tired, it feels like the only way to carry on in this work.

I used to be someone who cared deeply about everyone and everything. You know those bright-eyed college graduates with dreams of changing the world? That was me. And it’s not that I’ve given up on this dream, but it looks different now. It’s looks like loving one neighbor and then another and then another. Because I can’t change the world. It’s too big and too much.

Last week, I visited a family from Afghanistan. They fed me mantu at their kitchen table and told me about their lives. The husband has been in America for over ten years; his wife has been here for just two or three. The rest of their family is in Kabul—a shell of a city since America abruptly left and the Taliban took over. Every time I’m with them, I ask about their family. Are they safe? Are they ok? Do they have any money or food?

The honest answer to each of these questions is, “No.”

No, they’re not safe.
No, they’re not ok.
No, they don’t have any money.
No, they don’t have any food.

This is just one family’s story, an echo of most people’s stories in Afghanistan.

Their family members work all day for little to no money because the country has no money. They eat crumbs and hope to survive another day. They hide in the shadows from the Taliban. They fear for their lives. This is just one family’s story, an echo of most people’s stories in Afghanistan.

Winter is coming, and money is scarce. Food is even more scarce, and this country is on the brink of collapse, of starvation. Do you know what happens when families get desperate, when starvation is knocking on their doors? Do you know what’s happening in Afghanistan? Have you heard stories of parents who are selling their young daughters—8, 9, 10-year-old girls—to men in their 50s and 60s and 70s? Did you know that their price is a few thousand dollars, and this will only provide for the family for a few months before they run out of money again? Have you heard the stories? Have you seen the pictures—seen the desperation and shame in the parent’s eyes?  

It’s hard to look desperate parents in the eye—the ones who feel they have no other option than to sell their baby girls and beg their new husbands not to beat them.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easier to look away from these stories. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that it all feels too much sometimes. But when I look away, I forget that these are more than just stories. These are real people whose family members live in my neighborhood. I regularly sit with women who have lost sons and husbands to the Taliban. I regularly interact with families who do not know if their family members in their home country will live another day.

These are the burdens they are carrying, and I can’t look away. Because when I do—when we do—we forget their humanity. We strip them of their dignity and reduce them to headlines and statistics and mere shells of themselves.

It’s hard to look starvation in the eye.
It’s hard to look desperate parents in the eye—the ones who feel they have no other option than to sell their baby girls and beg their new husbands not to beat them.
It’s hard to look pain and suffering in the eye.
It’s so much easier to look away.

But this Christmas, I’m reminded of a God who didn’t look away. He’s the God who took on skin and bone and moved into the neighborhood. He heard the cries of His people and came as a humble baby, a humble servant, a humble teacher, a humble savior. “He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.” (Luke 1:52-53)

We have a God who refused to look away.

So when you watch the news or encounter stories that feel too heavy, remember Jesus. When you glimpse all the terrible things that are happening in this world to people—flesh and blood people—remember our God who became human. Remember that He didn’t look away. Remember that He suffered more than we ever will. Remember and have hope.

When you feel yourself looking away, remember Jesus and gather enough courage to look others in the eye.

If you want to know more about what is happening in Afghanistan, here are a few links to check out.

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