When senseless, evil acts occur that kill, wound, inflict suffering on people we know and love like the terrorist shooting that happened a week ago in Orlando, it is hard at first for many of us not to ask, “Why does God allow this to happen?” or “Why didn’t God stop it?” I believe the answer comes down to this: God left man with free will, and there is evil in the world; people are sick, flawed, irresponsible, intolerant, self-centered, vulnerable to evil…and that because there is evil in the world, humans will do terrible things to each other. Then, we might ask, “Why does God allow evil?” This, I think, is a tougher question. Let’s look at what God’s Word says: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Since we live in man’s world, not God’s perfect world of peace and love, our society will continue to experience evil acts of terror such as Orlando, San Bernadino, 9-11. I believe we need to not only pray for the victims, but continually pray to do God’s Will. And it may mean taking action if called upon; we may never face a terrorist or have to help save a victim, like Rory Justice in my novel, The Runaway Prophet, a character based on the Prophet Jonah. But like Rory, it may mean believing that God’s plan is perfect and we all have a part to play in carrying out that plan. In our world today, it may mean doing the next right thing, standing up for religious freedom or the rights of the unborn, counseling someone who is suffering and having difficulty believing in God, and soon in the U.S., voting for the presidential candidate most likely to do God’s will and lead our country to fight evil. Lord, just for today, let us pray to do Your Will and hold onto the hope that light always follows darkness.
Compared to the eleven apostles who were left (after Jesus died and rose again and Judas was gone) to spread the Gospel far and wide to all nations, our jobs as disciples, evangelists, Christians, are easy indeed. It just doesn’t always feel that way a lot of the time. I believe I have finally found and started to fulfill my God-given purpose: to write modern-day novels based on Old Testament stories in the Bible to help people in today’s world better understand God’s messages in them. But sometimes the road seems long and the path rocky and uneven. I make mistakes, agents turn me down, spreading the news (marketing) is costly, even some friends and family aren’t interested or are critical of what I’m doing. I feel discouraged, stuck – like maybe it wasn’t a good idea after all to quit my day job and go full time and full-speed ahead into following this road. I’m sure even the apostles felt overwhelmed and weary sometimes as they faced hardships (of course, much worse than mine): being imprisoned, getting bullied and beat up, getting kicked out of town. They even argued with each other (like when I argue with members of my publishing team!) as depicted here in The Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci (which I happened to be lucky enough to see in Italy last year). And then something good happens…a reader tells me not only how much she enjoyed my new book, The Runaway Prophet, but how it turned her back to reading the Book of Jonah in the Bible again to re-examine God’s message; a review in a magazine encourages others to read it; a bookstore says yes to a book signing event. For every few “no’s” there is a “yes.” The path gets a little straighter, less rocky for a time, and it is enough to keep me moving forward again, to renew my faith. I feel like I am often driven like the apostles, to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) And I get frustrated when some doors just won’t open or I’m not spreading the word fast enough, far enough. I’m reminded that when Jesus sent out the apostles, he warned them it would not be easy, but it would be worth it. “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet…do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you…Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” I am re-energized and I hope you are too. Time to move on!
Mark Twain seemed to be not only a great author but a very wise man. All of us get angry from time to time. People wrong us, hurt us, make us mad either intentionally or unintentionally. Or they wrong or hurt people we love. And when it comes to someone wronging or hurting one of our children, well, sometimes that stirs the most anger of all. So what to do when we become angry? Is it even ok to be angry? We can look to the Bible for answers. First, anger is an emotion that is God-given. God got angry many times that his people weren’t obedient. And Jesus was probably angry when he saw that the temple had become a marketplace or “den of robbers,” overturned the tables and yelled at and drove out the money changers. Apparently it’s ok to be angry. It’s what we do with our anger that’s important. “Be angry, and yet do not not sin,” St. Paul says to the Ephesians. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil an opportunity.” (Eph 4:26-27) When we hold onto our anger too long it can often become a resentment and that isn’t good either. (Resent means to “re-feel” or feel over and over). I believe anger turns into resentment when we allow it to fester by either keeping it in and not dealing with it, or by being unwilling to forgive the person who caused the anger. I have been angry at someone who wronged and hurt one of my children. That person is probably unaware of the depth of my anger because I have not had the opportunity to convey it. But I am talking to another trusted person so I can let my anger, little by little, go. I am praying to forgive the person, so at least I am willing. I am avoiding the person for now so that I don’t say or do anything “sinful” until I am ready to face the person without anger. Only I will know when my anger starts to turn into a resentment and starts blocking me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And then I’ll need to pray that God remove that as well. In my novel, The Runaway Prophet, a modern-day bible story based on the Book of Jonah, Rory Justice gets angry when God saves the people of Las Vegas, even though that’s what Rory is sent out to help God do. Rory (like Jonah) doesn’t believe the sinners deserve to be saved and he develops a resentment against them. And of course, all types of bad things happen to Rory (Jonah) when he continues to act out of his resentment instead of trust God. Even if a person, in our opinion, doesn’t deserve forgiveness, it’s important for us to forgive and put justice in God’s hands so we don’t end up letting our anger turn into a resentment. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine I will repay,’ says the Lord. Above all else, I need to have faith and take comfort in the fact that God has a plan.