“If there is a god, why does he allow such suffering?”
In the midst of this Coronavirus and the fears and inconveniences that follow, I got a message from a former Jehovah’s Witness with whom I’ve had contact for close to two years now. He asked that question after a friendly hello to inquire how my family was coping. I told him our quarantine and sanitizing routine. He was surprised and wrote back “Why? I thought you trusted God.” I explained that I wear a seatbelt and it’s my custom not to jump from cliffs too. Did he think being a Christian meant we were impervious to disease and accidents? Then he wrote “it’s the end of humanity” and asked the infamous “if there is a god” question.
Perhaps you’re thinking what a great opportunity for me to share the gospel.
But you see, he’d already heard it.
He also has been the recipient of answered prayers for a miracle.
But, he’s looking for something else.
You see, when Garret* first contacted me two years ago, he and his wife were both still attending meetings at their kingdom hall. He had been doing research into the Watchtower and “woke up” as we say. That’s when he contacted our ministry with further questions. He still believed in God but wanted details about certain doctrines and needed someone to vent to and ask for prayer.
When our conversations began, Garret said it looked impossible to get his wife out of the Watchtower as she was afraid to even listen to him in his “apostasy.” She continually reminded him that their role was to remain submissive to the Governing Body. As a result Garret went back and forth about writing a letter to his elders. He would write one and then go back and revise it. The fear of being disfellowshipped and separated from his family held him in bondage. But finally, he got to the point where he confided to me “I secretly hope I get disfellowshipped.”
Garret worked on his letter confronting the Watchtower’s claim to be the sole channel through which Jehovah God speaks. He questioned their interpretation of Matthew 24:45-47 concerning the “faithful and discreet slave.” He knew it was all about Jesus and not about a good standing as a baptized member in the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. As he continued in his course, he wrote to me “my wife says she feels humiliated that I have to be her spiritual head. I guess that’s where it hurts the most, that she doesn’t respect me. And if I get disfellowshipped, she will tell me to pack my bags. I just cannot live a lie anymore.”
So he asked for prayer and gave me permission to post his requests in a prayer group in which we intercede specifically for situations involving Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even as we prayed there were many highs and lows with Garret and his situation. We continued our correspondence and at one point he sent the sad news, “I cannot leave the org. I have my family and I have my mother and siblings. My wife is indoctrinated on steroids and she will never leave.” He thanked me for my time and I thought this would be his last letter to me. So with one last attempt to communicate with Garret, I encouraged him to watch the upcoming Leah Remini television special exposing the Watchtower. He wrote back, “I can’t because of my wife. She said ‘oh we shouldn’t watch that because it might affect us’ lol. I am going to ask that you pray that she wakes up.”
Among all the prayers said since Garret and I met,
this one received an answer we could call a miracle.
Father, we gather tonight with prayers for (Garret’s wife) to be shaken and awakened. I ask that she have a burning curiosity to sit beside her husband and just see what this Leah Remini has to say. Please put it in her heart to question whether she has “the truth” if she’s so scared of a TV show. Breathe “awaken” over their household tonight. Father it is exciting to see what you are doing. Through Christ our Lord, amen.
We were all encouraged by Garret’s next letter that said his wife was losing faith in the Governing Body and now at a crossroads. Though they both were still physically present at the Kingdom Hall meetings, he wrote “Yesterday at the meeting they talked about the great tribulation and I noticed that is how they do it, a fear tactic, instilling fear that you will die at Armageddon if you are not with God’s people.” And he ended his email with “So, let’s say we leave the JW’s, both my wife and I, because my wife will most likely leave me if I leave on my own. But let’s say we both leave, do we have to get rebaptized?” Wow, he was contemplating the future. A future to invest in because he added, “I don’t know how close we are to the end but we still have to live our lives. I started an education bond for my son at the bank, I don’t want him going through the same thing we did.”
We were all so encouraged by his goals, giving glory to God and crediting prayer for their upcoming exodus. By now his on again, off again letter of disassociation had grown to 15 pages long. God was creating a testimony in him. And then an email came that read “My wife and mother in law are starting to wake up. My wife yesterday said:”I’m so confused how can Jesus be leading the congregations if he is allowing this abuse with women and children to happen? Either we are wrong, they are wrong, or Jesus is wrong and we know Jesus cannot be wrong.” Then he added, “I beg that you keep praying it seems to be working and I keep praying too. Something has to make her click.”
Prayer truly was working. We knew it. Garret knew it.
Meanwhile, Garret dived into research to the point of exhaustion. He read so much it led him to question whether he should trust God or the Bible. He was angry and his wife was also blaming him for making her lose her faith in their Watchtower religion. The winds of change were blowing hard, so once again, we prayed. And just like that, an email arrived,
“My wife is 100% awake and wants to wake people up.”
Wow, we had prayed for that specific miracle and he got to see God do the impossible!
They were both now awake to the lies of the Watchtower, but Garret and his wife were having difficulty grasping God’s truths. He informed me that his wife wanted “to find a fellowship that believes in Jehovah, doesn’t believe in hellfire, or the immortality of the soul, doesn’t believe in the trinity and doesn’t celebrate birthdays.”
He also asked “Maybe you can pray for us that if the trinity is real to let it be known to us? “
We certainly have been praying and he’s been given plenty of information to read, but what’s really at the heart of this is that neither Garret or his wife have been born of God’s Spirit. His mind is so eager for facts, facts, more facts, he seems reluctant to let go and surrender to God. Like many JWs, he “believes in Jesus” yet doesn’t realize what “belief” really entails for the Christian.
