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Yesterday afternoon I noticed a book on the shelves in the book area at a Goodwill store here in Orlando with a most intriguing title. I immediately recognized the author, Dr. R.C. Sproul, who is “an American theologian, author, and pastor. He is also the founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries and can be heard daily on the Renewing Your Mind radio broadcast in the United States and internationally” (quote source here). The book is titled, “The Invisible Hand: Do All Things Really Work for Good?” (1996; republished in 2003). No doubt there have been times when most–if not all–of us have asked that question, and most likely asked it far more than once.
The inside front flap of the hardcover edition states the following:
Is it merely coincidence when events occur that cause . . .
Joy to fill our lives,
Evil to seemingly triumph,
Our efforts to succeed,
Sorrow to engulf us . . . ?
Too often in today’s age of secularism we fail to see God’s hand in both the rewards and the trials of our lives. Because He is invisible to us, we erroneously think that many events happen by coincidence; we don’t sense God’s active presence in the course of human affairs. With these blinders in place, we look at the world’s past, present, and future and speculate, “What if . . . ?”
But as R.C. Sproul convincingly writes in “The Invisible Hand,” “There is no ‘what if?’ in God.” He doesn’t roll dice! Nor does He have to wait to see which fork in the road we choose…. He knows the future precisely because He wills the future as He did the past. “He is a God whose providence is in the details”. . . . (Quote source: inside front flap.)
From my own experience over the past seven years, “What if . . . ?” has been a question I’ve asked on a number of occasions. While I believe in God’s providence in all things that happen on this earth, from a human perspective the question is still a haunting one. “What if . . . ?” And we all tend to ask it especially when the hard times hit, and even more so when those hard times stick around for a very long period of time–far longer then we imagined with still no resolution to the situation. My version of the “What if . . . ?” question goes like this:
What if I had never taken that job and moved to Houston over seven years ago?
Well, most likely I would not have been unemployed all this time and now, for the past fifteen months, living in hotels to keep a roof over my head (a situation I have explained in a previous post). Regardless of how often any of us might revisit the “What if . . .?” question, the fact remains that “What if’s . . . ?” don’t actually exist. There is only “What is . . . .”
Dr. Sproul’s book goes into great detail on this very subject. There are twenty chapters in his 210-page book, and he tackles every question we could possible come up with regarding God’s providence in our lives and in our world. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all there–from “Providence as Provision” to “Train Wreck”; from “Everything Is Against Us?” to “To God Alone the Glory”; from “The Invisible Hand” to “The Visible Hand”; from “Providence and Government” to “Providence and the Problem of Evil”; from “Providence and Miracles” to “Counterfeit Miracles” and “Providence and Prayer.” And those are just a few of the chapter titles.
Regarding my own “What if . . .?” question stated above–when I first lost my job in Housotn in April 2009, I had every confidence that God would help me find a new job soon as I was my only means of financial support. My initial focus and all of the my time from the first day after I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 was devoted to one specific goal–to quickly find another job, and before I ran out of money, too. Seven years later I can look back and see now at how narrow my view of the world was back then.
From our human perspective, it is very hard to understand why God doesn’t move in our circumstances (especially the hard circumstances that come to all of us at one time or another) as quickly as we would like him to move, or that the way He sometimes provides for us isn’t the way we had planned. If you’ve been a regular reader of my blog, you know that my current housing situation is one I never expected to happen and has lasted for over 15 months now. If I thought finding another job was hard (and it never has materialized), finding affordable housing on a Social Security income is just about impossible to find without waiting on a waiting list for long period of times (and I’m still waiting). So what is one to do in the interim? And due to that fact, I have found myself living in hotels for the past 15 months as I have been unable to secure more permanent housing that I can afford through the various avenues available to me. At this point in time, I wish I could just twitch my nose like Samantha did in “Bewitched” (a TV sitcom from 1964 to 1972) and finally find an affordable and more permanent place to live.
This situation brings to mind the subject of spiritual warfare. Most of us live according to the physical world that surrounds us–what we can think, see, feel, touch, do, and get, etc. For those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, too often we are unaware of the spiritual battles surrounding us because we don’t recognize them for what they are–battles. However, the Bible is very clear about this spiritual world and it’s reality and that we are living in the midst of it all of the time. And that world more real then even the physical world all around us. The classic passage on spiritual warfare was penned by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian believers and is found in Ephesians 6:10-18. And it’s pretty clear that this battle is a serious undertaking:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
When one is feeling weary, it’s hard to pray about a situation that never seems to change. And it is in that weariness that a spiritual battle can rage on. Last night I started writing this blog post without realizing how frustrated I had let myself get over my current housing situation. An incident came up yesterday morning when I was paying for another week to stay at this hotel that made me realize how weary I am getting from having to live in hotels while not being able to secure more permanent and affordable housing (and living in hotels is far from cheap). I was told that starting with the new year the weekly rate price was increasing, and that I would need to start paying the increased rate starting in February. Since it is a business, I understood why they were increasing the rate, but I never wanted to be living in hotels in the first place. And it sent me back to thinking about how all of this got started in my life in the first place . . . back to when I lost that job in Houston in April 2009.
