On brokenness: Bangladesh, Oklahoma and me

I don’t know what to write without it sounding trite. Sometimes silence is better, and I hesitate to add my noise to the mix. But sometimes the words can help us pause.



For the last couple of months, I have had Isaiah 3 rattling around my head. It is a condemnation of the rich women of Judah who parade their beautiful jewellery. It lists it all – the sheer abundance of it:

“…the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and anklets and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.” Is 3:18-23

This is the West, this is us, me. We have so much. We waste so much.

But God does not condemn them for their vanity – he condemns them for the provenance of their riches:

“‘What do you mean by crushing my people
and grinding the faces of the poor?’
declares The Lord, The Lord Almighty.” Is 3:15

The clothes in my wardrobe are from various developing countries, and few of them are fair trade, though I would like to buy fair trade. I now buy my clothes entirely from eBay, so my clothes are second-hand, but it is almost impossible as a Westerner to cleanse yourself from the stain of ‘sin by association’. I am writing on an iPad, and it says ‘assembled in China’ and I wince as I know that Apple has a dubious record of treating its workers well. I would happily pay Β£50 extra for a fair trade iPad, but I don’t have that choice. I only have the choice to buy or not buy. I bought it: but would I have bought it if I could see their faces?

“What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?”

Like others, I have been haunted by this picture of the victims of the Bangladesh factory collapse. These are their faces, the faces of the poor who have been crushed because of our desire for cheap clothes.

The news on this will fade, and we will forget it. I don’t want to forget it. I want to have this verse ringing in my ears. I don’t want my purchases to be crushing God’s people – either figuratively or literally.

It is hard to do this. The world is one big tangled-up mess, and it is hard to try to untangle ourselves from the sin that is everywhere. But I want to try.



I looked at the pictures. There was so much destruction, so much vulnerability. The thing that moved me most was the report that someone had grabbed a megaphone and was reading out the names of the school children who had survived. I couldn’t quite get my head around the feeling of being the parent in that crowd – waiting, hoping, for your child’s name to be read out.

Whenever I hear of earthquakes or storms wreaking such disaster, I think of Romans 8:22:
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

Everything is affected by our brokenness and sin – even the weather, even the earth. We are broken, and we live upon a broken earth.

What should we do at times like this, when suffering is so big that we don’t know what to do?

We hold off answering the big questions: we feel them, rather than asking them. We sit. We weep with those who weep, even the ones we have not met. We pray. We pick up the rubble and rebuild.


This week I have been more aware than usual of my brokenness and vulnerability. I am still in the middle of this relapse – my cognitive energy is much better than a week ago, but I am still having to cancel seeing people, still needing others to look after my boy in the afternoons. I am still spending hours and hours in bed, alone and I am struggling with it. I feel guilty for struggling with it – because, well, there are people who are waking up today without their child, or brother, or father, whose homes have been swept away. But guilt is not productive. So I tell you honestly – I am struggling. I am sad for Bangladesh, and for Oklahoma, and for me. Brokenness comes in different forms and different degrees, and we can feel sorrow for all of it.


I read Romans 8:18:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
I sit with that verse and cry awhile – feeling the brokenness, feeling the outrageous hope.

I don’t often pray this particular prayer, because I don’t often mean it, but this week I mean it: Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus.

Over to you:
Sit, weep, pray: Read the news reports on Bangladesh and Oklahoma. Read this article by Vicky Walker and this one by Zack Hunt on Bangladesh; this one by Addie Zierman on Oklahoma.

Rebuild: You can donate to the Oklahoma disaster relief effort here. In the US, you can text REDCROSS to 90999β€”it’ll automatically send $10 to Red Cross relief in the area. You can help the Bangladesh survivors by donating to Save the Children, who are doing ongoing charity work in Bangladesh.

Reform: Buy Fair Trade – these sites in the US and UK are a good starting point. Sign this petition to Gap, H&M, and other apparel brands. This excellent website has a searchable list of products and stores, rated according to how ethical they are, to inform our buying choices.

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17 Responses to On brokenness: Bangladesh, Oklahoma and me

  1. Amy Young 23rd May, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    Sitting with you across the miles — seeing brokenness in me πŸ™‚ … and the world and so thankful that I / we don’t have to bear it alone. Wish I could pop in a bring you a cup of tea that wouldn’t wear you out! Amy

    • Tanya 27th May, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Thank you, lovely friend – for sitting with me, seeing it, bearing it with me. Sending you much love. Xx

  2. kiingfisher 23rd May, 2013 at 5:04 am #

    Thank you, Tanya, for sharing that it’s okay for you to not like being in pain, but to bravely express your thoughts anyway. I’m sure that most of us think God should protect his own better, by us not having to suffer so much. Yet according to his ways, apparently he IS protecting us — and maturing us for his kingdom –by teaching us to endure through suffering. I’m happy for you that your cognition is better and you’re able to write. May God bless you richly and abundantly, today and every day.