Holy Spirit was relentlessly pursuing Garret and he resisted with a plethora of intellectual arguments. Instead of recognizing the MIRACLE of answered prayer, he wrote,
“I’ll tell you what. If you and others truly believe the trinity is real, then pray that God reveals that truth in a dream or revelation to both my wife and I and that it is 100 percent clear that we clearly discern without question it is God and not a demon and. Then I’ll accept the Trinity otherwise I won’t”
I responded, back “Do you even SEE the miracle God has already performed in your behalf???? Garret, you remind me of the Israelites leaving Egypt. Slaves crying out to God so He raises up a leader in Moses. They do their share of complaining even before they cross the Red Sea while God fights their battle. But even after that miracle all they can see is Moses not providing enough watermelon. Have you even praised God for the first miracle yet? The God who is with you and who’s been leading you out? Or do you just test Him in the wilderness?”
Well that seemed to humble him a bit. But I also got the sense that Garret needed someone else to talk with. Another man. And lo and behold, another exJW in a discussion group said he knew Garret and would invite him to dinner with some other believers from his church. So we prayed for the guests at this dinner party to be empowered to share the Gospel and show the love of God.
The man who hosted the dinner party wrote back to our prayer group a glowing report. He said Garret’s wife was nervous and kept to herself for most of the evening, but Garret was fascinated by the testimonies the couple shared. He was amazed that there were people in christendom who are serious about living for the Lord. After all, Jehovah’s Witnesses are told over and over that those in christendom never read the Bible and church is just one big sinning social club. Garret and his wife heard the Gospel several times that evening. They also gathered in the living room for some worship songs.
Everything seemed to going great for Garret and his wife!
I even got a brief message from Garret letting me know they attended the annual Memorial at the Kingdom Hall to see family but it was their LAST!!! And not only that but when they got home they partook together.
A year has passed since then. And here it is “Memorial season” again and because of the Coronavirus, Kingdom Halls are restricted from hosting the gathering. Garret and his wife wouldn’t be attending anyway, but neither will they be partaking in faith at home in a Christian manner because Garret is wondering if there even is a god.
When he contacted me recently, it wasn’t the first time he questioned the existence of God. Over the past year he seemed more knowledgeable about conspiracy theories, aliens, and various end time scenarios than about the Gospel.
The way I view it, Garret EXPECTS God to do miracles and when he doesn’t get what he wants, he simply stops believing. God is supposed to fix everything RIGHT NOW or God is not real. Like the time he told us to pray for revelation of the Trinity in a dream. If his wife received it, then he’d believe. If not, then he would not believe. Though we did pray, I felt as if he was testing God much like Satan did to Jesus in the wilderness. In an attempt to get Jesus to comply with his demands, Satan taunted Jesus saying if He really was the Son of God, then God surely would have to do as He asked.
When Garret responded “I thought you trusted God” because I told him I washed my hands to make sure I didn’t get the virus, it revealed to me that he has a different concept of what faith in God means. He is believing a lie from Satan that if a child of God jumps off the pinnacle of the temple, angels must automatically be sent to catch him because the Bible says so.
And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; for it is written, ‘He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,’
And, ‘On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.’”
And Jesus answered and said to him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:9-12)
When our attention is taken off Christ and put on the fear of the current situation, it’s then that an enemy of God can twist the truth to get us to do stupid things like jump off temples, eat forbidden fruit, or not wash our hands.
I told Garret that even though I have concerns too, I also have peace knowing the promises are for the ETERNAL part of us which is the SPIRIT. Our bodies have always been expected to perish from one thing or another. My Spirit is secure in Christ. I know the Life in me can not succumb to sickness and death. My body may yes, it’s the SPIRIT that lives.
I told Garret,
“Flesh ain’t everything. But I sure like health while I got it!
So I’m gonna wash my hands just in case.”
And of course, he wanted to know why this god I believed in would allow all this suffering. He must not care at all. I replied,
“If He didn’t care I wouldn’t have this hope in me. I wouldn’t be aware of the eternal life in me. He cares.
There would be no emergency people, no doctors, no researchers, etc if He didn’t care. We are His hands and feet. Stewards of this Earth. He cares. Love is everywhere even amongst this crisis.
What do you think? How did Paul stay so full of joy when he was in “quarantine?”
His life sucked lol. From a fleshly perspective that is.
I was really encouraged reading Philippians over the weekend.
HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT is important whether facing cancer, loss, or a worldwide crisis as this. We can be of better service to one another when built up in hope. We crumble quick and get selfish when the focus turns inward. Paul was praying for those in freedom while he was in prison! That’s quite a lesson to me. Stay prayerful, stay focused. Where the mind goes, the body follows. Might as well keep the mind focused on Christ.”
Then the conversation abruptly ended.
I trust God is with Garret through his doubts. Being part of this ministry has taught me that. Last month’s article about Cyndi* pointed out her doubts and long absences too. Like Garret, she was frustrated when Jesus just wouldn’t fit into every answer she wanted. But we kept focused on the Gospel even though her questions began with various end time scenarios and evidence of a suffering world too. Cyndi dug for the buried treasure and found Christ alone. The good news that she received was forgiveness because Jesus paid the price for her sin. And He set her free from the fear of punishment when she received His perfect love. Now she’s too busy encouraging others with that hopeful message and has little time for conspiracy theories and doubt. I can honestly say I watched a miracle happen when she was set free. The power of the Gospel still amazes me.
And that is miracle enough.
Keep yourself in God’s love,
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals