From the book
WHEN GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
the Betrayal Barrier
We come now to our final comments regarding this vitally important topic: When God doesn't make sense. Our message boils down to this very simple understanding: there is nothing the Lord wants of us more than the exercise of our faith. He will do nothing to undermine it, and we cannot please him without it. To define the term again, faith is believing that which has no absolute proof (Hebrews 11:1). It is hanging tough when the evidence would have us bail out. It is determining to trust him when he has not answered all the questions or even assured a pain-free passage.
There is no better illustration of this faithfulness than is seen in the second half of Hebrews chapter 11. This Scripture, to which we referred earlier, has been called the "heroes' hall of fame," and it bears great relevance to our discussion. Described therein are the men and women who persevered in their faith under the most extreme circumstances. They were subjected to every kind of hardship and danger for the sake of the Cross. Some were tortured, imprisoned, flogged, stoned, sawed in two, and put to death by the sword. They were destitute, mistreated, persecuted, and inadequately clothed. They wandered in the deserts, in mountain, in caves, and in holes in the ground. Most important for our topic, they died not receiving what had been promised. In other words, they held onto their faith to the point of death, even though God had not explained what he was doing (Hebrews 11:35-40).
Without detracting from the sacredness of that Scripture, I would like to submit for your inspiration my own modern day "heroes' hall of fame." Listed among these giants of the faith are some incredible human beings who must hold a special place in the great heart of God.
At the top of my list would have to be some of the boys and girls I knew during my 14 years on the Attending Staff at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles. Most of these kids suffered from terminal illnesses, although others endured chronic disorders that disrupted and warped their childhoods. Some of them were under 10 years of age, and yet their faith in Jesus Christ was unshakable. They died with a testimony on their lips, witnessing to the goodness of God while their little bodies withered away. What a reception they must have received when they met him who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me" (Mark 10:14, KJV).
[THE TRUTH IS THEY DID NOT MEET JESUS WHEN THEY DIED; THEY ARE ASLEEP IN DEATH; THEY WILL BE RESURRECTED IN THE “GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT” OF REVELATION 20 - Keith Hunt]
In my first film series, Focus on the Family, I shared a story about a five-year-old African-American boy who will never be forgotten by those who knew him. A nurse with whom I worked, Gracie Schaeffler, had taken care of this lad during the latter days of his life. He was dying of lung cancer, which is a terrifying disease in its final stages. The lungs fill with fluid, and the patient is unable to breathe. It is terribly claustrophobic, especially for a small child.
This little boy had a Christian mother who loved him and stayed by his side through the long ordeal. She cradled him on her lap and talked softly about the Lord. Instinctively, the woman was preparing her son for the final hours to come. Gracie told me that she entered his room one day as death approached, and she heard this lad talking about hearing bells ring.
"The bells are ringing, Mommie," he said. "I can hear them."
Gracie thought he was hallucinating because he was already slipping away. She left and returned a few minutes later and again heard him talking about hearing bells ring.
The nurse said to his mother, "I'm sure you know your baby is hearing things that aren't there. He is hallucinating because of the sickness."
The mother pulled her son closer to her chest, smiled, and said, "No, Miss Schaeffler. He is not hallucinating. I told him when he was frightened—when he couldn't breathe—if he would listen carefully, he could hear the bells of heaven ringing for him. That is what he's been talking about all day."
That precious child died on his mother's lap later that evening, and he was still talking about the bells of heaven when the angels came to take him. What a brave little trooper he was. His courage was not reported in the newspapers the next day. Neither Tom Brokaw nor Dan Rather told his story on the evening news. Yet he and his mother belong forever in our "heroes' hall of fame."
[IT IS SAD TO HEAR SUCH STORIES; THEY COULD BE MULTIPLIED BY THE TENS OF THOUSANDS FOR CHILDREN WHO DIE; THEY REST IN PEACE; THEY ARE NOT IN HEAVEN, DEATH IS SLEEP; THEY WILL BE RESURRECTED IN THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT - Keith Hunt]
My next candidate for faithful immortality is a man I never met, although he touched my life while he was losing his. I learned about him from a docudrama on television that I saw many years ago. The producer had obtained permission from a cancer specialist to place cameras in his clinic. Then with approval from three patients, two men and a woman, he captured on film the moment each of them learned they were afflicted with a malignancy in its later stages. Their initial shock, disbelief, fear, and anger were recorded in graphic detail. Afterwards, the documentary team followed these three families through the treatment process with its ups and downs, hopes and disappointments, pain and terror. I sat riveted as the drama of life and death unfolded on the screen. Eventually, all three patients died, and the program ended without comment or editorial.