Before I go any further I want to mention something that impacted me when I read it the other day. I’ve been reading the book, “Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, and in a chapter titled, “The Great Decision,” (Chapter 8), Bonhoeffer was really struggling with a decision he needed to make for several reasons during the rise of Hitler in Germany in the late 1930’s. The details surrounding his decision are too long to go into in this blog post, but through a series of events he was sent to America from his beloved Germany for a year by others who wanted him out of the heat of what was going on in Germany at that time (this was in 1939). However, as noted on page 127, “He had not been in New York twenty-four hours, but Bonhoeffer was already deeply out of sorts. His mind continued to churn about the situation back home [in Germany], wondering how long he should stay in America, and whether he ought to have come at all.”
Bonhoeffer stayed in New York only twenty-six days and returned to Berlin with a stop in England on the way back to see family and colleagues living there. Bonhoeffer kept a diary and right after he decided that he needed to return to Germany (he was determined to obey God and was sure he was doing so in deciding to return to Germany), he wrote the following in his diary on the evening of June 20, 1939 as he “ruminated about the decision, puzzled by the strange mystery of it all” (p. 130):
It is remarkable how I am never quite clear about the motives for any of my decisions. Is that a sign of confusion, of inner dishonesty, or is it a sign that we are guided without our knowing, or it is both? . . . Today the reading [from the Bible–specific verses not mentioned] speaks dreadfully harshly of God’s incorruptible judgment. He certainly sees how much personal feeling, how much anxiety there is in today’s decision, however brave it may seem. The reasons one gives for an action to others and to one’s self are certainly inadequate. One can give a reason for everything. In the last resort one acts from a level which remains hidden from us. So one can only ask God to judge us and to forgive us. . . . At the end of the day I can only ask God to give a merciful judgment on today and all its decisions. It is now in his hand. (Quote from “Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,” by Eric Metaxas, Chapter 8 “The Great Decision,” p. 130.)
And as “he set his face toward Berlin, somehow he was again at peace” (p. 130). He made a decision that he knew he had to make and he followed through on it, and as difficult as it was once he had followed through with it he knew he had made the right decision.
As I look at my own set of circumstances, the hotel situation is just the latest thing to happen to me that reverberates back to when I lost the job in Houston. For some time now I have felt the need to express what I believe was and is really going that has caused me to run into “closed doors” at every turn no matter how hard I have tried to find work and now affordable housing. However, I never knew how to express what I believed was and has been happening that has prevented me from moving forward. Often, we like to believe that we are in control of our circumstances, but that is not always the case–in fact, it rarely is the case.
I moved 1000 miles to Houston from Florida at the end of September 2008 to start that job that I lost a scant seven months later in April 2009. I met with a lawyer on May 1, 2009, to have her review a separation agreement I had received from the company on the day I was fired, but we did not discuss any of the issues that I knew (but had no solid proof to show her) were going on leading up to the day I was fired. I met with her as I was told by my former employer that it was not advisable to sign the separation agreement without having a lawyer review it. She reviewed it and we both signed off on it, and I turned it back in to my former employer. Three months later in July 2009 I found solid physical evidence linking what had happened to me when I worked there but I thought that since I had already signed the separation agreement, it was too late to do anything with what I had found. However, by November 2009 I decided to write a letter to the lawyer I met with on May 1, 2009, detailing in a four-page single spaced letter what happened to me during the time I worked there and including the solid physical evidence that I had found. I know she received that letter as I sent it by certified mail, return-receipt requested, and I received the signed receipt back in the mail. I did not hear back from her.
Due to circumstances that have occurred to me since mailing that letter to her, I have come to believe that there was a some type of lawsuit that was filed or a settlement that was reached through my lawyer at some point after she received my letter in November 2009 stating the clear, physical evidence I presented to her of what was being done to me at my former place of employment that was both unethical and illegal. For whatever reason on their part, I was not contacted by my lawyer, and I believe my former employer contacted some of my family members and they dealt with the lawyer, and it was mutually agreed upon to keep me out of it for reasons that will go unstated at this time. However, due to some conversations I had early on it was apparent that a family member was hoping to get “power of attorney” over me so that the money would be diverted away from me. However, it was not their lawsuit, and I am in no need of designating a “power of attorney” to handle any of my affairs, and the parties involved have been keeping me at a distance from knowing anything about the lawsuit/settlement ever since this started.