    • Tanya 27th May, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

      Thanks, Kingfisher. Yes – maturity and suffering often go hand in hand, don’t they? Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

  3. Mark Allman 22nd May, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    I do not like that you think you struggle alone. I know that people are praying for you as you struggle. I pray for you. I think our friends struggles are ours in a sense too. You are strong in your struggle Tanya.. this I know. While truthfully I can not get my head around how difficult this struggle must be for you I admire that you willingly share the difficulty of it and the dark of it. I wish you well. I know that people around the world care for you and while we are not there with you I know we each are there in our wish for you to know we want to be all we can be for you; to offer you our prayers; our friendship, our encouragement, and our interaction.

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

      Thanks for your friendship across an ocean…

      I don’t know that I felt I was ‘struggling alone’ exactly, just that I am (literally) in bed, alone – and struggling! And of course, I’m not alone all the time, and i have Jon and the boy wandering in frequently enough! It just FEELS like it, so often, when I’m spending hours in bed.

      • Anita Mathias 22nd May, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

        Oh, I am sorry to hear you are struggling, lovely Tanya. And what a beautiful post, indeed. Maranatha! I always mean it, but not in a end of the world way, but “come to my grumpy, silly heart today” way πŸ™‚

        • Tanya 27th May, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

          Thanks for stopping by, Anita.

  4. Genevieve 22nd May, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    Dearest Tanya, when I read this tagline on FB, I knew I had to come over and read your words today: “Brokenness comes in different forms and different degrees, and we can feel sorrow for all of it.” I have been trying to write this over many years, but never have I so simply and clearly communicated as you have today. I have felt the guilt over my pain in suffering, as it is so little compared to that of so many. But the suffering exists, along with all the other sufferings of the world, and every little bit of it makes an impact in our lives. Every bit of it is used by the Savior in our individual redemption and sanctification.

    It comforts me sometimes, when I am laid up with illness of any kind, to know this is the refiner’s fire. To know it is okay to feel the burn of the flames and to emerge singed but whole. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago has always been a source of strength for me. They were not delivered at the mouth of the furnace prior to going in, but comforted as they walked, and protected from the true force of the inferno. Then they had that experience of walking with Jesus through the worst fear of their lives as a monument of His faithfulness. That is what my suffering seasons become: jewels refined by fire that are indestructible and beautiful and multi-faceted. I know the price of those jewels, I bear the scars of their making. Nevertheless, that crown of jewels, the visual of beauty for ashes, keeps me close to Jesus when next He asks that I walk with Him through the fiery furnace.

    Much love from across the pond,

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

      Oh Genevieve, this was so beautiful. I love your thoughts on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – that’s such an amazing insight.

      And thanks for telling me how you connected with what I wrote – that made my day.

      Much, much love x

  5. Mary 22nd May, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Dear Tanya,
    This morning on (in)courage I read that it is ok not to be ok. You are ok. Right where you are. In the middle of your brokeness. God is using you to share stories that need to be told, to share ways to serve others, even when you struggle to serve your son. You are loved by our Abba God. He sees all the pain and hurt and desires and knows our hearts and our human limitations. He loves. He forgives. He cares.
    When I first heard of the children in the Oklahoma school that were trapped and killed I threw on big “hissy fit” at God. I told my husband God was big enough to handle it. I just can’t get over it. I don’t understand it. And yet I believe that ALL things work together for the good of those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28). I believe God wept and weeps as we treat one another with such a lack of respect and love. When greed overrules ethics.
    I ache for you, for those in Oklahoma, for those around the world who have so little when I have so much. I pray. Sometimes I simply reach out in silence and listen to God speak.
    Thanks for speaking your heart. Thanks for sharing. God be near you today and always.
    From the roads of America. a Sister in CHrist.

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing your story of responding to the Oklahoma disaster – I can totally relate to throwing hissy fits at God! ‘Sometimes I simply reach out in silence and listen to God speak’ – that is such a lovely response. Thank you for this. πŸ™‚

  6. Beth 22nd May, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    This post feels so brave to me.

    Also, this: “Brokenness comes in different forms and different degrees, and we can feel sorrow for all of it.” Yes! I think that trying to compare your pain to others’ is unhelpful because someone always has it worse, and that makes us feel like we should just suck it up. But pain is pain, and it always hurts. I’m glad you’ve felt a bit better this week. Hugs.

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Thank you, Beth – thank you for understanding.

  7. Mia 22nd May, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Dear Tanya
    I am glad you are a bit better than last week and relate very well with your feelings of guilt! But I have learned to give those feelings to Jesus. Otherwise, I will be forever miserable and this illness is enough to cope withas it is! We need to help carry one another’s burdens and how would we know if you don’t share. Yes, dear friend, our world is lost in darkness and lies in the evil one. I am so grateful that our Lord Jesus is making everything new.
    Blessings to you, dear Tanya

    • Tanya 22nd May, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

      Thanks for helping carry my burden, lovely Mia.


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    […] For links on Oklahoma and Bangladesh, read my post on those stories. […]

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