There was so much that should have been said. What struck me were the different ways these people dealt with their frightening circumstances. The two who apparently had no faith reacted with anger and bitterness. They not only fought their disease, but they seemed to be at war with everyone else. Their personal relationships and even their marriages were shaken, especially as the end drew near. I'm not being critical, mind you. Most of us would respond in much the same manner if faced with imminent death. But that's what made the third individual so inspiring to me.
He was a humble black pastor of a small inner-city Baptist church. He was in his late sixties and had been a minister throughout his adult life. His love for the Lord was so profound that it was reflected in everything he said. When he and his wife were told he had only a few months to live, they revealed no panic. They quietly asked the doctor what it all meant. When he had explained the treatment program and what they could anticipate, they politely thanked him for his concern and departed. The cameras followed this little couple to their old car and eavesdropped as they bowed their heads and recommitted themselves to the Lord.
In the months that followed, the pastor never lost his poise. Nor was he glib about his illness. He was not in denial. He simply had come to terms with the cancer and its probable outcome. He knew the Lord was in control, and he refused to be shaken in his faith.
The cameras were present on his final Sunday in his church. He actually preached the sermon that morning and talked openly about his impending death. To the best of my recollection, this is what he said:
"Some of you have asked me if I'm mad at God for this disease that has taken over my body. I'll tell you honestly that I have nothing but love in my heart for my Lord. He didn't do this to me. We live in a sinful world where sickness and death are the curse man has brought on himself. And I'm going to a better place where there will be no more tears, no suffering, and no heartache. So don't feel bad for me.
"Besides," he continued, "our Lord suffered and died for our sins. Why should I not share in his suffering?"
Then he began to sing, without accompaniment, in an old, broken voice:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone,
And there's a cross for me.
How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorr'wing here;
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without a tear.
The consecrated cross I'll bear,
Till death shall set me free,
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there's a crown for me.
I wept as this gentle man sang of his love for Jesus. He sounded very weak, and his face was drawn from the ravages of the disease. But his comments were as powerful as any I've ever heard. His words that morning were his last from the pulpit, as far as I know. He slipped into eternity a few days later, where he met the Lord he had served for a lifetime. This unnamed pastor and his wife have a prominent place among my spiritual heroes.
[WE SEE THAT FALSE TEACHING GETS INTO SONGS WE CALL HYMNS, OR SPIRITUAL SONGS. THIS PASTOR AND DOBSON AND ALL IN THE PASTOR’S CONGREGATION, FIGURED THE PASTOR WOULD BE IN HEAVEN UPON DEATH. MOST ALL IN THE CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT WORLD BELIEVE THIS. I APPRECIATE THE PASTOR’S REPOSE IN HIS FACING DEATH HE KNEW WAS IMMINENT. AND THAT IS THE BEST THING TO TAKE FROM IN HIS CASE, KNOWING DEATH WAS NOT FAR AWAY - Keith Hunt]
I will tell you about one more inductee into my hall of fame. She is a woman named Marian Benedict Manwell, who is still living. I was first introduced to her in a letter she wrote to me in 1979, and I never forgot what she said. I have kept that letter all these years, and in fact, I called her this week. I found this delightful lady still holding tightly to her faith in Jesus Christ. But let me share what she wrote me in that original correspondence so many years ago.
Bear Dr. Dobson:
I'm going to tell you my experience as an "ugly duckling." I was the first child of a young minister and his school-marm wife. They were about 30 years old when I was born. (Now brace yourself for this.) When I was 8 months of age, the heavy spring of the jumper in which I was bouncing suddenly snapped. Being taut, it came straight down and tore through the first thing it hit—the soft spot on my head. There was nothing to be done. My parents and my uncle and aunt (with whom we were vacationing) believed me to be dead. They finally found a doctor who took me to the hospital eight miles away, but there was nothing they could do but cleanse and bandage the wound. They gave my parents no hope at all that I would live. They were godly people and they believed in prayer, as did all our relatives and friends. Their faith is responsible for my life. By the mercy of God I lived, even though the doctors told my family I would be a hopeless cripple and mentally incompetent. That did not happen, but there were many problems.
To begin with, I was not a beautiful child. I was very homely, and gimpy too. Oh yes, I walked. The Lord saw to that when he healed me of total paralysis. I was also blessed with a quick mind. Still, as you have written, people look for beauty in children. My younger brother had the beauty of the family. He looked like our dad, auburn hair, brown eyes, and he was a charmer. I could not run, or jump rope, or play ball, or catch anything thrown to me. I was crippled on my leftside. I guess that's why I became a loner. I developed an imagination that allowed me to live a wonderful life through the hundreds of books that I read and the daydreams I invented.
When I told my mother, who died of cancer when I was 10 years old, that 1 wanted to be a nurse and a missionary, she said, "That's wonderful." She knew that I could never be either because of my infirmity. Then we moved to another small town when our father remarried two years after my mother's death. Things became even more difficult. I was not popular through high school. I was a P.K., a preacher's kid. And long before this time I had given my heart to the Lord. That, added to my introverted personality, did not draw me into the cliques of our little town school.
One day as I trudged along the walk to the school, a teenage boy came up behind me and asked loudly, "What's wrong with you? What'sya limping for? Nobody wants to go with a girl that acts like that."
I had a very difficult time learning that Christ could give me the strength to be calm and composed in such a situation.
Let me interrupt Mrs. Manwell's letter briefly to summarize the circumstances she shared. This child was neurologically handicapped from infancy and unable to play like other boys and girls. The rejection of her peers forced her to meet her social needs through her fantasies. She almost casually mentioned the death of a very sensitive and caring mother when she was 10, and the arrival of a stepmother at the beginning of adolescence. Add to that the ridicule of the opposite sex as a teenager and further rejection because she was a preacher's kid. Here are the ingredients for lifelong psychological damage in most children. But this was no ordinary young lady.
Let's return to the letter to see what the Lord has done with her life:
Later, I married a boy I went to school with, and the Lord has blessed me with six sons and two daughters! All of them are married to wonderful Christian mates. For almost 40 years now, Clinton has protected me, sometimes when I would foolishly have bitten off more than I could chew. He has given me the confidence I needed to use the imagination that I developed as a child (to write poetry and short stories).
It is so rewarding to see our children leading lives as respected and honored members of their communities and as caring members of their mate's families. My older daughter came home from a visit with a former school friend two or three years ago and was shocked to learn that many of her former classmates were dropouts from life—they were on drugs or were drinking heavily. They were divorced or were unwed parents. Some were in prison.
Beth said, "When I see our big family that often did not have any of the nice things of life and yet everyone is a solid, law-abiding citizen, I have so much to be thankful for. I think you must have prayed a lot for us."
And I cried. That's the most rewarding aspect of parenthood for me. Thank you for letting me use so much of your time, Dr. Dobson, and God bless you.
Marian Benedict Manwell
Thank you, Marian, for revealing your faithfulness to us. You could easily have blamed God for making life so difficult. Even as a child, I'm sure you understood that He could have prevented that spring from breaking, or redirected it away from your head. He didn't have to take your mother when you needed her so badly. He could have made you pretty, or popular, or athletic. It would have been reasonable, given these limitations, for you to have been bitter at the Lord. The deck did seem stacked against you. But nowhere in your letter was there a hint of anger or disillusionment. Nor do we sense any self-pity as you described your plight. Instead, as you told us, "Long before this time, I had given my heart to the Lord."
I admire you greatly, Marian Benedict Manwell. The Lord must feel the same. Although He seemed not to care in those early days, He was quietly working behind the scenes to send a Christian husband to love and protect you. Then He blessed you with eight children, each of them growing up to serve Him. What a capstone to a life of faith! If you had yielded to bitterness because of your handicap, your sons and daughters would certainly have observed it. Some probably would have adopted the same attitude. Thank you for holding tightly to your faith even when God made no sense in the affairs of your life! You are also a cherished member of my all-time hall of fame.
