Having faith living in such a broken world…

I’ve been so saddened by recent events in the world, including in Paris, that I felt I needed to write about it and to be more vocal about my beliefs.

It started this morning when I read a Christian devotion someone had written online which encouraged those of us who believe in Jesus to talk about it and live our lives through Him.

Firstly, I tend to keep quiet about my deep beliefs because I feel people misunderstand me. But as I wrote this post, I realised that this is what I am doing, today, choosing to open up so that maybe some of what I share will be understood.

Secondly, when I attended church this morning, naturally we prayed for Paris and other parts of the world affected by violence, and sometimes prayer alone can seem so futile in the midst of such sorrow, but also there was an overwhelming sense of people coming together, uniting, in faith and peace, singing all the louder to drown out evil. And knowing the freedom we have to worship together at all was incredibly humbling.

Regardless of what you believe – and I expect many will already be heading for the ‘x’ button to close this post now that I’ve mentioned J already – if we all lived as Jesus himself actually taught us, this world would be filled with peace and love. It wouldn’t stop all bad things from happening – He never promises that! – but it would put an end to humans hurting each other. Where is the threat in that?

So, if you’ve read this far, here is my take on it.

When atrocities happen, to us, to others, people seem to get angry at God, yet when they come together in such unity and strength I always feels this demonstrates exactly how God is working. Predominantly people of no faith will rant and rage with passion about religion and ‘our God’ allowing us all to suffer and perish in the most horrible ways.

It’s undeniable that heinous crimes have been committed in the name of Christ and God, through the centuries. Horrible things have been done to people who follow a religion. But religion and belief in God are not the same. Religion is supposed to provide a system for humans to worship and share a common belief, which, as we humans like to meddle so much in things, we have used and abused in the name of power – we just love hierarchies, riches, control! Atheists have a form of ‘religion’ too, as others – that is, they all believe there is no God at all. It’s still a universal belief system and they have their ways to support their ‘faith’. And it’s important to remember that many major world atrocities have been committed with no reference to God at all.

But if God is good and loves us, why do these horrible things happen to people?

If one studies the Bible or the Christian faith (because after all that’s my faith so my perspective in this post) then you will quickly see that it is not God who is putting the guns into terrorists’ hands and asking them to shoot innocent people (not even ‘their God’ is). It’s not God who is sending messages to people to take another country by force or to harm a group of people for what they believe as a culture/faith. It’s not God who forces families out of their homes and puts them in tiny boats to find refuge. It is not God who sends the drunk driver out on the roads to kill a pedestrian. It’s not God who sends us life-limiting diseases such as cancer to hurt us and kill us and wreck the lives of our loved ones.

It is not what God intended.

In many cases, the root cause is Evil (Evil is so present in our world that it has to be referred to by a name, but if that’s too hard to grasp then it’s the potential for evil in our hearts and minds, our free will to choose good or bad). Evil makes humans harm each other – they can say they are doing it for whatever reason they wish, it doesn’t matter. I do believe that some people are simply mad with evil and they find the way to channel this by harming others – just as a ‘good’ person seeks ways to help others.

We also have to take some responsibility for bad things that happen. Accidents and some ‘natural’ disasters are usually down to human error or negligence. Even some illnesses are our own fault. However, in Abi’s case, she was born with a tiny blood vessel in her brain that gave way to a haemorrhage when she was 12. Now that’s been a challenge to undersand I can’t deny. I have no one to blame, no real reason to put it down to. I still don’t have the answers but I do believe that since the Fall of Man, we are all vulnerable to the imperfect. There is no more perfection, our bodies have defects, just like our minds, and things change in them that cause problems.

We are designed to want to survive – God wants us to live – and if things didn’t go wrong for us, we wouldn’t feel compelled to make something of our lives, to bother to act with love, to care for others, we wouldn’t ever die and life would be perfect. God gave us free will, to choose to live life through Him or to try to ‘go it alone’. We can’t have it all ways. If we want God to end suffering totally, we have to also give up our free will, every one of us. If we agree to do that, we lose ourselves, we become robots, lemmings of life.

So why do bad things happen?

This is one of the most challenging questions in faith. And inevitably bad things always seem to happen to those people we would never dream it could happen to. A family – just like ours – lose a child, a woman of deep faith loses her life to a painful terminal illness, a family man runs into financial difficulties and takes his own life, a group of innocent people are blown up on their way to work by a terrorist… Just ordinary people going about their lives and such devastating things happen to them. It is hard to imagine a loving God in all this.

