The Value of Evil

Lately I have been overwhelmed by the wickedness of man. When someone experiences unspeakable evil it attacks both the mind–that’s trauma, it’s real–and the heart. Hopelessness. Emptiness. Loss. We want it to go away; to cease and desist. Pat answers and platitudes do nothing less than throw oil on the fire.

Instead, it’s time to admit that nothing makes evil good–not knowledge of God’s character, not truth, salvation, or time. None of them magically transform wrong to right. Evil is evil. Wrong is wrong. The depravity of man will never be excused or justified. God will judge. He will avenge. He will repay.

Our legal systems cannot exact justice. They are God’s minister for good–but as a pale shadow: incomplete, crooked, powerless to discern and punish evil in kind.

Circumstances do not exact justice. The wicked are unfazed. In instances of domestic abuse, the abuser does not suffer a lack of friends, resources, opportunity, getting his own way. It’s unfair and unjust.

So asked myself, “Why evil, God?” It doesn’t go away. Nothing makes it better. Nothing changes it or colors it beautiful. Violence is violence. Deception is deception. Rape is rape. Over and over and over.

The beauty of who God is reminded me that, however dark and hopeless the evil, His light and grace are greater. He does not wipe away evil, He overcomes it. He does not excuse wickedness, He erases its power. He does not right wrongs, He uses them for His own purpose.

That is why we never downplay suffering. The depth, width, and breadth of pain and sorrow is not diminished by God, it is covered and filled. Re-purposed. Evil pushes us to a greater awareness of God’s mercy, power and love. Jesus became that sin–that ugly, hideous, twisted evil. God punished Jesus as if he was the one choking his wife on the floor. God punished Jesus as if he was the one molesting a child. God punished Jesus as if he was the one demanding his way, pushing, slamming, breaking, yelling, cursing, spitting. It was not a small thing. Jesus’ death in our place was the biggest thing. God exacted justice, His wrath was poured out in full, to the dregs, on His only precious, perfect Son, Jesus Christ. That’s how great He is. That’s how loving, just, gentle, kind, and good our God is.

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That also means Jesus was punished for my sin. Jesus was punished as the one who is weak, who fails, who is needy and broken. He was broken for me. He was bruised for me. He was oppressed and afflicted for me. That’s how amazing He is.

What is the value of evil? Evil reveals the goodness of God. Man’s depravity reveals a small taste of His immense grace. Does that make evil good? Never. Excuse wickedness? No. Ease the reality of suffering? Not necessarily. But in Christ, we have hope. Purpose. Endurance. Peace. Motivation to please Him and love others; to do what is necessary, good and right in spite of our circumstances. Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given the Spirit of promise; we are transformed, made new, and empowered to walk in newness of life. God. is. bigger.

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4)

Where is God?

There is unspeakable evil in our world. People do things that should never be done–or thought about. The cruelty and disregard of abusers for their victims leaves me speechless at times. Where was God? Why didn’t He intervene? How could He let that happen? For that long?

I know much of what the Bible says. I know God and I believe He is good. Loving. Able. Ever-present. He has revealed Himself in His Word–and my own personal life. He affirms Himself and His goodness through His Spirit. But I struggle with the reality of His goodness, love, and power as I watch their pain and suffering. Living on a farm, I have seen the helpless writhing of suffering creatures and it is difficult, almost impossible, to reconcile with God’s character. Words are inadequate. Platitudes and cliches are harmful. Touch is invasive. I pray. I wait. I read. And reread.

Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink
God’s Healing for Life’s Losses by Robert Kellemen
Mending the Soul by Steven Tracy
When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson Tada and Steven Estes
the Psalms, Lamentations, Habakkuk and other minor prophets

And I love. In loving, I ask. Raw is raw, difficult and impossible is difficult and impossible. The wrestling is not mine, it is between God and the one who is hurting. My struggle is my own. This is her fight and I dare not jump in or meddle. So I ask. Listen. Rephrase. Clarify. Provide perspective. Pray. Draw on God’s Word and character. Ask deeper, more revealing questions. Reframe, reflect, testify, and send her out the door with God’s Word. And continue praying.

We stand together. The fight is hers alone, but we, the advocate, pastor, counselor, and local church cheer her on, pump her up with encouragement, care and comfort. Together, we weep and wrestle and wait and pray. Step by step. Grief after grief. Sorrow after sorrow. Insight after insight. And God works. He reveals Himself: good, loving, and able. Mighty to save.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
Give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah.
Behold our shield, O God,
And look upon the face of Your anointed.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
How blessed is the man who trusts in You! (Psalm 84:8-12)

Jesus’ Broken Body

Church members, pastors, people helpers, be gentle. If you must, repeat to yourself, “This is not about me. This is not about me,” as many times as necessary.

A woman who has endured domestic violence (physical, sexual, financial, digital, you name it) is a real person. As a result of who she is and what she’s experienced, she has done some things you and I may never understand. She may suffer from depression, anxiety, self-harm, hospitalization, drug abuse or alcoholism. It is not our job to fix her. Life change is a result of God’s love, not a prerequisite.

We need only begin where Jesus does. When the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, Jesus didn’t wag His finger, rebuke her, or demand fulfillment of the Law. He provided safety and acceptance, a place of refuge from her accusers. He resisted them, defending her life, humanity, and dignity.  His acknowledged the image of Himself, Creator-God, in this weak, humiliated, half-naked woman. When others walked away, He did not. He waited, silently, rescuing her from her circumstances before speaking to her heart.

A woman’s response, means of survival, relief, or escape does not restrict or negate the character of God. Her reaction to abuse does not lessen or cheapen His love, grace, forgiveness or mercy.

Alcohol abuse, drug use, smoking, abortion, self-injury, violent outbursts, depression, suicidal tendencies, unbecoming intimacy, and/or a sense of confusion and insanity are normal outcomes of and responses to trauma, crisis, and unpredictable violence. Let that sink in. She is not a “bad person.” She has survived. Day after day, moment by moment, she has pushed through an impossible existence.

jesus cross

We, Jesus’ Body, must be prepared for ugly, painful, difficult, dirty–life. Take a moment and think literally. Jesus’ body. Beaten. Whipped. Torn. Bloody. Oozing. Covered with spittle and filth. Screaming silent anguish. He is our Head, now risen and resurrected, transfigured and glorified. But once, once He was broken and bruised. This woman may be part of His body. Jesus precious, broken body. Here, in this place, in His physical absence, we are called to suffer with others, to bear their pain, despair, and enslavement. This–being Jesus in the flesh–is what you and I so easily dismiss, quickly avoid, and flippantly ignore.

May Jesus find us, like Joseph and Nicodemus, faithful to minister love, grace, and healing to His broken, beaten body (see When Joseph Wrapped Jesus).

Who Knew?

Statistics reveal “1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.” Today I am on call with the Family Resource Services as a medical advocate for domestic violence. It’s a reality, but a hidden one.

Few victims, if any, communicate the truth of their experience. When you have a bad day, how often do you dive into details? Especially if you’ve been misused and taken advantage of. To a close friend or spouse? Maybe. To someone you don’t know at all? Or whom you look up to? Probably not. Why? Because it’s embarrassing. Not only did you suffer injustice, you “let” it happen, and then you walked away as if it never happened.

The same is true for those who suffer domestic violence. To endure the pain, degradation, and intense hatred of someone who supposedly loves you is one thing. To say it aloud, to admit the horror, is to experience a new level of shame and risk. It happens. Has happened. And, honestly, it’s easy to understand why women don’t want to take the chance. Instead, they’ll say, “He knocked me around.” “It was just a tiff.” “We got in a little bit of a fight.” “It was nothing.”

And that’s exactly when those of us who can, should listen louder. Ask questions. Get more information. Hold our tongue. Believe. Be genuine. Love. Pray. Help.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me;
even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps,
those who would harm me talk of my ruin;
all day long they scheme and lie.

I am like the deaf, who cannot hear,
like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear,
whose mouth can offer no reply.
Lord, I wait for you;
you will answer, Lord my God.

Those who repay my good with evil
lodge accusations against me,
though I seek only to do what is good.

Lord, do not forsake me;
do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me,
my Lord and my Savior. (Psalm 38:9-15, 20-22)