When I was in high school, my classmates voted me “Most likely to devote my life to a lost cause.” A decade and a half later, some may still give me that award.
Cofounding an organization to take on the HIV/AIDS and water crises in the world’s second largest continent, probably looks like a lost cause to many, if not most. But as I peer over the African desert and into the rest of the world, skipping from news headline to news headline, I, too, feel the weight of what looks like lost causes, where problems seem bigger than the time, resources, and attention spans we have to tackle them. Taking a sweeping glance around the room, we are so buried in smartphones, text messages, and our own immediate circumstances, I can’t help but think, “Who will answer these lost causes?”
But we need not fear.
It’s God’s lost cause to give
After receiving my high school superlative (which I did take as a compliment), it only took a few short years of college for God to give me the opportunity to rise to the challenge. The Grammy Award-winning band Jars of Clay was performing at my now-alma-mater when the lead singer of the band made it clear his heart for clean water in Africa lined up with an ache in my own.
During my Thanksgiving break from college, I poured over a 25-page proposal on how we could start an organization to bring clean water and clean blood to Africa. Amazingly, the band was sold.
When you really let that sink in, it wasn’t my 25-page proposal or the desires of a popular Christian band that launched the framework that would become Blood:Water. It was a powerful and loving God who placed the aches of lost causes on our hearts and gave us the strength to say Yes, Lord, use us.
When God calls, we must mute the noise of the world that says this cause is lost or too hard and augment the volume of God that tells us He will be with us every step of the journey.
Whether your lost cause is helping a friend who just won’t change or coming up with a cure for what may be an incurable disease, we must choose to remain present — to understand suffering, listening with open hearts, and actually risk being fully human with one another. It’s time we cared once again about the quality of a relationship over the quantity of superficial relationships. Simply looking at Jesus, this message is displayed loud and clear. Jesus is the greatest example of what it means to walk in another’s shoes — God himself, taking on flesh, walking in the shoes of humanity. He invested time, care, attention to his brothers, sisters, and the lost alike. We cannot simply show up to lost causes. We must be present in the midst of them
Staying with anything these days is just as hard said as it is done. Our attentions’ are pulled in every faceted direction; we can barely keep up with our own thoughts. What’s worse is we are tempted to cut and run when life gets remotely uncomfortable, let alone hard. When we flip on the evening news, it’s just as easy to flip it off when we are inundated with negative headlines instead of once again getting truly human with one another — even if it’s just metaphorically through a television screen. So when it comes to lost causes — even if they aren’t specifically our lost cause to tackle — our choices seem to be sink or swim away.
That’s when we need to remember God is in control and prayer is the life-preserver that can sustain us in the midst of challenges while keeping us afloat. Even if you are not specifically called to a lost cause, you are called to pray in all things.
Pray when the news halfway across the world is frightening. Pray when the news is in your own community is hard. Pray when the news is knocking at your backdoor. We must not drown, and we must not lose the faithful practice of prayer.
Don’t leave lost causes behind
I was 22 when I cofounded Blood:Water. Eleven years later, my faith can waver with the best of them. But I will fight my lost cause until God says otherwise.
The thing about lost causes is that they’re only lost if you leave them behind. If you stay in there, if you keep hoping in action if not in feeling, if you listen to how circumstances are shaping your calling, you may discover they are not lost after all. You may discover they are the most beautiful, extravagant examples of abundance in your life. You may start keeping your eyes open to causes that seem most lost of all.
Blood:Water partners with Africa to end the HIV/AIDS and water crises. Jena’s memoir “One Thousand Wells: How An Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It,” releases August 25, 2015. Preorder your copy at onethousandwells.com.
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