A Sacred Replacement

A Sacred Replacement

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).

What do you do with evil?

What do you do with a story that breathes so heinous that it rocks you to core and forces you to utter words of vengeful wrath and retribution?

What do you do with a God who allows a thirteen year-old boy to die at the hands of his parents because they deemed him punishable—worthy of being tied to a tree for nearly two days in sweltering temperatures until he breathed his last? Until his wounds could no longer bleed. Until his cries for help could no longer be voiced. Until his weary soul finally succumbed to a death that, more than likely, was a welcome relief for this one who had suffered so long at the hands of those who were supposed to cradle and shape him for adulthood.

What do you do with this kind of evil?

I tell you what I did. I cried my soul dry. I got right down on my bedroom floor and pounded my fists, all the while asking my God some hard questions. I asked him why. I asked him about the possible good in the matter. I asked him for vengeance—for a tree tying to be the consequence for two adults who should have loved better. For retribution to be swift and to be hard. For a full measure of remorseful realization to become their portion. For their sleepless nights and for their tortured remembrances.

I am mad, and I don’t know what to do with these feelings. I am frustrated by them because there is little I can do to change the situation. No amount of my wishing and imagining can paint the scene as pretty. This simply is the ugly side of living, and it seems huge and uncontrollable and too big for my management. I have come to my brick wall in the matter, when turning to the right or the left yields a similar outcome—overwhelming sadness.

Neat and tidy living. That is what I’m after. Peace and love and joy and promise. A people created in God’s image through whom God’s image is easily detected. A people who get it right and who walk in the light and truth of Jesus Christ. Not a people who are hard to love and who are seemingly devoid of anything sacred.

When evil roams and rears its ugly swath of color, my dissonance finds its voice. I don’t like these challenges to my faith…to the truth that embodies a good God, despite the evil that persists. Still and yet, evil does persist, and I am forced to grapple with its insistence. God is OK with my questions and my frustrations, but if I am to grow in my perfection toward him, then I must come to some conclusions in the matter. I must move closer in my understanding of how to deal with evil’s prevalent presence.

And just last night, after my pounding and weeping and anger found their rest, I opened up God’s Word to the bookmarked section that would serve as my daily reading. Romans, chapter twelve.

God’s Word is an accomplishing Word. I choose to live the truth of Isaiah 55:10-11. No matter my frame of mind…no matter the circumstances that surround my current, I have learned to go to Scripture in my everyday. I may not always understand what I read or how it applies to my life, but I believe in the power of its effectual work. Last night stood as a relevant witness to this truth, especially as it pertained to my anger and to this world’s proclivity toward evil. In particular, the last verse of Romans 12.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

What am I to do with evil?

I am to overcome it with its contrast—with God’s good.

This is what my Father is calling me to do with the anger that persists in my heart and with the evil that insists its voice within this world.

To overcome evil’s ill effects…to conquer and to carry off the victory in behalf of my King…I must sow goodness into the soil that boasts my current. Period. That’s it. This is what I can do to soothe the ache of the story that has rocked me to the core. And while I wasn’t able to untie the hands of an innocent child prior to his death, I can, in part, untie the hands of evil by putting my hands to the task of planting God’s good seed while I am yet alive.

Of doing some good things today and tomorrow that will supplant the enemy’s intention for evil with God’s truthful intention for all things good.

Thus, I planted a little good this day.

I prayed some prayers on behalf of innocent children everywhere and asked God for his timely return to earth so that others would be spared the anguish of a tree-tying.

I baked some brownies for a summer feeding program that our church sponsors on Wednesday evenings.

I wrote some notes of thanks that needed writing.

I bought a book that needed sending.

I played a game that needed playing.

And in the midst of all my sowing, a friend came by to tender a little goodness in my direction.

Thanks, Beverly, for a Farmer’s Market treasure!!!

Yes, I think that God is onto something, for my day is coming to an end and somewhere within the course of my planting, my anger has subsided and the enemy’s got a portion of his due. Do my simple acts of goodness replace the heinous sins committed against the innocent? Absolutely not. But they do soothe the ache of my soul and lead me closer to a grasping of a sincere and sacred love for humanity.

I hate evil. Therefore, I will cling to God’s good. And for some reason that I cannot begin to understand, my Father allows me the privilege of diffusing evil’s grip through the sowing of his sacred seed via this flesh. I want to do my part, and so I pray…

Use my heart and my hands to plant your good, Father. Make me mindful of all the ways to sow accordingly. Let me not grow weary in the doing, for in time, you’ve promised a harvest of untold measure. Protect us from evil, Lord. Protect the innocent from the schemes of the enemy. And when the hurt grows too painful to bear, remind me that evil is not my end. You are my end, Father, and you hold the final word in the matter. And thus, my hearts says, come quickly, Lord Jesus, and speak you final peace. Amen.

Copyright © June 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.

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In regards to buying that book that needed sending, I decided to sow some good on your behalf. I numbered the comments from my “Raising Faith” six-part series, and drew a number out. #49 is the winner of my newest read, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Connie over at Littlerad is #49. Congratulations Connie! I can’t tell you how much I cherish this man’s poetic embrace of his terminal illness. Please send me your snail mail via my e-mail on the side bar, and I’ll get you your book ASAP!

Also, I am headed to She Speaks/She Writes this weekend in Charlotte, so I will be absent for a few days. My family is on vacation next week, and I will try and post from the road. Be blessed in all your doings this weekend. Sow some goodness for God’s sake and for evil’s defeat. Shalom!

27 Responses to A Sacred Replacement

  1. Dear Elaine,

    Once again I read the heart of a true prophet.

    “When evil roams and rears its ugly swath of color, my dissonance finds its voice.” Thank you for tackling such a painful subject with integrity and transparency. And thank you too for not minimizing the reality of evil by sugarcoating. To overcome evil with God’s good and the examples of how you did that are helpful and instructive in how to walk The Walk.

  2. My heart breaks for this young life that was taken away by evil. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we purposely remove ourselves from the unending parade of evil we see on the nightly news or from what passes for entertainment in primetime. I know there have been many times when I will see a news report and think how awful or evil the situation was. It seems that when you are sure that you can have no better example of what pure evil is than the situation being reported upon, then the next day there is something else that fits the bill and is even worse.

    The father of lies takes great pleasure in destruction. Your words are those of true recognition and discernment. As believers we must all tune our hearts for this kind of discernment. Having planted my feet firmly on a spiritual battlefield for the past decade plus, I understand the delicate balance of praying through an overwhelming flood of sadness and confusion. We must allow God to wash us clean of our confusion and heartbreak and give us the true picture of how great His love really is. The questions you ponder on as to why people do the evil things that they do are unanswerable and unfathomable.

    However as believers we all know the conclusion, Praise God. evil will not succeed.

    I think of my own life and I recognize that it is up to me how I respond to the evil I am faced with. The full amour of God is my protection, the compassion of Christ is my motivation to pray for those who are so steeped in sin. It is the assurance of my salvation and the knowledge that God is greater than anything I can imagine that allows me to weep bitterly at situations that break my heart and then move on to acts of love and kindness.

    I am not sure why, but a very short prayer I found in an old book of bedtime prayers just came to mind.

    Lord, my boat is small and your ocean is big. Amen

    Well said!

  3. wifeforthejourney:

    In this day of mass communications, evil is a regular intruder in every home. Of course evil was no less present before radio, TV, and internet, but today evil appears that much more infectious.

    Thank you for reminding us all that how Christians respond to evil is more important than how governments respond to evil. We should all be glad for our military and local law enforcement and the sacrifices they make every day to protect us – but only the power of God can change the human heart.

    God is able. God is willing. God has given us another day to respond by faith.

    Thanks for your continued committment to keep the Gospel before us. Love, Billy

    may we find the measure of faith we need to respond overcome with Christ

  4. Elaine,

    POWERFUL for I too have some “mad” inside of me with how a number of parents, parent. From one that has not had blood children, simply only God children…..I tend to question why they have children….and some of us don’t. Yet….I know that my God is in control, and that is where I can sow God’s love, with the love He gives me for the children He brings into my life.

    Thank you for this….it hits close to home.


  5. Romans 12 was what my devotional concentrated on yesterday.
    God revealed to me the areas of bitterness towards people who have hurt me, and He reminded me that I have to let those feelings go.
    He will take care of the situation; He doesn’t need my help.
    I love how you threw yourself in to doing good deeds for others.
    That is such a good way to honor God and deal with the difficult feelings at the same time.
    Like you, I just don’t understand so many things that happen in this life. I am thankful though, for a God who is in control. A God who will make all things right in His time.
    I hope you have a lovely time this weekend at SheSpeaks, and an amazing vacation week with your family.

    I am saying a prayer for you as I end this comment.
    God Bless,

  6. So true Elaine. I sometimes feel so overwhelmed with all of the evil around… but God is so gracious to remind me that He has overcome evil. Praise Him.

    Thanks so much for sharing with us the different ways God led you to combat evil with His goodness. Great inspiration. I pray that God will show me how to sow His goodness today.

  7. Once again, you’ve placed something that has been a challenge to me in beautiful perspective. It is overwhelming at times the evil and sadness around us…I echo your prayer for God’s help in replacing evil with the the good I am able to do.

    Praising God for your tender heart and willingness to share such a difficult struggle.

    Praying for you and others attending She Speaks. Also, pray that you and your family have a wonderful and safe vacation together. Looking forward to hearing all about it…

    Blessings sweet friend,

  8. There are things that happen that are so heinous that I just cannot wrap my mind around. Evil so dark that it scares me to the depth of my core. I have cried, yelled, ached. The depth of evil in a fallen world astounds me. Thank God for Christ.

    What do I do with evil? Pray, pray, pray… put on that armor of God and fight… fight with good… the good that can only come from the Spirit living within me.

    I remember years ago when Susan Smith buckled her boys in her car, and pushed them into a lake. My dad asked me how I reacted to her acts as I was struggling w/ infertility and not being able to have a child. He asked me if I questioned God as to why he gave these boys to a woman that would kill them. My response was… God gives children to us as a gift. What we do with that gift is unfortunately affected by the free will we have been given too. God knew what would happen. God knew this woman would do this even before she did… Do I ask why? Sometimes, but I do know that in all things He works for the good. Glory will rise from the ashes. Evil will not win. So as I fight evil w/ God’s goodness what I do with evil is this: I get in Satan’s face. I tell him “you Satan have lost”. You and your evil desire will not prevail. Evil has been defeated for eternity. In this world we will have trouble; there will be evil. But take heart dear ones – Christ, by his innocent blood, has overcome the world!

  9. Elaine,
    Thank you so much, I can’t get the computer to give me your email, so here is mine and then I will email you my address…
    Thank you again I cna’t wait to get it…
    Your in my prayres…

  10. Elaine:
    Thank you for your words. I thank God that He is a God who is patient with us. We can go to Him and ask why? And it is okay. We can cry out and it is okay.

    We can plant good and it is Good!

    Have a great conference and Wonderful vacation.


  11. I’ll never stop being amazed at how evil people are.

    I hope your time at She Speaks is wonderful; I’ll be praying for you.

    Save me a piece of that strawberry cake – I’ll be by in a few – ha!!!


  12. One of those posts that I just don’t even know how to comment, but perhaps in just leaving a comment…

  13. Oh how God’s heart must hurt to see what we do to children. I’ve been a foster parent in the past and have a friend who is now and it never fails to stop me in my tracks when I hear of some of the pain children endure.

  14. Oh my goodness that is awful!
    Thank you for sharing you personal struggle with this situation. I think it may in a way speak on what I was feeling a couple weeks ago with the Special needs kids and how I questioned “why”.
    Have fun at the conference! I love to hear her speak.

  15. OH I so needed to read this…you always say everything just right. You are blessed to go to the she speaks conference. I hope to get out there one day! Have fun!

  16. Was this story in the news? (Forgive me, but it’s been a bit crazy out here in Sunny.)
    We share so much, my friend. So much pain raises so many questions…deep, often most painful questions.

    Please pass on a “Yoo-Hoo” to everyone at She Speaks. So wish we could be sitting at the fun table together…

  17. When I hear about crimes that make me “cringe” or make me feel like I need to “thow up”, I,too, hate the strength that evil has on the human race. But at the same time, the more heinous the crime, the more AWESOME I see the redeeming grace of our Saviour! The fact that He died so that these people can be saved if they turn to him in repentance and faith absolutely boggles my mind and makes me want to worship Him more. I don’t think we will ever understand what a wonderful, gracious, loving God we have until we someday meet him face to face and “know as we are known”. Until then….we must continue to do as you say and try to sow seeds of goodness and kindness so that people may be drawn to our Saviour!

    God bless you as you are away at She Speaks. I have been praying for ya’ll today.


  18. What a touching entry. Your anger is a righteous anger; something God fully understands. You are so right. We must never tire in doing the work of God. He will prevail in the end. I am encouraged by your words.
    Thanks so much!

  19. Is that strawberry cake? YUM!

    Words well said. Our Lord hates evil; so should we. May the Lord have mercy on us!

    Have a wonderful time at She Speaks. May you return with a fresh determination to follow the Lord, wherever He may lead…

  20. God’s word is an accomplishing word….how true! That says it all.
    Thanks for your openess in this post.

  21. Elaine,
    I can’t tell you how touched I was by this post..

    As an abused child.. not my dad.. I’ll leave it at that…
    my passionate side pours out here.. but I also can feel an inner rage against this type of situation. i know it happens…

    I became a survivor.. and.. I help those that can’t help themselves… so the part about God using our situations to His good.. He meant it….

    Also the Last Lecture.. Oh my.. awesome.. when I give talks for Hospice now.. I use his 11 minute talk from Oprah…
    I have and do when I go into the homes of family and patients that are about to go on Hospice, tell them it’s about life not death. WE want their days to be a gift.

    I will NEVER take away a persons HOPE. I do not know what God has in store for them. ie Miracle. It happens.





  22. Thanks again Elaine…

    You care so deeply, and your actions spoke loudly.

    My brother was murdered when I was only 14. My mother took that pain to teach us what true forgiveness was and how to reach out to others in need.

    Praying you are having a WONDERFUL time at She Speaks! Can’t wait to hear about your time there.

    Blessings to you and your family as you travel.

  23. Hello, Faith Elaine, and welcome home! I saw you at SheSpeaks but could never make it in time to say hello…you were always surrounded by sweet friends and engaged. I didn’t want to interrupt, but I did pray for you, that the conference would be a blessing to you. Because your writing is such a blessing to me.
    Settle in, dear one, i am still catching up myself…

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