Being Obedient Through Major Life Changes

Over the past couple of weeks, myself and many others in my ‘circle’ have begun undergoing many changes. Though I know that God is at work in my life, as well as the lives of all the others affected by these changes, it is still difficult to navigate them.

The first change was announced one Sunday morning in church, near the end of our morning service, just a couple weeks ago. Our pastor announced he was leaving us and returning to home, to the church he grew up in, to work with and learn from, the very man who had led him to Jesus, baptized him, etc. My heart sunk with this announcement.

You see, this pastor, Bro. Jared, has meant so much to my family over the 4-5 years we have known him. He and his wife have led our church very well, taking us through a very dry time when we didn’t know how we were going to continue to pay our bills, and guiding us in decisions following a huge blessing to our church. 

This announcement came on July 6. July 18 marked the 4th anniversary of the date that this young man, young enough to be my son, baptized me! His sermons and leadership in Bible studies, as well as his answers to the many questions I have had, have taught me so much over these 4 years and I just can’t imagine keeping up that level of learning without his teaching! 

His wife, Liz, is just as special to me, to all of us! She has led Bible studies very well, poured her heart out to show all of us that she is a REAL person and not someone to be put up on a pedestal because she is “the preacher’s wife.” Her willingness to make herself vulnerable to those of us in this particular Bible study inspired me to open myself up to others as well! She showed me that many times what we see on the outside is a good cover for what is hidden in the memory bank. She helped me to realize that to open myself up to the right people, could be very freeing to me! I can’t thank her enough for that.

To say my heart sunk is really an understatement. I was in shock. I knew this day would come because Jared is a family man and most of his family attends the church where he will now be Associate Pastor. But for me, and I can only speak for myself though I know of many who have very similar feelings, my heart broke into a million pieces when he said those words. I felt shattered. At that moment my thoughts consisted of, “NO! He can’t do this to us, to me!” and “what is going to happen to us, to our church now?” I now realize that those were some pretty selfish thoughts.

But I have to admit that I have shed more tears over his leaving, and I know there are still more to come, than I have shed in a very long time. In fact, following his announcement, as I walked to my truck to leave church, I noticed other members walking to their vehicles in the same state of shock and disbelief as me. We all looked like a bunch of zombies leaving church that day! When I finally made it to my truck and got inside, the sobs began. The hard, rib shaking, heaving, sobs that you expect to see when someone very close to you has died! I could not control the tears! I would try to catch my breath and stop the flow, but after several attempts I realized it was useless to try to stop. I needed to just go ahead and let the sobs and tears flow, get it out of my system, hopefully.

Well the hard tears continued for the next week or so. Every time I would think of them leaving, the tears would just start all over again. I jokingly told Jared that he wasn’t allowed to leave us. I was going to take our church van and a group of members to the church he was going to on the night they were to vote him in, and stage a protest!! But I knew that was silly. 

Besides, he had informed us of his impending departure following a powerful sermon on…..obedience. He was clicking along with this sermon on how we are to be obedient to God no matter what when he asked all the congregation, “do you agree we are to obey God, no matter what?” Those who answered said yes, they agreed with that. Jared asked that question a couple more times when he finally said “I’m so glad to know you feel that way.” Then he proceeded to tell us of how he had been asked to come to that church several times in the past, but he always declined because he did not feel the time was right. He continued by telling us that he and his wife had talked about it, and prayed, and discussed some more, and prayed some more, and after much prayer and discussion, they felt that God was leading them to this new position. He said “We have to be obedient.” 

Even now, as I remember the sudden hush and feeling of dread that came over the sanctuary that morning, the tears come once again. I’ve never been involved in a pastor search, or even a part of a church when there was not a full-time pastor in place. This is not so much frightening to me as it is unsettling.

I am the kind of person who likes to know what to expect. I like things to stay close to a routine, not exactly the same, but close. Now I am filling out search committee nomination forms and wondering who is going to be preaching for us this coming Sunday since Jared’s last official day with us is tomorrow!

I think I could have handled it much better if I hadn’t been hit with another major change in my life at the same time. But on the very same day, another ton of bricks hit me square in the face! My daughter and her family, who have lived next door or across the road from us since the birth of my first grandson, are moving to a different town! I think the biggest hurt about this move was because of the way I found out about it. 

I didn’t get a phone call, no text message, and certainly no personal conversation. I found out when I came home from church that Sunday and saw my son in law’s truck with a trailer hitched on and backed up to their front door, loading things up. I tried calling and texting my daughter to find out what was going on, but wasn’t getting any answers. After a day or two of this, I finally got an answer telling me that yes, they were moving! 

Even now I feel that knife piercing my heart repeatedly, actually several knives at once. The first knife being communication (or lack of) between my daughter and I. I know I am at fault for that. I’ve not been the best mom. I’ve made mistakes. But I’ve also made changes to try to better myself and thought I was doing pretty good! But the lack of communication was my fault because I didn’t go to her house to find out what was going on, when I didn’t know if she was there or not. 

The second knife was the grandkids. I was no longer going to see them every day, even if some days it was just seeing them in the distance as they played outside. And they weren’t coming to say goodbye to me or their Pawpaw. 

We were really feeling like we must have done something to cause some hard feelings but could not think of what it might be! I still have that feeling and I still have no idea of what I have done.

I have to take myself back to the sermon Jared preached on July 6. Be obedient, NO MATTER WHAT!! That is really a hard pill to swallow sometimes! But, if we want to grow closer and closer to God, to build our relationship and strengthen it with Him, we have no other choice but to listen closely to what He is telling us, and to obey.

So I pray. I pray that God will show me what it is He is wanting me to do. I pray that my children will all realize that I truly love them and want to spend time with them and with the grandbabies. I also want them to realize that my life is continually changing as I grow in my relationship with God and there are some things that I just don’t care to participate in or to be around. It’s not because I am judging anyone, but I don’t care to be around a bunch of people drinking, cursing, and being seriously disobedient to how God tells us to lead our lives!!

I’m not saying I am perfect. Not by a long shot!! But to be obedient, I need to keep a distance from those who are being disobedient, so I don’t get pulled back into old habits, old ways. I want those good, close relationships, and I am trying to do things to build them. But there are times, pretty much all the time, that I feel like II am the only one who wants that closeness. 

If I say anything to anyone about that I am accused of seeking attention or having a pity party. “Just get over it” is a phrase I’ve heard quite often. 

Through all of this I have learned quite a bit about myself. I am stronger than I thought. I need my family but they don’t appear to need me, other than my husband, or in the case of some of the others – if they need something. This really saddens me. I know what I will be told about this, “well, you brought it on yourself!” Maybe I did. But whatever I have done, is it truly something that is unforgivable? I have struggled with forgiveness toward others for things of my past for a very long time and finally realized that I had to forgive so I could move on! Now I find myself asking, is it really impossible to forgive me for whatever hurt I have caused?

So, with these major changes going on in my life, I am having a hard time right now, many tears continue to fall on a regular basis. But I have realized that I need to spend more time with God. Every time I start to feel the pain of these changes, I need to turn to Jesus! I am trying to do just that because I know that He is the way, the truth, and the life! I know that somehow, through all of this, God will be glorified!! 

So I am trying to be obedient……and let go. 

“The Storm Inside”, a book every woman should read

“The Storm Inside” is a book that every woman should read. Sheila Walsh takes the top 10 big issues all women face; anger, shame, and heartache for example; she breaks each down and reveals to the reader her interpretation of how God feels about those issues and then leads us to what His word says to guide us through each storm. This book does not condemn anyone for the storms they are dealing with. Rather, Walsh offers loving guidance and the chance of redeeming ourselves through God’s word. It truly does sooth the soul.
Throughout the pages of “The Storm Inside”, Walsh points the reader to the One who can calm any storm. She is truly gifted in her ability to relate to women and their day to day issues. Her down-to-earth explanation of each of the storms explored is understandable by all women, including those who are not Biblical scholars.
The book is based on God’s Word, which is where we all should look for guidance in all we do to help discover truths, which then will help us deal with our own storms.
“The greatest defense against the storm of lies that the enemy would use to drain every moment of joy from your life is to surround yourself with the truth of God’s Word,” Sheila Walsh, The Storm Inside.
This is a wonderful book that will show you how to survive or even thrive through the storms of life we all have to deal with from time to time. Sheila is so open and honest in showing the reader things that get all of us down and at times make it difficult to move on. Common storms such as fear, anger, shame, disappointment, are storms we all will realize at some point in our lives.
This book lifted my spirit, soothed my soul and warmed my heart. It is an excellent read that gives hope to someone that may be going through a difficult storm. I strongly recommend this book to all women, especially those who may be experiencing some form of trial or tribulation, a “storm”. I also suggest that you keep an extra copy of this book on your bookshelf as something you can offer to a friend or family member who may be going through a difficult time.

Looking For A Good Book? Give Patsy Clairmont’s “Twirl” a look-see


Patsy Clairmont shows just how artistic and humorous she truly is in the pages of “Twirl”. The simple fact that each chapter of this very easy, smooth, and gentle read stands alone makes this a book that can be enjoyed at any time and in any place. “Twirl” invites you to look to find enjoyment of life in the simplest of things as Patsy reminds you just how much fun twirling used to be. As you spend time among the pages of this wonderfully uplifting volume, you will realize that some of the things in your life that you allow to cause you tension can be made much more tolerable, if you simply think of them as you twirl around. The words on these pages will bring you many moments of unadulterated joy. So much so, you will find yourself with highlighter in hand, marking favorite passages for future reference. As you spend time among the beautifully written words of Patsy Clairmont, an original “Women of Faith” speaker, you will notice increasing numbers of people coming to mind that you want to give a copy of “Twirl” as a gift. You can rest assured, “Twirl” will be a gift very well received. This is a book that you will retrieve from your bookshelf many times over as you find yourself rereading it time and time again.

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD

 I have had the wonderful blessing of participating in Operation Christmas Child’s shoebox campaign for the past couple of years and I truly wish I had been doing it for many more! From the first time I filled a shoebox to be sent to a needy child, I just felt something very special! It’s very hard to describe, but it’s like I could instantly feel a connection with the child who would receive my shoebox! I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me the privilege of filling, collecting, and packing in cartons, these simple shoebox gifts that will go to children all over the world who may not otherwise ever receive a gift of any kind.

Let me tell you a little about Operation Christmas Child and the shoebox ministry.

Operation Christmas Child is just one of the ministries created by Samaritan’s Purse, an organization founded by Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham.

     “The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.” For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

As our teams work in crisis areas of the world, people often ask, “Why did you come?” The answer is always the same: “We have come to help you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Our ministry is all about Jesus—first, last, and always. As the Apostle Paul said, “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5, NIV).

MISSION STATEMENT
Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”   http://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/about-us/

The ministry projects of Samaritan’s Purse include:  

               International Crisis Response

                    Operation Christmas Child

                    The Greatest Journey

                    US Disaster Relief

                    World Medical Mission

                    Greta Home and Academy

                    Children’s Heart Project

                    Operation Heal Our Patriots

It is Operation Christmas Child that has grabbed my heart and ran away with it!

 Image

According to SP’s website, More than 100 MILLION children in over 130 different countries have “experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ.”

Think about that for just a minute. We lead such spoiled and selfish lives, we can’t even begin to imagine that many children being so poor that their families cannot EVER give them a gift of any kind!! Sadly, that is reality for so many!! But the great thing is that for practically nothing to us, we can send a gift to a child half way around the world, brighten their lives through a toy, book, or underwear, and introduce them to Jesus Christ and the love He has for each one of us!!

If you don’t believe you have it extremely well, take a look at how some of these children must live.

 

 Image

 Do you see his feet? He has no shoes to wear! That’s not a skylight in the roof of his house! Seeing this breaks my heart and really makes me look at what all I have, while thinking I have so little, and give thanks for the many blessings I have! I have numerous pairs of shoes to choose from on a given day. I may not have a skylight, but I do have a roof! I think it’s probably safe to say that I throw away more food in a week than this child sees in a year! Does that not stir your heart? Doesn’t it make you want to DO SOMETHING?? I know it does me!

That’s why I fill shoeboxes. To try to make a difference in the life of a child. Won’t you please consider doing the same? Go to http://www.samaritanspurse.org/ or http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ and learn about this ministry as well as the other ministries of Samaritan’s Purse. Learn how you can help! Then, pray about it, and finally, DO SOMETHING!! 

Why does God allow suffering? Part 3

The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.

A lot of times you’ll hear people say: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t He do it?” And the answer is that because He hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean He won’t do it. You know, the Bible says that the story of this world isn’t over yet. It says the day will come when sickness and pain will be eradicated and people will be held accountable for the evil things they’ve done. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet.

So what’s God waiting for? Perhaps He’s waiting for some of us! He’s actually delaying things in anticipation that some of you will still put your trust in Him and spend eternity in heaven. He’s delaying everything out of His love for you. Second Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” That seems to me like that’s evidence of a loving God, that He would care that much for you.

We make the choice whether to turn bitter and angry or turn to God for peace and courage

We’ve all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry, can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle, loving and tender, willing to reach out with compassion to help others who are in pain. Some, who lose a child to a drunk driver, turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; yet another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to Him. What happens if we run to Him?

Let’s go back to what Jesus said in John 16:33 and finish that thought.  “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

So, Jesus offers us the two things we need the most when we’re hurting: peace to deal with the present and courage to deal with the future. How does He do that, and why? Because he has conquered the world! Through His own suffering and death, Jesus has deprived this world of its ultimate power over us. Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word! God wins the war! We may feel like we lose some of the battles, but God wins the war! Isn’t that just the most incredible thought and feeling?

God’s ultimate answer to suffering and pain isn’t an explanation; it’s the manifestation. Misery is a personal problem; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached, and disinterested deity. He entered into our world and personally experienced our pain. Jesus is there in the lowest places of our lives. Are you broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are you despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do you cry out that you can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and familiar with grief. Did someone betray you? He was sold out. Are your most tender relationships broken? He loved and He was rejected. Did people turn from you? They hid their faces from Him as if He were a leper. Does He descend into all of our hells? Yes, He does. No matter how deep we feel our cavern is, He is even deeper. Every tear we shed becomes his tear.

Any close friend can sit beside you and comfort you and empathize with you. But Jesus is much closer than your closest friend. If you have put your trust in Him, then He is in you. And, therefore, your sufferings are His sufferings; your sorrow is His sorrow.

So when tragedy strikes, and it will; when suffering comes, and it will; when you’re struggling with pain, and you will – yet through all that you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with whatever is happening right now, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.

All of us will go through pain and suffering at some point in our lives. We know that life is so fragile and short. We never know when we might be in our last moments in this world. We never know when death will come knocking. It’s not like you are going to get any warning when a heart attack strikes, or when a drunk driver crosses the centerline, or when a wildfire sweeps through a canyon, or when an airplane loses power. And so the question I’m compelled to ask you is this – “Are you ready?”

God doesn’t want you wondering. He doesn’t want you immersed in anxiety over whether you’re headed for heaven. His dependable, unfailing Word says you can know for sure.

Don’t rely on the fact that you attend church or you’ve gone through some sort of religious ritual in the past. Religious activities and affiliations never saved anyone. Salvation comes from knowing Christ personally and receiving His provision for YOUR sin and YOUR future. It comes from making him YOUR Savior, by asking Him to forgive YOUR every sin, and by asking Him to lead YOUR life. It doesn’t come by attending a great church, or being baptized, or taking communion, or hanging out with a bunch of Christians. It comes from deciding in your heart that you want to turn from your sin, to stop trusting in your own self, and to accept the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus bought on the cross and is offering you as a free gift. THAT is how you gain God’s peace and confidence.

So please don’t wait! Resolve this today, at this moment, so that if tragedy strikes, your eternity with God will be secure. I don’t know all the ways God is going to draw some good from all the various tragedies, but wouldn’t it be awesome if He were to start right now, with you? What if He were to use this simple blog to bring you into His kingdom at this very moment? Let the pain of all your tragedies open your heart to Christ. Let’s take what was intended for evil and watch God start creating something good from it.

Do you know of someone who has suffered and turned TOWARD God rather than away? What about the other way around? Perhaps the person that has turned AWAY from God could use a little encouragement. Why not give them a call, go see them, help them find their way back, help them find their happiness again.

Please share your thoughts.

Why does God allow suffering? Part 2

So, pain and evil, why does God allow them? We know that God did not create them. The second point of light I want to talk about is this: Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good. 

He does this by fulfilling His promise in Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Notice that the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge. And notice that the verse doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance. Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And notice that God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge IF we are committed to following Him.

The Old Testament gives us a great example in the story of Joseph. He went through terrible suffering, being sold into slavery by his brothers, unfairly accused of a crime and falsely imprisoned. Finally, after a dozen years, he was put in a role of great authority where he could save the lives of his family and many others.

Look at what he said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” And if we are committed to God, He promises that He can and will take whatever pain we’re experiencing and create something good out of it.

I hear you saying, “There’s no way God can make something good out of this. I’ve been hurt too bad.  Too many people were hurt. The pain is too deep. The damage is too destructive. No, there’s just no way that God can make anything good out of this.”

Well, let’s look at what God has done historically. God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — His own death on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in the history of the universe. Through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, He opened up heaven to all who follow Him. So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, don’t you think He can take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?

I believe He can and He will. God uses our suffering to draw us closer to Him, to mold and shape our character, to influence others for Him. He can create something good from our pain in a myriad of ways…if we simply trust and follow Him.

Why does God allow suffering?

These days it seems there are so many tragic stories, so much pain. Between school and mall shootings, children and babies suffering and dying, and currently the flu epidemic and the fear that goes with it. There’s illness, abuse, broken relationships, betrayal, sorrow, injuries, disappointment, heartache, crime and death. All of these leave many people asking the question, “Why? Why does God allow this?”

Just last night, a tiny, newborn baby girl, beautiful and precious, left the loving arms of her mother and father and went to be with Jesus. This little girl being so close to my family that she may as well of been. She is the daughter of my son-in-law’s cousin, a young man we have had to our house often, eaten many a meal with and shared holidays and family celebrations with. I’m sure there are several members of this family currently asking those questions, “Why? Why me? Why, God?”

That “why” question goes back thousands of years. It was asked in the Old Testament by Job and the writers of the Psalms, and it was especially relevant during the 20th century, where we witnessed two World Wars, the Holocaust, genocides in the Soviet Union and China, devastating famines in Africa, the killing fields of Cambodia, the emergence of AIDS, the genocide in Rwanda and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
Things didn’t get any better in the 21st century. There was 9/11 and now the Syrian slaughters, and on and on. Why is all of this happening if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Several years ago, a national survey asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The Number One response? “Why is there suffering in the world?” Interestingly, married people were much more likely to want to know why there’s so much suffering.

But if you’ve never asked why our world is infected with pain and suffering, you will when you or someone you love is struck. And Jesus warned us those times would come. Unlike some other religious leaders who wrote off pain and suffering as just being imagined, Jesus was honest. He told us the truth. He said in John 16:33, “You will have suffering in this world.” He didn’t say you might – he assured us it would happen.

But, why? If you ask me point-blank, “Why did God allow that precious baby, and now her parents to suffer?”, the only answer I can honestly give consists of four words – “I do not know.”

I cannot stand in the shoes of God and give a complete answer to that question. I don’t have God’s mind. I don’t see with God’s eyes. 1st Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

So when you ask about specific individual events and want to know why this particular thing happened, we won’t get the full answer in this world. Someday, we’ll see with clarity, but for now things are foggy. We can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. And honestly, I don’t think any attempt at theological explanation is going to do anyone any good right now; any intellectual response is just going to seem rehearsed. What is desperately needed now is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives. And I’m so grateful that this young family has a loving church and family helping them through this difficult time.

But for us, let’s focus on the big, overarching issue of why God generally allows suffering in our lives – your life and mine. People, this is important: even though we can’t understand everything about it, we can understand some things. So let’s try.

Imagine driving along a highway in the dark, when it starts to rain heavily and suddenly you hit dense fog. You can barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road and that is what you are using to attempt to stay on the road! You can’t stop because then someone might come along and rear-end you. Talk about scary!

Just as suddenly a truck appears in front of you. You can just make out his taillights through the fog. You guess he must have fog lamps in front, because he is traveling at a confident and deliberate pace, and somehow, you know if you can just follow those taillights, you’ll be okay, heading in the right direction.

I think the same is true in understanding why there is tragedy and suffering in our lives and in our world. We may not be able to make out all the peripheral details of why — they may be obscured from our view — but there are some key Biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us in the right direction, toward some conclusions that I believe can help satisfy our hearts and souls.

What are those points of light? Let’s take a look at some that people have found helpful whenever they have felt prompted to ask the question, “Why?”
The first point would be that God is not the creator of evil and suffering.

This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

But if God is not the author of tragedy or evil or death, where did those things come from? Well, God has existed from eternity past as the Father, Son and Spirit, together in a relationship of perfect love. So, I think we can agree love is the highest value in the universe. And when God decided to create human beings, he wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to choose whether to love or not. Why? Well, because love always involves a choice.

If we were programmed to say, “I love you,” it wouldn’t really be love. Think of those dolls with a string in the back, and when you pull that string the doll says, “I love you.” Does that doll love the string puller? Of course not. It is programmed to say those words. To really experience love, that doll would need to be able to choose to love or not to love. Again – real love always involves a choice.

So in order for us to experience love, God bestowed on us free will. But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from Him. And that has resulted in the introduction of two kinds of evil into the world: moral evil and natural evil.

Moral evil is the immorality and pain and suffering and tragedy that come because we choose to be selfish, arrogant, uncaring, hateful and abusive. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So much of the world’s suffering results from the sinful action or inaction of ourselves and others. For example, people look at a famine and wonder where God is. When in reality the world produces enough food for each person to have 3,000 calories a day. It’s our own irresponsibility and self-centeredness that prevents people from getting fed.

In other words: look at your hand. You can choose to use that hand to hold a gun and shoot someone, or you can use it to feed hungry people. It’s your choice. But it’s unfair to shoot someone and then blame God for the existence of evil and suffering. Like that old saying, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

The second kind of evil is called natural evil. These are things like wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes that cause suffering for people. But these, too, are the indirect result of sin being allowed into the world. As one author explained: “When we humans told God to shove off, He partially honored our request. Nature began to revolt. The earth was cursed. Genetic breakdown and disease began. Pain and death became part of the human experience.”

The Bible says it’s because of sin that nature was corrupted and “thorns and thistles” entered the world. Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” In other words, nature longs for redemption to come and for things to be set right. That’s the source of disorder and chaos.

To be perfectly clear, God did not create evil and suffering. However, He did create the potential for evil to enter the world, because that was the only way to create the potential for genuine goodness and love. But it was us, human beings, in our free will, who brought that potential evil into reality.

Some people may ask, “Doesn’t God have a plan? Couldn’t He have foreseen all of this?” And I have no doubt He did. But look at it this way: many of you are parents. Even before you had children, couldn’t you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course — but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning.

God undoubtedly knew we’d rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him and have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him. He must have thought it was all worth it for that, even though it would cost His own Son great pain and suffering to achieve their redemption.

In my next post, I’ll look at another ‘point of light’, the fact that God can use suffering to accomplish good.