Why is it that bad things seem to occur one right after another, often following on the heels of some good news? I am at home from work today still recovering from being very ill for about 10 days. During this time, my back went out on me, my laptop died and I had some extremely serious family issues over the Thanksgiving holiday. When it rains it pours goes the old adage.
Throughout this ordeal, I have also been blessed by landing a freelance editorial position that will begin soon and I had one of my articles published in the American Thinker, which Bizpacreview then heavily quoted me in one of their own articles and it took a spin around the twitter-verse. Good and bad, ying and yang. I don’t often write about personal issues, but this has gotten me thinking in my fuzzy-headed sick funk about a number of things that are personal to me as a Christian. Things like oppression, election and God’s providence.
Let’s tackle oppression first. I do hold to the belief that once we choose to serve God and accept His free gift of salvation, things do not usually go well for us, which is why I hate the whole prosperity gospel nonsense. Unlike this unbiblical and popular theology, salvation is rather like we are given an invisible target on our back that by necessity invites spiritual oppression and wickedness to tempt and try us and ultimately take us off our professed and chosen path. That’s not to say that I am one of those Christians who believes all bad things that happen are a direct result of demonic interference. I hold the biblical view that mankind is in a fallen state, which means we create much of our own pain and destruction through our own sinful nature or by the sins and cruelty of others. That being said, I do believe in spiritual wickedness and powers and principalities. One need only to look at the current global affairs of nations and the dark hearts of man to understand this.
Bad things do tend to come in waves, but is this just a coincidence or is there more to it? “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.“(Deut. 8:2) This scripture does not mean that God doesn’t know what is in our hearts, but that we don’t know what lurks in our own hearts. Tests are often given not only to show us where we are spiritually, but to strengthen and purify our faith so we might learn and grow through the test. God clearly did this to Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 32:31, “And even in the matter of the envoys of the rulers of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that had happened in the land, God left him [Hezekiah] alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.”
Via God’s election, Christians enter into His yet-unseen spiritual family through the acceptance of His gift of salvation. That is, the kingdom of God is not yet here on this earth—as we are told it will one day be—but we have nevertheless entered into the family of God. As such, we must be cognizant that our walk through this world will be fraught with pain and disappointment because we do have a spiritual enemy. Jesus told us that we will have to pick up our cross and follow Him, which testifies that there is a cross in which we are expected to bear. A man does not build a house without first counting the costs.
No matter the cross you may bear in life as a Christian, whether it is a chronically sick child, mental or health issues or financial concerns, we are able to bear what life throws at us because, unlike people who do not believe in God, we know that this life is just preparation for a better one to come. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. This is also why fundamentally there exists such a deep divide between the political left and the right in the United States. Conservatives generally adhere to the Judeo-Christian belief that we are more than the sum of our bodily parts while we sojourn through this very short life here on earth. We are spirit and we know that our actions matter, which brings me around to the final and more personal thoughts I have on God’s providential care for His own.
Like many of you, I have not lived what I would call a magical life, though certainly I have had some very good times. I had a father who deserted my family, then I went through a terrible divorce after a 16 year marriage and was left to raise two children on my own. Around that same time, I lost my long-time editorial career, I moved far away from extended family for another job, which I then also lost and had to begin another career. I wasn’t paid well for many, many years. I lost homes, cars and my dignity. I made many mistakes during this time and even believed for a while that God had forgotten me. I felt rejected, dejected and unloved. For many, many years. But God did not forget me, just as God will not forsake Israel forever. In Isaiah 49:15-16, God gives us this beautiful promise:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me.”
The day I received my email that a very good company was hiring me to freelance edit, I shut my office door and spontaneously wept in gratitude. It was the answer to so many of my prayers and a day after one of my articles was accepted in another publication I admire. I’m speaking of 20 years of prayer. Yet, God did not forget me! Though many years had passed and my prayers seemed to go unanswered, I now understand in my heart and not just my head that it was all in God’s hands. God has His own providential timing:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’”
In conclusion, spiritual oppression is very, very real. It can manifest in many ways and through many circumstances. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) Let there be no doubt that we have an enemy in this life, but God is greater than any enemy or any circumstance we face. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33)
In His own timing, God will hear and answer you as well. Tests are not fun and bad news in triplet may be just the pop quizzes we need to test our fortitude, faith or patience. My testing, too, is far from over. As long as I remain here on earth in this body I was given, I will continue to experience the pain of a fallen world. However, today I would tell you that I have been alone, but not lonely. I have been forsaken, but not forgotten. I have been down trodden, but not broken. I have been poor, but I am rich. My name is tattooed on the palm of my God’s hand. #Reignwell