“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” This witty, humorous saying has been popularly attributed to both Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain. Three millennia earlier, Solomon, the wisest man of his time (1 Kings 4:29-34), gave us this take: “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).
A family headed for missionary training was killed by a truck driver, just months before they were set to leave for Japan. The father had explained their mission in his blog: “The Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth . . . The church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers.” This family answered God’s call but died on their way.
Two government agents were assigned the case of “Dread Pirate Roberts.” This “pirate” was the anonymous operator of “the Silk Road,” a website that sold illegal drugs by using the virtual currency Bitcoin. The agents caught their man, but not before becoming criminals themselves. They allegedly sold the information about their investigation and blackmailed the “pirate,” transferring big bucks to their own bank accounts. Their story demonstrates how thin the line is between good and evil.
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.