[YES THAT WAS INSPIRING, A FEW TEARS FILLED MY EYES; A GREAT EXAMPLE FOR ALL OF US WHEN IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, ANGUISH, AND TESTING. I WAS ABOUT 14 WHEN A NEW BOY CAME INTO THE CLASS AS SCHOOL. I COULD TELL HE WAS FOR WHATEVER REASON A “LONER” - THE TEACHER KNOWING MORE THAN ME, ASKED ME TO SIT NEXT TO HIM AND MAKE HIM FEEL “NOT SO ALONE” - I BEFRIENDED HIM, WENT TO HIS HOME AT TIMES AND PLAYED WITH HIM AT WHATEVERS. HE AND HIS PARENTS DID MOVE AWAY AFTER A ABOUT A YEAR. BUT I WAS PLEASED I HAD A CHANCE TO BE HIS FRIEND AND HOPED IT HAD HELPED HIM FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD OF LIFE - Keith Hunt]
There are more heroes in my catalog than I could describe in many volumes this size, but I will resist the inclination to name them. Our purpose, as you know, has been to help those who are not so well grounded in their beliefs. If everyone was gifted with the tenacity of a bulldog and the faith of Father Abraham, there would be no need for a discussion of this nature. But most of us are not spiritual superstars. That's why these thoughts have been dedicated affectionately to individuals who have been wounded in spirit by experiences they could not understand. The pieces to life's puzzle simply have not fit together, leaving them confused, angry, and disillusioned.
Perhaps you are among those who have struggled to comprehend a particular heartache and God's reason for allowing it. A thousand unanswered questions have been recycling in your mind—most of them beginning with "Why . . . ?" You want desperately to trust the Father and believe in His grace and goodness. But deep inside, you're held captive by a sense of betrayal and abandonment. The Lord obviously permitted your difficulties to occur. Why didn't He prevent them—and why has He not attempted to explain or apologize for them? The inability to answer those fundamental questions has become a spiritual barrier a mile high, and you can't seem to find a way around or over it.
For some of you, your sorrow can be traced directly to the death of a precious son or daughter. Your pain from that loss has been so intense that you've wondered if you could even carry on. What a joy he (or she) was to your heart. He ran and jumped and giggled and hugged. You loved him far more than you valued your own life. But then, there was that horrible morning at the pool, or the ominous medical report, or the accident on the bicycle. Now your beloved child is gone, and God's purpose in his death has remained a mystery.
For someone else, there will never be anything as painful as the rejection you were dealt by an ex-husband or wife. The day you discovered the infidelity, or when the divorce papers arrived at the door, or that unforgettable night of violence—those were indescribable moments of heartache. In some ways, it would have been easier to have buried the spouse than to see him or her in the arms of another. How could that person to whom you gave everything be so cruel? Many tears were shed as God was begged to intervene. When the marriage continued to fail, disillusionment and bitterness rolled over you like a tidal wave. You've said you would never trust anyone again—not even the Almighty.
I'm thinking also of the widows and widowers who are trying to survive on their own. If you are one of them, you know that very few of your friends fully comprehend. They want you to get over this loss and return to the business of living. But you just can't do it. For so many years, your marriage was the centerpiece of your existence. Two separate human beings truly became "one flesh" as God intended. It was such a sweet love affair that could have gone on forever. In fact, when you were young you honestly thought it would. But suddenly, it was over. And now for the first time in many years, you are truly alone. Is this what it all comes down to?
My mother never did recover from the death of my dad. He left her suddenly at the family table one Sunday afternoon at 66 years of age. Though she lived 11 years beyond that day, her heart was broken and it never healed. She had built her life around the man who swept her off her feet in 1934, and she simply could not face the future without him. My mother didn't blame God for his passing, but she suffered nonetheless. This is what she wrote in her diary near the first anniversary of my father's death:
People have told me that the first year was the hardest. It's been one year and three days since you died, and tonight I am frantic with longing for you. Oh dear God! It's more than I can bear. The sobs make my heart skip beats. I cannot see the paper. My head throbs. The house is lonely and still. Visions of you have been as real as if you were here and had not left me. Today I thanked God for letting an angel watch over me. But how desperately I missed you!
It is very cold outside. Last night, a sleet storm covered the earth with ice and then froze into a solid crust. The streets are slippery and dangerous. I hate it. It makes me feel blue, frightened, and alone. I dread the winter to follow. It will last for three more months.
I moved into the smaller bedroom today. I wish you were here to share that room with me. There are precious memories there. When I was ill four years ago, you prayed for me in that bedroom during the midnight hours. You lay on the floor, agonizing in prayer for me. We both knew the Spirit was praying through you. Later the Lord led us to a doctor who helped me find my way back to health. Oh how I loved you. I love your memory today.
What a special lady my mother was, and how profoundly she loved my father! She is with him in heaven now. But there are other widows and widowers out there who loved just as deeply and now must face the future alone. I extend to each of them my love and prayers as they take one day at a time.
