Over the last week, I have stood toe-to-toe with evil, like two fighters in an MMA cage. For anyone who does not believe that evil roams free over this planet, let me pass along the Apostle Peter’s warning:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.I Peter 5:8 (NIV)
I wouldn’t say I won, but neither did I lose.
My younger daughter, who is 20, experienced some very significant trauma in her life just over a week ago. The details are personal to her, so I won’t share them here, but it’s enough to say that in the aftermath of this is when evil blew its foul breath into my face and that of my family.
As a father, I wanted to lash back at the person who perpetrated this against her, and the guy who brought this other person into her life. I wanted to hurt them. Badly. Actually, I felt it was my duty as her father. My daughter chose not to pursue any legal recourse, which heightened my need to seek revenge and punish those involved.
We (my wife and I) were actually on our way to our daughter’s apartment a week ago Saturday, and the chances were good that at least one of people who hurt would be there (as she remains friends with the guy who brought the perpetrator into her life).
Fortunately, a couple things happened on the way there. First, we spoke with a dear friend of ours and member of our church home group who is a paralegal. She reminded us that if I did anything physical to either of the 2 guys involved, I could be facing legal issues of my own, and could possibly be taken away from my family. Second, some words that God had given me previously to publish in a prior blog popped into my head: “You can’t fight evil with evil.” And also:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Romans 12:21 (NIV
Isn’t it just like God to use my own words, borrowed from Jesus and the Apostle Paul, to remind me how I should behave?
So I said a quick (if rather reluctant) prayer, and a sense of calm overcame me. The last thing I wanted, but exactly what I needed. I realized I needed to focus only on rescuing my daughter.
Sadly, rescuing my daughter was much easier said than done, either because she didn’t recognize that she needed rescuing, or she didn’t want her family to be the ones rescuing her. It has been an ongoing struggle, filled with many sleepless nights and baffling behavior from someone who I sometimes can’t believe came from my home. Thankfully, though, we have made small gains in a multi-front battle that added to our ranks her brother and sister, and even friends of hers who were concerned about the self-destructive path she had been on to try to escape the pain. She at least has agreed to seek professional help to grapple with what happened to her.
I provide this frank update to point out that while we have stood in direct defiance to evil and lived to tell about it, the situation has not wrapped itself up in a nice, tidy bow. That’s not how real life works. We may enjoy small victories along the way, but we have to fight for every inch of ground we gain–but not in the way this world fights. Not with weapons of war, hate, or destruction. We must, as Paul says (following the cue from Jesus), overcome evil with good. Love, prayer, patience. When we do this, we bring God’s healing power–the awesome power to bring life into that which was dead–into the situation. Someday, though maybe not until eternity, we will look back over he course of history and realize that this Power is greater by far than any weapon ever formed, even than all of them combined.
Does this mean it’s easy for us stand in the gap between good and evil?
Of course not. We were born into this broken world, and are unfortunately too easily influenced by it. I wanted to hurt one of these people responsible for my daughter’s pain, but when faced with him, I saw him as a little boy lost. I pity him, and pray for him, that he will get the help he needs. But I know this is only because God is making me see him through His eyes, even though I really didn’t want to. And my daughter intentionally brings people like this into her life because for at least 10 years, she has preferred the influence of the darkness of this age over that of the Light of the World or His words of love, boundless grace, and acceptance.
So how can we possibly find the strength to contend with the evil of this world, day after day, night after sleepless night? The short answer: we can’t. Not within ourselves.
Jesus left the ultimate joy and peace that can only be found in paradise, in God’s presence, to come to this planet full of broken people whom He had created to be whole. He encountered violence and filth and hate and many other signs that we had screwed it all up, but He endured all of it for us. When we executed Him, He went straight to the gates of hell to do battle there.
And He won.
He returned to life here on earth for a short time, then continued on His journey back to paradise. So if anyone can help us contend with evil and come away with victories great and small, it’s Him. All we have to do is ask His help.
And if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b, emphasis added)