I used to be funny. Really, I did. You wouldn’t know it, because I usually couldn’t remember how the joke started, let alone the punch line. Still, I loved to laugh and to make people laugh. But somewhere along the way, I saw the world for what it is. Went on a few mission trips, saw the depths of poverty. Lived in the inner city surrounded by gang violence and drug addiction and children alone on the streets at one in the morning. Learned about human trafficking and saw it happening before my very eyes when I was powerless to intervene. And I stopped laughing so much.
Most specifically, I remember my first trip to Amsterdam. The first day, on a tour bus viewing some famous landmarks, knowing there were slaves in chains behind the façade. The tour guide made a casual remark about how free and happy their society was, noting with pride their legalization of prostitution. And I thought—doesn’t she know that the majority of these women are victims of human trafficking? Deceived into the lifestyle by the promise of good and reputable work. Torn from their families by a bold-faced lie. Abducted. Exploited. Enslaved.
In the evenings our church group went to the place where girls as young as 12 were imprisoned behind glass doors, in hopes of leading them to freedom. One of the girls we talked to broke down in tears because she wanted to get out of there but was afraid her pimp would beat her to death if she left. Most nights, I went back to my room and spent the night crying.
It’s not that I spend every day all mopey and depressed. If you know my kids, you know how impossible that would be. They’re a reminder of the good things in this world—those things worth fighting for. But knowing the evils I’ve seen exist in rampant measure around the world, there is always a heaviness burdening my heart. And I can’t let it go.
There is so much to be grateful for, and yet I’m reminded of how even Jesus wept. He sat on the hillside overlooking the city, longing to gather its people in his arms. Grieved over the hypocrisy of the religious and the brokenness of the sinners. He wept for the things of the world that are not as they should be, because humankind insists on living for self, which inevitably leads to suffering. True love grieves, knowing that life and love could be so much more than what they’ve become in human hands. True love hurts, torn by the sharp-edged pieces as we join in the struggle to mend our broken world.
There’s a time for joy, yes. But there’s a time to grieve. I still want my sense of humor back. But I never want to forget the pain that reminds me what true love is.