By Paul Ejime
Whenever we are advised to make the “best of any bad situations” or to “produce lemonade whenever life throws lemon at us,” the counsel often sounds easier said than done. This is because some lemons can be so sour; you do not want to get them close to your mouth, even with a large amount of honey or a sack of sugar. Similarly, some situations are so terrible and unbearable you might not even wish them for your enemies.
In this Special Season of the religious calendars as Christians celebrate the Feast of Easter, the passion, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, while Muslims observe the Ramadan which precedes the Eid-al-Fitr, I would like us to reflect on the gains, rewards, and goods inherent in pain, bad or evil.
It might remain beyond human understanding why God allows bad things to happen to good people or why evil and suffering, which he has the power to prevent or stop, persist. Consider Jesus’ persecution, agony and shameful death on the tree with common criminals!
However, as we mature in faith on our spiritual journey, we might discover the God’s Purpose, Reason and the Truth. If founders of contemporary religions have their own “Wilderness” stories, Rejections and Persecutions, it is logical that their followers would endure similar ordeals.
For instance, Jesus Christ, with all his divine powers, could have chosen to be born in the best hospital and through wealthy earthly parents. But he was born in a simple manger among shepherds and to Mary and Joseph, a carpenter. Also, Jesus could have stopped his arrest, betrayal, humiliation, suffering, crucifixion and death. But he did not, because his “Cross” must precede his “Crown” (triumph), just as Progress follows a Process!
Similarly, David endured the hardship of a shepherd, protecting his sheep against wild beasts, and later defeated giant Goliath from Philistine and then faced persecutions by King Saul before assuming his own kingship, 1 Samuel.
Also, Joseph in Genesis 37 narrowly escaped death in the hands of his jealous brothers, who first dumped him inside a dry well and later sold him to foreign traders, only to lie to their father that a wild animal had killed him. His “sin” was the interpretation of his dream that put his brothers in a bad light. From Israel, Joseph ended up in King Pharaoh’s prison in Egypt, but later became Pharaoh’s Prime Minister.
In the same vein, Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den for disobeying King Darius (Daniel 6), while Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were subjected to the burning furnace for refusing to serve the gods of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3).
Also, in the of the parable of the good and bad seeds, Jesus Christ compared the Kingdom of God to the farmer who sowed wheat in the morning, but at night when everyone was asleep, his enemy planted the bad seed (weeds) beside the wheat (Mathew 13:43). When his servants requested that they pull up the weeds, the farmer told them to allow both seeds to grow side by side until harvest time, when the weeds would be separated from the good seed and burnt.
In these examples and many others in the Scripture, God, in His infinite wisdom, permitted and still allows bad/evil to exist side-by-side with the good for the reason/s and purpose/s known to Him, but which are often beyond human comprehension.
If Jesus Christ had not humbled himself in obedience to His Father, Scripture would not be fulfilled, and there would be no resurrection or Christianity.
After being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph became Pharaoh’s second in command and saved his family and Israel from famine. Kings Darius and Nebuchadnezzar only repented from their evil ways to serve the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego after the ordeals of the four men. And if the farmer had allowed his servants to uproot the weeds (bad seed), chances are they might have destroyed the wheat (good) seed in the process.
During periods of adversity or suffering such as hunger, in an accident, ill-health, disappointment, failure, bereavement and general frustration, it is not uncommon to hear, “why me of all people” or similar complaints. When it affects others, it is very convenient for us to wish the bad things away with “it is not my portion.” Yet, when God blesses or does something good to us, we rejoice but often fail to “ask why me,” forgetting that it is the same God that created good and evil.
Psalm 16:2 says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above;” while James 1.17 also states that “all good things come from God.” And if, according to Jeremiah 29:11, God’s “plans for us are good, not to harm (us)… plans to give (us) hope and future,” it is evident that God, has His reason/s or purpose/s for every situation in our lives.
If God can bless and love us unconditionally (despite our faults, sins and brokenness), it stands to reason that He allows adversity some times, to bring out the good from bad/evil and for us to draw teachable life lessons. Unlike the human king or dictator, God allows us the free will to make life choices, which have consequences.
Even under the secular rules and regulations, humans have demonstrated that they cannot effectively manage their affairs, hence the anarchy, impunity, incivility, hatred, disagreements, enmity, oppression, discrimination, poverty, inequality, cruelty, man-made disasters, human displacements, health pandemics, climate change effects, corruption, bad governance, conflicts, wars and avoidable deaths, which characterise human existence.
But God lovingly tries to prune our wild branches. “I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit, apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). Proverbs 3:12 puts it much better: “For the Lord disciplines those He loves, just as a father (corrects) the son in whom he delights.”
To fully harness the good from the bad/evil, we must in faith and humility, submit totally to God’s authority and treat others with unconditional love! Nobody/nothing is totally good or totally bad! May we walk under God’s light and direction to overcome adversities and turn bad to good in our individual, family, community and national lives, for an inclusive, non-discriminatory, equitable, disease-free, less stressful and peaceful World. Amen!
Happy Easter and Happy Holiday Everyone!
*Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and an Independent Consultant on Corporate Strategic Communications, Media, Peace & Security and Elections