Mark Twain popularized the saying: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” But even when statistics are an accurate representation of the truth, they amount to nothing more than numbers.
It’s easy to ignore outrageous statistics, like the fact that in America 27.4 percent of blacks, 26.6 percent of Hispanics, and 9.9 percent of whites live below the poverty line. Or that one in six women are a victim of rape. Or that by age 45, one in three women in America will have had an abortion. It’s also easy to ignore the rising suicide rate in this country, which is the highest it’s been in 30 years.
If you don’t know anyone living in poverty, or even if you are one of those who do, statistics alone are irrelevant. If you don’t know a woman who has been raped or had an abortion, or even if you are one of the women who has, numbers don’t change anything. If you are considering suicide, or know a dear friend who has, the rising suicide rate is tragic but it doesn’t solve the problem.
Statistics may highlight a problem, but they do nothing to fix it, they don’t change lives. Numbers don’t change people’s hearts to do anything about poverty, rape, abortion, or suicide.
What changes lives are individual stories. Who changes hearts is Jesus. Jesus was the King of the storytellers. The story of the prodigal son impacts people’s relationship with God more than any statistics about the number of wayward children ever could. The story of the Good Samaritan impacts people’s understanding of how to love others who are different more than any statistics about the millions of starving children in third world countries ever will.
Stories change lives.
Jesus changes hearts.
That’s why I tell my story of how the trauma of rape and abortion consumed me with anger, shame, and despair. Because I am one of the one in six women who have been raped, one of the one in three who has had an abortion, and one of the rising number who seriously considered suicide. But I’m not just a statistic.
I am more than a number. And so are you. You and I are individual human beings loved by our Creator. We are loved and forgiven. We have been given the power to forgive and live again by the One who loves us and died on the cross for us.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7 (NIV).
Do you struggle with pain and shame because of past experiences like I once did? Take heart—there is hope and healing in the love and mercy of Jesus. God has numbered the hairs of your head, but He has not relegated you to a mere statistic. And that’s a truth you can count on.