There are so many other sources of pain. I am mindful of those among my readers who are hurting for less catastrophic reasons, such as adult children of alcoholics, those who have been overweight from childhood, those who were physically or sexually abused in the early years, and people who are blind, quadriplegic, chronically ill, etc. I'm also concerned for the single mothers who wonder how long they can carry the load that is on their shoulders. A million different scenarios exist, but they all point to a similar kind of frustration. And most of them bear theological implications.
To those whom I have been describing—those who have struggled to understand God's providence—I bring hope to you today! No, I can't provide tidy little solutions to all of life's annoying inconsistencies. That will not occur until we see the Lord face to face. But his heart is especially tender toward the downtrodden and the defeated. He knows your name and he has seen every tear you have shed. He was there on each occasion when life took a wrong turn. And what appears to be divine disinterest or cruelty is a misunderstanding at best and a satanic lie at worst.
How do I know this to be true? Because the Scriptures emphatically tell us so. For starters, David wrote, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).
Isn't that a beautiful verse? How encouraging to know that the very presence of the King—the Creator of all heaven and earth—hovers near to those who are wounded and discouraged. If you could fully comprehend how deeply you are loved, you would never feel alone again. David returned to that thought in Psalm 103:11: "For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”
Another favorite passage of mine is Romans 8:26, in which we're told that the Holy Spirit actually prays for you and me with such passion that human language is inadequate to describe it. That verse says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." What comfort we should draw from that understanding! He is calling your name to the Father today, pleading your case and describing your need. How wrong it is, therefore, to place the blame for your troubles on the best Friend mankind ever had! Regardless of other conclusions you draw, please believe this: He is not the source of your pain!
[A GREAT THEOLOGICAL MISTAKE IS HERE, NOT ONLY BY DOBSON BUT MANY MANY OTHERS. THE CONTEXT TELLS YOU “THE SPIRIT” HERE IS JESUS THE CHRIST, NOT SOME THIRD INDIVIDUAL OF THE GODHEAD; FURTHER PROOF IS FOUND IN 1 TIM. 2: 5….. THERE IS ONLY ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN - THE MAN CHRIST JESUS. THERE IS ONE MEDIATOR ONLY BECAUSE THE HOLY SPIRIT IS NOT A SEPARATE INDIVIDUAL PERSON IN THE GODHEAD, BUT IS THE VERY NATURE AND POWER OF BOTH THE FATHER AND THE SON - MY STUDIES UNDER “ALL ABOUT GOD…..” PROVE THIS TRUTH - Keith Hunt]
If you were sitting before me at this moment, you might be inclined to ask, "Then how do you explain the tragedies and hardships that have come into my life? Why did God do this to me?" My reply, which you've read in previous pages, is not profound. But I know it is right! God usually does not choose to answer those questions in this life! That's what I've been trying to say. He will not parade His plans and purposes for our approval. We must never forget that He is God. As such He wants us to believe and trust in him despite the things we don't understand. It's that straightforward.
Jehovah never did answer Job's intelligent inquiries, and He will not respond to all of yours.
Every person who ever lived, I submit, has had to deal with seeming contradictions and enigmas. You will not be the exception. If that explanation is unsatisfactory and you can't accept it, then you are destined to go through life with a weak, ineffectual faith—or no faith at all. (You'll just have to construct your castles on some other foundation). That will be your greatest challenge, however—because there is no other foundation. It is written, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). My strongest advice is that each of us acknowledge before the crisis occurs, if possible, that our trust in Him must be independent of our understanding. There's nothing wrong with trying to understand, but we must not lean on our ability to comprehend! Sooner or later our intellect will pose questions we cannot possibly answer. At that point, we would be wise to remember His words, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). And our reply should be, "Not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
When you think about it, there is comfort in that approach to life's trials and tribulations. We are relieved from the responsibility of trying to figure them out. We haven't been given enough information to decipher the code. It is enough to acknowledge that God makes sense even when He doesn’t make sense.
Does this approach seem a bit simplistic, like an explanation we would give a child? Yes, and for good reason. Jesus put it like this, "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Luke 18:17).
But what do we say to the person who just can't grasp that truth? What advice is available for that individual who is bitter and deeply angry at God for some perceived misdeed? How can he or she circumvent the betrayal barrier and begin a new relationship with the Lord?
There is only one cure for the cancer of bitterness. That is to forgive the perceived offender once and for all, with God's help. As strange as it seems, I am suggesting that some of us need to forgive God for those heartaches that are charged to His account. You've carried resentment against Him for years. Now it's time to let go of it. Please don't misunderstand me at this point. God is in the business of forgiving us, and it almost sounds blasphemous to suggest that the relationship could be reversed. He has done no wrong and does not need our approbation. But the source of bitterness must be admitted before it can be cleansed. There is no better way to get rid of it than to absolve the Lord of whatever we have harbored, and then ask His forgiveness for our lack of faith. It's called reconciliation, and it is the only way you will ever be entirely free.
The late Corrie ten Boom would have understood the advice I've given today. She and her family were sent by the Nazis to an extermination camp at Ravensbruck, Austria, during the latter years of World War II. They suffered horrible cruelty and deprivation at the hands of S.S. guards and, ultimately, only Corrie survived. After the war, she became a celebrated author and spoke often on the love of God and His intervention in her life. But inside, she was still bitter at the Nazis for what they had done to herself and her family.
Two years after the war, Corrie was speaking in Munich, Germany, on the subject of God's forgiveness. After the service, she saw a man making his way toward her. This is what she would later write about that encounter:
And that's when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister's frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
The place was Ravensbruck and the man who was making his way forward had been a guard— one of the most cruel guards.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out.
"A fine message, Fraulein! How good it is to know that, as you say all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!"
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
"You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he was saying. "I was a guard there." No, he did not remember me.
"But since that time," he went on, "I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear from your lips as well. Fraiilein,"—again the hand came out— "will you forgive me?"
And I stood there—whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it—knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. "If you do not forgive men their trespasses, "Jesus says, "neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will and the will can function regardless of the temperatures of the heart. "Jesus, help me!" I prayed silently. "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling." And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
"I forgive you, brother," I cried. "With all my heart."
For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely, as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, ". . . because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." 1
[I HAVE TO ADMIT TEARS WERE ROLLING DOWN MY FACE READING THESE WORDS….THE ULTIMATE TYPE OF FORGIVENESS WOULD BE IN THIS KIND OF FORGIVENESS SITUATION THAT CORRIE WAS NOW IN; BUT JESUS SAID IN HIS TEACHINGS, PARAPHRASING, “IF YOU CANNOT FORGIVE OTHERS THEIR SINS, HOW CAN YOU EXPECT GOD TO FORGIVE YOU OF YOUR SINS”…… WOW THAT IS QUITE SOMETHING PUT IN THE CONTEXT OF CORRIE’S SITUATION. JESUS DID NOT CLASSIFY SINS, AND SAY, “WELL THESE KINDS OF SINS BUT OTHER TERRIBLE SINS YOU CAN NOT FORGIVE.” SIN IS SIN; SIN IS SMALL OR GREAT, AND JESUS TAUGHT IF OUR BROTHER/SISTER CAME AND ASKED FORGIVENESS 7 X 70 - NO LIMIT, WE ARE TO FORGIVE - Keith Hunt]
Corrie's words have great relevance for us at this point. Bitterness of all varieties, including that which is seemingly "justified," will destroy a person spiritually and emotionally. It is a sickness of the soul. Corrie forgave an S.S. guard who shared responsibility for the deaths of her family members; surely, we can forgive the King of the universe who sent his only Son to die as an atonement for our sins.
Before we close, there is a particular person whom I want to address directly. I am especially concerned about that individual among my readers who is facing a terminal illness at this time. You've learned more than you ever wanted to know about chemotherapy, radiation, MRI's, liver biopsies, angioplasties, CAT scans, or abdominal surgery. Any one of these procedures (and a thousand others) is enough to demoralize the most secure among us. Perhaps you are not angry at God in the way I have described, but you are hurt, confused, and demoralized. You've wondered, with proper respect, why God would let this happen to you. I believe I have a word from the Lord that may be helpful to you. I certainly hope so.
It is so important to understand that God's value system is entirely different from our own—and His is correct. In human eyes, death is viewed as the ultimate
l. Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1976), pp. 53-55.
defeat—the final tragedy. As such, it hangs over our heads from early childhood like the sword of Damocles.
My first encounter with death occurred when I was barely three years of age. I had become friends with a two-year-old whose parents were members of the church my father pastored. His name was Danny, and he came to visit me one day. We dressed up like cowboys and walked around shooting at things with toy guns. I remember trying to teach the little fellow how the game was played.