But I feel we cannot ignore the existence of Evil. It makes sense to me that if there is God there is also an anti-God – working to undo the good work, a resentful soul, seeking ways to hurt and harm.

The Bible warns us away from activities led by the evil spirit – namely mediums, the occult, astrology, talking to the dead, etc. I consider why the Bible would warn us so explicitly away from this stuff if it wasn’t real. It must have been a very real force in the days the Bible was written or why say anything at all?

‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.’ Matthew 7:15

God isn’t trying to stop us from ‘having fun’ or ‘doing what we want’, He is trying to protect us from harm.

For example, if you went to a psychic show and felt that the spirits spoke to you – that your departed was sending a message – how would you feel? Comforted? Distressed? Curious? I could guess that you would feel a great sense of discomfort and unease, not least pretty scared. I know I would, and I have resisted the temptation to try to talk to Abi through these means. Is it real? Did you imagine it? What does it all mean? So then you feel the need to go again, or you begin to explore other ways to contact the one you love. You can’t sleep for thinking about this encounter. You hear something that unsettles you, perhaps about your own health or something bad that might happen in the future. You feel confused and become stuck in your grief. Ultimately, it hasn’t done you any good at all!

God warns us away from these things because they have the potential to allow Evil in, to take over our lives with worry, grief, false beliefs, putting us further away from Him and his love.

And as much as God loves us, He wants to protect us. God is not romantic. He is not a big bearded man on a cloud. God is a huge supernatural force who created the heavens and earth. He created us. He loves us yes, far more than most of us can comprehend, but He is also there to guide us. Like any parent who wants to guide their child to live a good life, be respectful, and accept the consequences and take responsibility when they’ve done wrong, which we all do because of love.

And I’ve learned myself through parenting my children with different needs and wants, resolving arguments, giving us all the space to be ourselves under one roof… it’s the same with God, people and the world.

Making sense of a broken world

I don’t have the answers about why God allows suffering, this is simply my attempt at making sense of it. All I know is that without God, we would still have terrorism, we would still have terminal illness, we would still have death and destruction, but life would be empty of purpose and meaning. Without God we would still help one another and unite, but over time our desire to help, pray for and support would be consumed by the ‘self’, the ‘not in my back yard’ syndrome.

Some years ago, I lived without God for a time – a trial separation if you like – and it was horrible. I felt out of sorts, irritable, anxious and angry. When I realised that God had always stuck by me, at Abi’s death bed, I felt such a huge sense of gratitude and love that I find hard to explain.

When bad things happen, people come together. We pray – whether we truly believe or not – we see the acts of angels and heroes among us helping others, the acts of kindness and compassion always outweigh the atrocities a million to one. That is God, working through us to help us defeat Evil.

I know that God has used my own personal sufferings in many ways – He has mourned with me, sat with me like a patient friend through my numb days, He has sent me signs of his love and guidance time and again through people, places, books and nature, and He has recently shown me that he carries my sorrow and anguish for me, freeing me from much of the heavy weight of anxiety.

Without Him, I would likely be bitter, angry and resentful. I would respond to horror just as many others have done – with more hatred and anger. (That’s not to say that people who don’t believe in God would act this way, as I know many atheists who are far more compassionate towards others than some people of faith.) I feel I would become hardened to everything and everyone – resenting it all! I chose early on after Abi died not to live my days like that. God has shown me so much, and I will not lose faith in Him. I will not give in to the bad feelings. I will not let Evil win.

It hasn’t been easy by any means, but ultimately I know that I – and we – cannot get through this life alone, no matter how much better off we think we might be. I feel, too, that when my time has come and I start my eternal life, I won’t care about the whys and wherefores – it’s all been taken care of, there will be no need to worry anymore.

This world is broken, it is true. There is no other way to see it. We have harmed ourselves and our planet and become materialistic and self-centred. Believing in God, praying and living life as Jesus taught us (not how we interpret what He taught us!) is more important today than it ever was.

If you have questions, I would simply ask that you seek the answers, don’t just close your mind to what you don’t understand.

I’m not trying to impress my beliefs on any one in this post, this is my space to share my thoughts. This is my truth but it may not be yours. But the time is now to have conviction in what you believe. Open your eyes, your ears, your mind and your heart, because it might just reveal the truth to you.

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