We had the honor of Dr. Greg Boyd and Dr. Paul Eddy leading a seminar on God, Evil, and Spiritual Warfare at school this week. The following is an edited version of the paper I was assigned to write prior to the class. Greg Boyd has had a massive influence on my life, not just my spiritual walk, but rather on my entire worldview (I encourage checking out his website ReKnew.org). I have often wrote about the work of people who have had influence on me, but I tend to shy away from writing about Greg’s work for fear of undermining the weight of it’s beautiful integrity and intelligence. With that being said, I’m sure this reflection is far from encapsulating the message of living within a Warfare Worldview–not to mention my clumsy attempt to weave it together with his more recent work on how to view God in the face of things such as OT violence. Regardless, what it does contain is a vital lesson on how we view our Father when we face suffering and pain. I pray you’ll see what I have learned to see once more, the loving gaze of our Heavenly Father.
There You Were
I was driving down Hwy 169, on my way home after a visit to my parent’s house. The snow was melting, and apart from the massive amounts of sand and dirt peeking out along the roads, it was a beautiful scene. The air, not yet warm, carried on it’s breath a reminder of a new beginning. A feeling of anger welled inside me at the scent of rebirth revealed in the wind of that spring. I could hear my father’s gentle words still echoing in my mind from our visit, “Stephanie, God didn’t take Matt.” I knew that, but it isn’t what I felt. If God hadn’t physically ripped my husband from Earth—from his children, from me—He certainly hadn’t stopped someone else from doing the tearing. Regardless of who was to blame, my flesh that was once fused to my husband was now no more than a gushing, bloody wound I was forced to live with.
I have dealt with spiritual warfare in very tangible ways throughout my life, both before and after becoming a widow. The night I was attacked by a demon who was determined to keep me addicted to cocaine more then I was determined to get sober comes to mind. I think about the day I realized the person I had been listening to in the mirror for years—the one telling me I wasn’t worthy of love— wasn’t actually me. The day when my five year old daughter fearfully told me about her nightmare that contained evil beyond her knowing is my most hated of all. In light of this, it is easy to understand why the average American would rather plead ignorance than try to face the reality of the evil that lies just beyond our five senses. For me however, it was the night I lost my husband that I had to finally face my own ignorance about serving an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God in light of a world filled with pain, evil and suffering.
My husband died of pneumonia at the age of 33. He was a healthy man. The night of his death, he went to bed early due to a bad cold he had come down with that day. Before sunrise the next morning he would be dead. During therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I rewrote the story of my husband’s death in a way my brain was able to handle. For me, this process meant I had to re-walk through that horrific evening, but this time with Jesus by my side. When I now flashback to that evening, Jesus is present throughout the memory. Jesus was there and warns me of my husband’s waking and subsequent asphyxiation. Jesus cries out to our Father while I call 911. Jesus kneels beside me, snot and tears pouring into the carpet, as I hear the paddles being charged and recharged and recharged again. Jesus has become a physical part—as I believe He was—of the night my husband died, but where was God?
I knew God was there, I was certain. Why was it I couldn’t recognize Him? It wasn’t until over a year after my husband’s death that I learned I couldn’t see God because I was looking in the wrong places. I couldn’t see Him because I hadn’t fully realized the price we pay for the spiritual war raging all around us. I believe, in part, I couldn’t find God because I was only able to see a shadow of His imprint on that night. I had mistaken God’s shadow for His true self and that can be a costly mistake.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2:17
If I hadn’t been sitting in a chair at Woodland Hills on July 15, 2012, I believe I wouldn’t be quite as capable to answer the question of where God was the night my husband died. Dr. Boyd’s book God at War allowed Spirit revelation into my life regarding God’s intervention, or lack thereof, in Matt’s death. But, it was through Greg’s message “God’s Shadow Activity” that things really began to click. I don’t think I would have the peace I now have regarding my internal dilemma of God “taking” my husband from me if it wasn’t for that sermon. I was at Woodland Hills that night though, and the peace that surpassed understanding for me in those first months of grief has more recently taken on an applicable peace that not only surpasses, but lies within understanding.
So as I sat there that evening, in my church seat, I began to peel away the lies I had been telling myself about God’s role in Matt’s death. I decided to think on that night one more time. This time I understood. This time I finally saw what I hadn’t seen before. I imagined that hellish night. I remember how I fell to my knees in our old hallway. I envision my face planting into the floor. I see myself crying out to my Heavenly Father with the most unearthly noise that had ever left my body. And then I remembered, Christ was there with me. So, I look up from the floor and meet eyes with my Savior as I had so many times during this re-enactment, but this time it was different.
My mouth, just barely able to move, utters in a hushed tone …. “Abba.”
God was there—right there—the whole time. It was only when I looked to the love, found on the cross, that I was able to see the true nature of God … regardless of the light (or darkness) in which I was looking through.
I lost my husband one month ago today (Jan. 23) and found your blog as I search for answers. James was 43 and healthy, but had been exhibiting diabetes symptoms during the last three weeks of his life. He had a Dr. appointment the morning of Jan. 23, but he never made it.
I woke up to him having a seizure (which he never had before) at 5:10am that morning. I quickly called 911 and tried to stay calm as I called my mother-in-law and my parents. The paramedics worked on him for almost an hour before carrying my love out to the ambulance. I so wanted to go with him, but we have two small children (3 and 14 months).
By the time I could get to the hospital, he was gone. The doctors couldn’t give me any answers. They gave him insulin and got him stable, but he had another seizure and his heart stopped. They tried for 45 minutes to revive him. I’m still in shock and still wake up every morning between 5am and 7am. And my girls still have trouble sleeping through the night. I believe in Jesus. I have served Him all my life and my James was a faithful servant of Him too. The night before James died, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “When you wake up, your life will be changed, but Trust me. Trust me. Trust me.” He wouldn’t say who was in danger or how my life would change. As I closed my eyes, I said, “I trust you Lord.” Little did I know that my love would leave me.
What struck me about this blog post was that you seem to have made peace with God. I must admit, I’ve never been so angry with God in all my life. Why did he allow this to happen? He very well could have spared James or at least allow us to say goodbye to each other. Where was my mercy? I’m finding it difficult to trust God when He permitted my Joy to leave me alone with two young children. I’m afraid that He’ll take my children too. I’m afraid to make decisions about the house. I’m sick to my stomach every time I have to deal with the finality of James’ estate. I know my husband. I watched him fight to stay here with me and the girls. I know that if he had known this would happen, he would have gone to the doctor sooner. But now I wonder if that would have helped at all. I know the Lord’s voice. Why didn’t He tell me weeks before? Why didn’t he tell me it would be James when He told me to trust Him? I would have sent James to the ER that very moment. I would have done anything to prevent this.
I know that God is working, but I’m so ANGRY right now. I want to know why God allowed my husband to die when so many other people who aren’t feeling well are allowed to live? We were only three short hours away from that Dr. appt.
How were you able to make peace with The Lord and trust Him with your life and the life of your children? James was my very best friend and my heart aches that I have to live life without him. I miss him so much. We did everything together and had a great marriage.
Any advice or encouragement you could share would be most helpful.
Hi Kanika. Thank you for reaching out. I am so sorry about James, so sorry. I wrote you a response and sent it to the email you entered with your comment. If you don’t get it please let me know. Praying for you! Steph
I’ve always found the problem of evil the most difficult question ever asked. God is all-good and all varieties of Christianity assert this as dogma (except for Rene Descartes), yet still, bad things happen.