A few days later, Danny contracted an infection of some type and died very quickly. I didn't understand what had happened to him, although I knew my parents were upset. They took me with them to the funeral home but left me in the car for what seemed like an hour or more. Finally, my father came to get me. I was taken inside and shown the casket of my little friend. Dad then held me up so I could see Danny's body. I remember believing he was asleep, and that I could have awakened him if they would let me open his eyes. After we got back in the car, my parents tried to explain what had happened to Danny.
That was my first awareness that bad things can happen to good people. A short time later the same thing happened to my grandmother, and I began to get the picture. That gradual awareness of death is rather typical for preschool kids. Their dogs and cats die, and then they lose a grandparent or another member of the family. Some children, especially those in the inner city, learn about dying from the violence they witness in the streets.
Regardless of how it comes to be understood, death has a profound impact on our outlook and behavior from that point forward. For most of us, it represents the ultimate tragedy—the end to everything familiar and predictable. It bears the aura of the unknown—as depicted in horror movies and "scenes from beyond the grave." It is usually associated with disease, accidents, and violence, all having threatening overtones for us all.
Given this lifelong orientation, a diagnosis of a terminal illness (or the loss of a loved one) bears awesome implications for us psychologically and spiritually. I'm sure it will always be that way, and these words will not change it. But we need to understand that God views death very differently than we. It is no disaster to him. Isaiah 57:1 states, "The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil." In other words, the righteous are far better off in the next world than in this one. Psalm 116:15 puts it more succinctly: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints."
What do these Scriptures mean for the living? They hint at a place on the far side of the river that is more wonderful than we can imagine. That is, in fact, precisely what we read in 1 Corinthians 2:9: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." How reassuring it is to know that our loved ones have gone on to that better world and that we as believers will soon join them!
[AND I SUSPECT THIS IS WHY MOST OF CHRISTIANITY WILL NOT, DOES NOT, WANT TO ACCEPT THE TRUTH OF THE BIBLE THAT DEATH IS SLEEP; IT IS NOT GOING OFF TO HEAVEN, AT THIS TIME; IT IS I GUESS MORE MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY COMFORTING TO BELIEVE YOUR LOVED ONE IS IN HEAVEN ENJOYING THE FELLOWSHIP WITH FATHER, SON, AND THOUSANDS OF OTHERS FROM ALL AGES - Keith Hunt]
Does this sound like "pie in the sky by and by"—or perhaps "the opiate of the people," as Karl Marx sarcastically described it? Sure it does, but the Bible teaches it and I believe it. And because I do, death has taken on an entirely new dimension for me.
[NO THE BIBLE DOES NOT TEACH HEAVEN OR HELL AT DEATH; THE BIBLE TEACHES DEATH IS SLEEP UNTIL THE RESURRECTION DAY - Keith Hunt]
In a recent telephone conversation with the Billy Graham, whom I admire tremendously for his consistent walk with the Lord, I mentioned his ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease. Having watched that illness ravage the mind and body of my mother, I asked him, "Does your faith hold you steady at this stage of your life? Do you still believe what you did when you were young?"
The godly evangelist immediately replied with great emotion, "Oh, Jim, I can hardly wait to see my Lord!"
That is the biblical response to death. It is not a tragedy—it is a triumph! We should see it as a transition to the unfathomable joys and fellowship of eternal life. I heard a man who understood this concept beautifully. His last words before dying were, "This should be interesting."
[WELL THAT PERSON STILL DOES NOT KNOW HOW INTERESTING; FOR DEATH IS A SLEEP, WE DO NOT GO OFF TO SEE THE LORD; ON THE RESURRECTION DAY WE SHALL SEE HOW INTERESTING IT ALL IS, AND WE SHALL SEE THE LORD, BUT NOT TILL THEN - Keith Hunt]
Paul put it like this: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Corinthians 15:55, KJV). Then toward the end of life he said, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21).
[YES TO DIE IS GAIN, FOR THERE IS NO MORE SORROW, PAIN, HEARTACHE, TROUBLES, IN DEATH, BUT THE VERY NEXT AWAKENING, KNOWING NO SPAN OF TIME, YOU ARE IN THE RESURRECTION AND AWAKE TO ETERNAL LIFE - Keith Hunt]
If you have recently lost a child or a loved one, or are facing death yourself, I don't want to minimize your pain. But I hope you will see that the discomfort is intensified by a misunderstanding of time. Our journey here has the illusion of permanence about it. Billions who went before us thought the same thing. Now they are gone—every one of them. In truth, we're just passing through. If we fully comprehended the brevity of life, the things that frustrate us—including most of those occasions when God doesn't make sense— wouldn't matter so much.
This is a vitally important biblical concept. David wrote, "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16).
He also said, "Show me, O Lord, my life's end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life" (Psalm 39:4).
Moses expressed the same idea in Psalm 90:12, "Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." That "wisdom" of which Moses spoke puts everything into proper perspective. It is difficult to get excited over raw materialism, for example, when one remembers that everything in this life is temporary.
That thought occurred to me one day when I was taking a commercial airline flight. We taxied out to the end of the runway and waited for clearance to take off. I looked out the window and saw the remains of two huge 747 airplanes sitting on the field. All the paint had been stripped off the fuselage and rust was spreading down from the top. The insides had been gutted and the windows were sealed. Then I saw a tiny bit of blue paint on the tail of one plane and realized these had been proud ships in the fleet of Pan American Airways. The empty hulks looked pitiful sitting out there alone, shorn of their beauty. For some reason, they reminded me of the poem entitled "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field (1850-1895). The first stanza reads:
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
I might have composed my own poem as I sat looking out the window:
Time was when these two airplanes were new
And they flew to great heights in the sky.
But now they are rusty, forgotten, and old
And they seem to be questioning, "Why?"
I imagined the day these magnificent craft were rolled out of the Boeing plant with shiny new enamel and the proud Pan Am insignia on their tails. They were christened with champagne amidst cheers and laughter. Then they were taken on their maiden voyages. Little boys and girls craned their necks skyward to watch these beautiful birds come in for a landing. What excitement they must have generated for passengers and crew.
Now, the company that owned them has gone bankrupt, and the planes are grounded forever. How could it happen in fewer than 20 years? Who would have thought these multimillion-dollar aircraft would come to such a quick and ignoble end?
As we taxied past the shells, I thought about the impermanence of everything that now looks so stable. Nothing lasts very long. And we are the ones who are passing through, on our way to another life of far greater significance.
To those who are hurting and discouraged at this time, I think it would be comforting to look forward to the time when the present trials will be a distant memory. A day of celebration is coming like nothing that has ever occurred in the history of mankind. The guest of honor on that morning will be one wearing a seamless robe, with eyes like flames of fire, and feet like fine brass. As we bow humbly before Him, a great voice will thunder from the heavens, saying:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Revelation 21:3-4)
And, again the mighty voice will echo through the corridors of time:
Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:16-17)
This is the hope of the ages that burns within my breast. It is the ultimate answer to those who suffer and struggle today. It is the only solace for those who have said good-bye to a loved one. Though the pain is indescribable now, we must never forget that our separation is temporary. We will be reunited forever on that glad resurrection morning. As the Scripture promises, our tears will be banished forever!
My father and mother will also be in the crowd on that day, standing expectantly beside my great-grandfather who prayed for me before I was born. They will be straining to catch a glimpse of our arrival, just like they did so many Christmas seasons when we flew into the Kansas City Airport. Dad will have so much to tell me that he will be bursting with excitement. He'll want to take me to some distant planet he's discovered. Your loved ones who died in Christ will also be in that great throng, singing and shouting the praises of the Redeemer. What a celebration it will be!
This is the reward for the faithful—for those who break through the betrayal barrier and persevere to the end. This is the crown of righteousness prepared for those who have fought a good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Throughout our remaining days in this life, therefore, let me urge you not to be discouraged by temporal cares. Accept the circumstances as they are presented to you. Expect periods of hardship to occur, and don't be dismayed when they arrive. "Lean into the pain" when your time to suffer comes around, knowing that God will use the difficulty for His purposes—and, indeed, for our own good. The Lord is very near, and He has promised that your temptation will not be greater than you can bear.
I'll leave you with these wonderful words from Psalm 34:17-19:
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.
PUTTING ASIDE SOME OF JAMES DOBSON’S THEOLOGICAL ERROR; I WILL SAY THIS IS A VERY FINE BOOK; IT GOES A LONG WAY IN ANSWERING CORRECTLY THE QUESTION “WHEN GOD DOESN’T MAKE SENSE.”