Since it is now several years later and no resolution has been found on their part (at least the resolution they have been hoping for which takes me completely out of the picture), I believe the original settlement has accrued to a very large sum of money. And the fact that no one will contact me continues to delay any action regarding it because they don’t want me involved, yet there would be no lawsuit if it wasn’t for what happened to me in the first place. The details are more complex than I have stated here but those details allude to how I have ended up living in hotels as this saga continues.
It’s amazing to me what greed will do to people. It can separate the best of friends; it can separate family members; it kills love; and it is incredibly selfish and self-serving. And public perception has been skewed to not favor (or even hear) my side of the story. From what I have experienced these past several years, it is shocking to see what greed will do to people. And all I’m asking is for some resolution and to be included.
Is that too much to ask for?
I’m asking . . . .
YouTube Video: “Games People Play” sung by Hank Williams, Jr.:
With the start of a brand new year today, January 1, 2016, many people are busy making a list of “New Year’s Resolutions” in an attempt to, once again, “turn over a new leaf” or to “right a wrong” such as changing bad eating habits or starting an exercise program; or perhaps making an effort to restore ailing family relationships or friendships or whatever else might be ailing them. Gaby Hinsliff, a columnist at The Guardian and former political editor of the Observer, stated that her New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to “stop being a lousy friend.” And I’m sure most of us can relate to that one.
While I stopped making New Year’s resolutions at least a decade or two ago, a brand new year always holds out hope for new beginnings as I’m sure it does for most everyone else, too. There’s something fresh and squeaky clean about a brand new year beginning again, and while it seems it doesn’t take much (or very long) to put a smudge on it, we hold out hope for a world tangled in chaos. Just review some of the top news stories of 2015 if you don’t believe it isn’t chaotic in our world today. ABCNews reported, “The San Bernardino shooting [on December 2, 2015] marked at least the 57th mass shooting this year where three or more people were killed, according to an ABC News analysis.” (Quote source here.)
While we may shake our heads with each new tragedy that strikes with ever increasing frequency, most of us haven’t got a clue how to solve the problem of the escalating violence taking place all around us in our nation and around the world. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have for those of us who believe in God, but I know that sometimes there are simply no words to adequately express what is going on all around us. When words escape me and I honestly don’t know how to pray about what is going on, I often pray the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray, also known as “The Lord’s Prayer,” found in Matthew 6:9-13:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts (e.g., our trespasses),
as we also have forgiven our debtors
(e.g., those who have trespassed against us).
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.”
We tend to stumble a lot over forgiving those who have trespassed against us, and perhaps this is one of the biggest causes of the human tragedies that happen in our world that are not caused by nature. And the ability to hate others we often don’t even know has been endemic in our world since the beginning of time. It is, indeed, the age old battle between good and evil. But the lines of evil have clearly been blurred over the past several decades. We’ve replaced the true meaning of evil with meaning something seemingly innocuous and self serving. “If it feels good, do it” became the “emerging values of the 1960’s and 70’s” (quote source here) and perpetuated to the following generations. When we look out only for ourselves without regard for others (especially those we don’t know), everyone eventually loses. A society cannot sustain itself for long if everyone is mostly concerned about what they can personally get out of life. If we take what we want from others without any regard for them, we shouldn’t be surprised if someone eventually comes along and takes it from us.
UPDATE: I’m in the process of revising this post from this point to the end. Since it was originally published earlier today, I don’t plan to delete the post but I decided after rereading it that what I had written from this point to the end needed a lot of “tweaking” (and that’s putting it mildly) so it was just easier to delete it for now. I was actually bemoaning my plight since I lost my job in Houston almost seven years ago (in April), and while what I wrote was cathartic for me to get it off my chest, I do so hate pity-parties and I was having a major one when I wrote it. Listening to music and/or reading a good book usually gets me out of it (fortunately, I very rarely have pity-parties) so I spent the rest of the day reading a John Grisham novel, “The King of Torts” (2003), which is about a young lawyer in Washington D.C. who gets caught up in a “get rich quick scheme” that actually works through “mass tort litigation.” However, greed certainly has it’s down side and this young lawyer gets the full brunt of it before the story ends. At least he gets to keep the old girlfriend.
Trust me when I say that reading that book was a much better deal then reading through what I had written on here before I decided I didn’t need to go so public with my own personal pity-party. What was name of that Leslie Gore song back in the 1960’s? “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To” (click link for YouTube Video). Okay, so I did. Enough already . . . 🙂
So I’ll leave “Righting a Wrong” to those who need to right it (but haven’t so far). What I wrote earlier (and deleted) was actually “Writing a Wrong,” and I’ve written about it in previous posts. Ya’ll know my story by now… 😉
In the meantime while I figure out how to fill up this space (or maybe just leave it as it is), please enjoy the Rascal Flatts song, “My Wish,” linked below.
And Happy New Year!!!
YouTube Video: “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts: