I teach for a living, so it may surprise you that I write these words: Not all knowledge is good. There are some things that are better not to know. Take scientist Ron Fouchier, who developed a strain of the bird flu that could kill 60 percent of the humans it infected. His research was set to be published before the US government stepped in. Do we really want to give terrorists the recipe for killing us? Fouchier said he simply wanted to see what was possible.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the problem of evil. I watch the news and see atrocities committed against the innocent (Psalm 73:3-16). People in my town, nation, and the world don’t have food to eat or access to good medical care. Natural disasters swallow people alive. Children face cruel words and actions. Wars break out with devastating effects. And then I receive news that a child or a young person I know has died before he or she has really had a chance to live, that families I know are breaking up, and that friends are in deep financial distress.
This isn’t an easy post for me to write. It means reflecting on some of the darkest evil plaguing our world today: terrorism. But a recent encounter allowed me to see more clearly the power of God’s sustaining Word—even amidst terror caused by evil actions.
My son loves the toy Legos—little plastic pieces that snap together—like fish love water! One of his most interesting creations was called the “minute machine.” He explained that his contraption could drive around and find all the extra minutes, sweep them up, and save them for later. After hearing this description, I wished I had a “minute machine” of my own. What if I could redeem all the underutilized minutes, hours, and weeks in my life and use that time to serve God?
When the temperature dipped to -27 degrees Celsius in my city, newscasters cautioned the public against going outside. An authority in a neighboring state declared, “In 10 minutes you could be dead without the proper clothes.” After hearing warnings such as these, my husband said what I was thinking: “I think I want to go outside . . . just to feel what it’s like.”
Life can be difficult. At times, burdens, disappointments, and uncertainties can seem too difficult to bear. Poet Annie Johnson Flint poignantly captured the struggles of life in her poem “One Day at a Time”:
During a convocation speech at a major Christian university in 2012, business magnate and TV celebrity Donald Trump told 10,000 students that the way to succeed in business is to “get even,” igniting an outcry from critics who said that Trump’s philosophy was inconsistent with Christian values.
The ocean was churning. Massive waves were causing the huge vessel to list from side to side. As I stood and looked out a window, I was amazed at the power and fury of the storm. The beating of the raindrops on the metal deck matched the rapid beating of my heart as the ship was buffeted by fierce elements.
God has told me why your skin cancer hasn’t been healed,” the woman said to my friend. Really? he thought. Having suffered through two failed operations to remove the cancer from his face, my friend was desperate for a reason why. “God has told me it’s one of three things,” she continued. One of three? my friend thought. Even God doesn’t know for sure? “It’s either a generational curse passed down from your parents . . . ” It’s my parent’s fault? “Or it’s a secret sin in your life . . .” Which one? (My friend can be cheeky.) “Or you lack the faith to be healed.”
I was babysitting two 5-year-old boys while their mothers went shopping. They were having a fun time playing together until one of the children threw a ball that accidentally struck the other on the nose.
Have you ever felt as if no one was there for you when you faced a difficult and trying time? Perhaps King David’s words reflect what you were feeling: “I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me” (Psalm 142:4).
A few years ago, I worked as a supply (substitute) teacher in Birmingham, England. I initially embraced the help of the teaching assistant, but when she started taking over in class I was tempted to give in to resentment and insecurity. Instead, I decided to act in a way opposite to what I felt by vocalizing my genuine appreciation of her, praying for her, and challenging her in love. When it came time for me to leave my position, she gave me a gift and a thank you card. Acting in the opposite spirit had disarmed a teaching assistant who might have felt threatened and unappreciated.
Our lives began to fall apart when my daughter took her life,” the woman told me during a break in the conference we were both attending. “And then our second daughter spiraled into depression and started to ‘self-harm.’ After several months we discovered the reason why: While my husband and I were missionaries in Indonesia, two of our three children had been sexually abused at a mission-run school. We had given our lives to serve God. . . . Why didn’t He protect us?” I would hear similar stories at that conference—people who felt betrayed by God.