When Evil Prospers – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I shared a little of my personal story and discussed the importance of processing, at a deep emotional level, the reality that we are not alone.  Others who have gone before us have experienced similar struggles, pain, sorrow, horror, grief, and unanswered questions.

You are not alone!

In this post, we will discuss what it means to live as God’s image bearers in a broken world.

We Live in a Broken World

For me, this is a good starting point in beginning to make some sense out of things.  The Genesis account tells us God created the heavens and the earth.  He created the seas and the dry land.  He separated light from darkness.  He created the marine life, the land animals, and the birds of the air.  Finally, God created mankind in His own image, placing Adam and Eve in authority over all the earth.

God said it was good.

As God completed each step of creation, He declared it to be good.  When God finished creation, He declared all of creation to be good.  Then God rested.

God did not create a world filled with sorrow, pain, and evil.  God created a world that was good.

God did not create mankind filled with wickedness, selfishness, greed, and hatred.  God created man in His own image, both male and female, and they were good.

Then something went horribly wrong.

The serpent entered the garden, spinning his lies, planting seeds of doubt and dissatisfaction.  Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s web of deceit. They betrayed God and entered into covenant with evil.

God had warned Adam, “In the day you eat thereof, you will surely die.”  From that day to this, sin and death have ruled this world.

The sorrow, pain, and evil we each experience in this life are a direct result of living in a fallen world.  This is the fruit “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” of which Adam and Eve partook.  We were created good, in the image of God, in covenant with Him.  We have fallen into covenant with evil, whose image we now also bear.

Why Did God Not Intervene?

Sure, God created a good world filled with good animals, overseen by good people created in His own image.  Yes, Adam rejected God’s goodness and embraced the serpent’s lies.  Yes, we now live in a broken fallen world filled with sinful people… a world in which evil flourishes and godliness seems all too rare.  Yes, our pain, sorrow, grief and loss is a direct result of living in this fallen world.  Evil is a consequence of Adam’s belief in the serpent’s lies… not anything God has wrought or willed.

Yet, we cannot help but wonder.  Knowing God is all-powerful… knowing God is creator of all… knowing God declared His creation to be good… knowing God is good… knowing God loves us deeply… we cannot help but wonder… why does God not intervene?

Why did God not intervene in the garden to prevent Adam and Eve from embracing the serpent’s lies?  Why did God allow the serpent to enter the garden?  Why did God create Adam and Eve with a weakness susceptible to the serpent’s temptation?

On a more personal level, why does God allow evil to flourish today?  Why does God allow His children to suffer at the hands of evil abusers?  Why does God allow judges to make unjust decisions?  Why does God allow pastors to side with abusers against the abused?  Why do wicked people seem to flourish while godly people seem to suffer?  Why does God not intervene?

God does intervene!

In the garden, God warned Adam in advance.  God warned Adam to stay away from evil.  God clearly told Adam the consequences of eating the fruit “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” “for in the day you eat thereof, you will surely die.”

God did intervene, but God also honored Adam’s free will.  God had given Adam authority over all the earth… which meant Adam also had the authority to plunge the whole earth into darkness if he chose to.

Today, God still intervenes.

God has spoken to you.  God has called you to right relationship with Himself.  He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you as you place your trust in Him.

God has also spoken to your abusers.  He has spoken to the judges who have made decisions.

I can say with a high degree of confidence, if you look back at your life and the events surrounding your trials and grief you can see glimpses of God’s intervention… the temporary softening of an otherwise hardened heart… miraculous protection from danger… provision made when it was needed most… strength to do what was needed… wisdom provided to make hard choices.

God has not been silent.  God has been intervening all along.

However, God also honors human free will.  God has answered your prayers to speak to your abuser’s heart… but has not forced the abuser to submit his will to God.

Evil flourishing is not a sign of God’s lack of power nor lack of concern.  Rather, it is evidence of how respectful God is of the free will with which He has gifted each of us.

All Things Work for Good

Pain, sorrow, grief, suffering and temptation are part of the human experience in a fallen world.  For believers and unbelievers alike, for both the wicked and the righteous, these are simply a part of life.

For the believer, though, God provides comforting promises.

First, God promises to be our faithful friend who never leaves nor forsakes us.  God does not promise to spare us the consequences of living in a fallen world.  He does, however, promise to be with us as we traverse those trials.

Second, God promises “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,” for the fulfillment of His divine will.  For all who believe in Christ, God has preordained a divine destiny to be conformed to the image of Christ… much as Adam was created in the image of God… to reflect His glory… each in our own unique way… as we were created and destined to do.

God uses every experience, every life circumstance, to bring about this purpose in our lives.

No, God does not bring evil into our lives.  No, it is not God’s will for His children to suffer.  However, God uses the evil wrought by wicked people to bring about His good will and divine purpose in each of our lives.

As Joseph said to his brothers, “What you intended for evil, God has used for good.

A Light in the Darkness:

The New Testament gospel accounts describe Jesus as The Light of the World and proclaim, “the people living in darkness have seen a great light.”

The ministry of Christ includes being a light in the darkness.  In a fallen world filled with sin and blindness, Jesus is the light.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Christ calls us to the same ministry.  We are called to be a light in the darkness.

Photpgraph of nearly full moon

Reflected Glory!

Being a light in the darkness requires living in darkness while walking in the light of God’s truth.  This means we still experience the darkness.  We still experience the consequences of sin, both our own sin and the sins of others.  We still experience the fruit “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”

Yes, God could whisk us home to Heaven the instant we ask Him to be our Savior.  He doesn’t do that.  Instead, He commissions us to the ministry of being a light in the darkness… which includes the experience of living in a world filled with darkness.

As we give those painful experiences to God, He uses them to equip us for ministry.  He uses them to draw us into closer relationship with Himself.  He uses them to help us let go of those stale legalistic assumptions of being able to prevent bad things from happening if we just live righteously enough.  He uses them to help us learn to rely completely on Him.  He uses them to help us relate to and empathize with others going through similar experiences.  He uses them to give us wisdom we can share with others as we point others to Christ.

We are called to be God’s image bearers in a world filled with darkness.

 

This is the second post in a series on the topic “When Evil Prospers.”  Please join me for the next post in this series, in which we will discuss how Jesus Christ understands and shares in our suffering.

 

Abortion Conversations

As a general rule, I try to avoid controversial topics on which I have no direct personal experience.  Partly, this is to protect myself from unnecessary confrontation.  Mostly, it is to avoid being presumptuous on topics where others have much more knowledge and experience than I.

This past week, the topic of abortion law has once again become a hot topic, and social media is swirling with memes and opinions…mostly unhelpful, oversimplifying memes treating a complex issue as though it were a binary logic decision.

As usual, I have remained silent.  I have no direct personal experience on this topic.  I have no medical background.  So, I really don’t have anything of value to add to the discussion.

BUT…I have the privilege of being closely related to some truly amazing women!  My sisters, nieces, cousins, and daughters are continual sources of wisdom and insight.

This week, I have had the privilege of reading an on-line conversation between some of my nieces.  These ladies are devoted Christians who are firmly in support of pro-life and also have lots of medical experience.  They are also wonderful mothers to their own children.  Their stories carry so much more compassion and understanding than the typical pro-life meme!

Also, this week, a dear cousin shared a painful story of loss from her own experience…and how that experience has given her a deeper sense of grace and compassion toward others.

I still have nothing of value to add to the conversation…but they do.  So, with their permission, I am sharing their unedited stories.

Niece 1 – a labor and delivery nurse close to finishing her CNM (certified nurse midwife) MSN degree:

In years and years of working with women, I have only met one or two who were thinking of abortion because they saw a baby as an inconvenience. Most were in some terrible situation and saw no way out. Also abortion has fallen dramatically in this country in the last few years because we have gotten better with birth control availability, among other things. If we really want abortion to continue to decrease, we need to take care of the mothers. Abortion will not go away if it is illegal. Women died by the hundreds from illegal abortions throughout history. If we really want to take care of the babies, we will take care of the mamas.

And we need to tread lightly and with gentleness around this issue. Many, many women every year have to face unfathomable choices when they are diagnosed with severe health problems, or their baby has a disorder incompatible with life. People think this is more rare than it is. I have personally cared for many women and babies in this situation. Women usually do not have the choice of “my life or the baby’s.” If the mom dies, the baby usually will too. And even if not, who am I to tell a woman her life is less valuable than her baby’s?

I am pro-life, but the pro-life community makes me crazy. The closer you are to the issue, the more gray you see-—vast areas of gray full of hurting women that should be given compassion and care instead of judgments

And in case anyone thinks I am making this up, things like preeclampsia, severe heart disorders, severe diabetes, liver disorders, aggressive forms of cancer, certain disorders and implantations of the placenta, clotting disorders, severe hyperemesis–ALL can be seriously life-threatening in pregnancy. If your own pregnancy was a breeze, be thankful…and remember with kindness those that have faced decisions or losses that are unfathomably difficult. Stepping off my soap box now.

Niece 2 – an oncology/hematology nurse:

I have to add- I see a major problem with the medical community telling women their only choice (when faced with life threatening complications) is abortion. There are many (but not enough) pro-life doctors who will closely monitor and help both the mother and baby find a viable solution. Working in oncology, we would sometimes have a pregnant mother who we could give low dose chemo until the baby is viable (about 24wks) then give the high doses after delivery. But a lot of women are being told they don’t have a choice- when they really do. That nothing can be done- when there ARE options. Even when trying to bury an early miscarried baby there is so much red tape to go through. The conversation needs to change from- ‘this is what you have to do’ to ‘here are some options, I’m here for you and your baby.’

Niece 1:

Absolutely!! And offer effective contraception for those that have life-threatening illnesses. Had a lady that went into heart failure with one pregnancy, then got pregnant again. Women need us to be honest about all their options and possible outcomes. Then respect their choices.

Niece 2:

Yes, and be honest about side effects of contraception. I’ve been told ‘there are no side effects with this.’ Then I had to reveal I’m a nurse and educate her on that. Also, remembering that only abstinence is 100%.

Cousin‘s post:

I like to keep my Facebook page funny and inappropriate. I never talk about personal shit because let’s be honest, no one wants to hear it. But after reading so much hate the past week, and being unfriended by a couple people yesterday due to an article I shared, I feel compelled to tell MY story. One a lot of you know. One a bunch of you lived with me. One that I’m asked repeatedly to relay to women who are struggling.

I woke up on March 25, 2011 just like every other day. My now ex-husband and I were happy. I had the most amazing 3 year old stepson. AND I was 10 weeks pregnant with our “Pumpkin.” Life was good, y’all!

And then, it wasn’t. Later that day, I was rushed to the hospital after passing out in a parking lot. 20 minutes later, I got to hear my baby’s strong heart beat and felt relief! And 10 minutes after that, I was told they couldn’t save our baby because he or she was stuck at the very end of my fallopian tube, causing it to burst, and I was bleeding out. I was rushed into emergency surgery where they cut my LIVE baby out of my belly. I lost half of the blood in my body. I spent 3 days in the hospital and had 4 blood transfusions. My baby almost killed me, literally.

My relationship never fully recovered. We gave it the old college try for 3 more years, but ended up divorcing in 2014. I’m still haunted by the loss of a child, all these years later. I’m not the same person I was before then. I’m bitter and I’m jaded. My life has been forever changed. And not for the better.

My situation isn’t the same as what you’re seeing in the news. Not even close. I didn’t have an abortion that day. I didn’t get to choose. But the guilt and agony and sadness that I live with every single day PALES in comparison to what these mothers must be feeling when presented with such a horrific choice.

I cannot even fathom the heart wrenching decisions these women have to make when told the baby they’ve carried and loved for however many weeks, whether it be 8 or 37, won’t make it. Or that they could potentially die if they continue their pregnancy. Contrary to what you may think you know, no healthy woman is walking into a clinic after carrying a healthy child for 9 months and saying “nah, I’m not feeling it, just kill my baby.” These mothers will never recover. They will be heartbroken and changed for life. Believe me.

So until you’ve lived it, or some version of it, don’t assume to understand it. Save the “here’s what I would do,” because you have NO idea what you would do. I hope you never have to find out.

Don’t judge what you don’t know.

Pray for these mothers. Pray for the fathers.

That’s all. Thanks for listening.

We need more of these sorts of conversations.

 

Note: Any derogatory comments will be immediately deleted.  Discussion is welcome.  Disrespect is not.

My Mama

Last November, Mama fell and broke her hip. At 90 years old, any injury is a serious concern.  But Mama had recovered well from broken bones before and we expected a full recovery this time.

She started well, with good progress in physical therapy. She had a few setbacks, but seemed to overcome them and start back on track with high hopes.  But the setbacks became more frequent and more severe.  This past six weeks she has been back and forth between rehab and the hospital, with each step forward being followed by two steps back.

She was moved to hospice today. Her 90 year old body is worn out and her systems are starting to shut down.  My sister, Dorcas, explained the situation to her.  Mama responded, “That sounds good.”

Dorcas said, “Mama, you know that means you’re going to go to be with Jesus soon?” And she replied, “Yes. That sounds REALLY good.”

Dorcas told her she would miss her and Mama replied, “Oh, honey but you know where you’ll see me again!”

That’s my Mama!

Today, I’m reflecting on some of my many memories of this amazing woman, and how much impact she has had on my life. I’m thinking of the many things she taught me over the years.

I remember when I was four or five years old Mama taught me how to safely pin a diaper on my baby sister while making sure my fingers stayed between the tip of the diaper pin and my sister’s skin. Thinking back on it now, that seems like a lot to ask of a preschooler.  But what a gift!  While being taught to care for others, I was also entrusted with a huge responsibility.

Papa and Mama both taught me to love reading. But it was Mama who taught me to read.  I remember sitting on her lap with the big phonics book open, going thru the alphabet reciting letters and sounds, “A for apple ah; B for ball buh; C for cat cuh; D for dog duh;…”

Papa and Mama both taught me to love God’s word, but it was Mama who taught me to memorize scripture and learn the books of the Bible.

Mama taught me the joy of singing…to meet adversity by praising God. When the stress of motherhood threatened to get her down, Mama responded by breaking into songs of praise.

And Mama taught me to sing.

In a family of sixteen children I was the only one who couldn’t carry a tune. As a child I never knew the difference, but as a teenager I started to become aware how badly I was off tune.  When Mama realized how much it bothered me she sat down at the piano and walked me through favorite songs, one note at a time.  She would play each note over and over while I searched to find it with my voice.  When I finally hit the right note she would nod her head with a smile, “Good!” then proceed to the next note.  I don’t know how many hours she spent patiently teaching me to listen for the note and listen to my own voice.

Today, I couldn’t win any prizes for singing, but I can generally hit the right notes with a reasonable degree of confidence. And I have Mama to thank for that.

Mama taught me to stand firm in my convictions. From things as minor as making sure pagan-based customs were excluded from our Christian holiday celebrations to major issues such as school integration and standing against racism, we were taught at an early age to stand for what we believed no matter how unpopular our stance might be.

I have so much to thank Mama for!

But she may have saved the very best lesson for last. To live my life in such a way that when the end is near there is nothing left but love and thankfulness…what an amazing lesson!  What a gift!

I am so blessed to have her as my Mama!

Life!

I don’t usually make a big deal about New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve never participated in the Word of the Year blogging trend.  New Year’s Day seems like a good time to start a goal with a twelve month cycle, such as reading through the Bible in a year.  However, most resolutions seem to me to be more applicable as daily life-style choices.

This New Year’s Day, however, I find myself very much contemplating lifestyle choices and what changes may be on the horizon.  It’s a matter of timing, really.  During the last two weeks of 2015 I received a cancer diagnosis and underwent two surgeries.  So, I am naturally starting 2016 with a certain level of new resolve.

In 2016…and every year thereafter, I choose life!

It’s not a new resolution…actually it’s been a daily choice for most of my life.  But current circumstances make it a fresher, newer, stronger resolution.

I’ve lived most my life with an awareness of both the brevity and fragility of this life.  Life is full of unknowns and unexpected turns.  We have much less control than we tend to assume.

The cancer diagnosis doesn’t change the unknowns, but it does put them front and center for me, right now.  My prognosis is very good.  I have every reason to expect a long, full active life after completion of treatment.  At the same time, there are numerous unknowns.

Right now, the right side of my lip sags, my right shoulder sags, and my right arm is weak.  No, it’s not a stroke…just post-surgery status.  Most likely, some or all of these symptoms will improve or disappear with time.  But there are no guarantees.  I’ve adopted an attitude of hopeful acceptance…I hope it improves, but see no reason to enjoy life any less if it doesn’t.

I still have radiation treatment coming up.  I don’t yet know exactly how that will play out…how often, how intense, how long, or how uncomfortable…nor what long-term effects may linger.  My intent is to make prayerful informed decisions then leave it in God’s hands.

I also don’t yet know what lifestyle changes may be required.  Advice from family and friends include everything from never drink another glass of wine to never eat another dessert…everything from slow down and taking things easier to throw myself into continual positively energetic activities.

Overall, I think I’ve lived a fairly healthy lifestyle thus far, and can’t see anything to point to as a source of cancer.  Post-diagnosis certainly merits more careful assessment.  I’m certainly willing to make whatever changes are likely to result in improved health.  I am not willing to live in unnecessary fear.

I choose life!

For me, choosing life means choosing Christ.  Jesus said,

I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26)

Yes, Lord, I believe!  I believe you are life.  I believe choosing you is choosing life.  I believe choosing life means choosing you.

I choose life! I choose Christ! Click To Tweet

I choose faith over fear.

I choose hope over despair.

I choose joy over sorrow.

I choose thankfulness over complaints.

I choose righteousness over sin.

I choose love over selfishness.

I choose forgiveness over bitterness.

I choose health over toxicity.

I choose life over death.

I choose godliness.

I reject Adam’s covenant with sin and death from which Christ has redeemed me.  I embrace the new covenant with God which Christ has enacted on my behalf.

I choose life!

 

Your thoughts?

Come Lord Jesus

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My father wrote this Christmas hymn many years ago. Lately, I find myself humming or singing snatches of it while I drive or feed animals. That God Became Henri D Pote That God became our brother through Christ’s birth, When … Continue reading