in continuation from the lengthy chat going on in yesterdays post about sin...
So Lesley said:
I would be interested in your journey of understanding of evil and the difference it has made to you.
So to answer this fully, I need to go back to the beginning a bit. My testimony can be seen here. But in a nut shell, I have been to church regularly all my life - traditional village churches. All through this time I struggled with faith, in fact I would say that for the most part I had no faith - not even sure there was a mustard seed... Sometime before Christmas we had some work done on our house and one of the chaps was a very commited Christian who basically ministered to me daily, just telling me about his testimony, his life, his faith. I, as I am still doing, questioned many things he said. I was frankly a pain in the backside. But through it all the love of Jesus just shone through him. I am not sure at what point I actually let go but I think I just realised I couldn't not believe, if that makes sense.
There were several things that he raised that really made me think, all things I had not heard discussed or talked of before. Which is why I am so down on the traditional church because I can't believe that they didn't give me a full view of faith, in all those years, I can't tell you the turmoil in my head over faith, for sooooo many years. Really all I needed was the full picture. I have said many times that if I get into something or want to know about a subject I want to know all of it. I investigate, research, immerse myself in it and that's what I needed to do with Chrisitainty.
So he talked about the presence of evil a fair amount - probably mostly prompted by me as I had not heard any of it before. He talked about 'the enemy' as a real presence of evil that can have an impact on us. and the thing is I believed this from the word go. His testimony is so powerful, taking an overdose and seeing the face of Satan in the mirror, but surviving thanks to the Grace of God (it's his story to tell so I'm not going to write it all out here).
One thing he told me about was seeing a demon cast out of someone. This guy is a close friend now, but at the beginning he was just someone working on our house. There was no reason for me to believe him, in fact I think my most used word at the time was 'really?' said in that questioning way... But despite this I knew, just knew in my heart, that he was telling me the truth. The Truth.
So the demon: this was a friend of his who he had been doing some work for. he gave various accounts of feeling things when this chap was around (not really quantifiable) and seeing something different in his eyes, and his voice being different, like there was something else there, that kind of thing. He said this chap came to church with him one time and in the church something happened to him and he was shouting and so on. Apparently people legged it from the church they were so scared. He was down on all fours growling.... the Pastor commanded the demon to come out and it refused. The Pastor just looked at him and said look at my eyes, who do you see. to which this chap/the demon said 'Jesus', so the pastor commanded the demon to come out in Jesus name, and it did, throwing this guy to the floor as it went.
Now when I first heard that account, I knew it was true but I also didn't believe it at the same time. Obviously this is not something I have seen first hand, but this very approach to a force of evil really helped me to get a handle on my faith. All the years I had this little voice whispering in my ear, 'its not real you know, no one is listening..' I put that down to the Devil now. Because it isn't that I didnt want to believe before, I did, I wanted more than anything to have an all-consuming faith without the doubt and the whispering voice. And now, its not like I never have doubts, its just that from all that has happened to me recently I just know, even when I doubt. If that makes sense?
Our church runs the 'Living Free' course, which I have mentioned before, but see here for more info. As the name suggests it is about living free from the crap of life, the chains that hold us down. It refers to the enemy and the force of evil a lot and it totally makes sense to me. My husband did the course a little while back and I am about to do it. But while he was on it I read all the literature alongside and listened to the talks on our church website. Those who are not in favour of this course generally site that they don't wish to give too much credit to the enemy by putting all sin and all bad things that happen downto him - and I guess thats where my original question comes in about what is sin and is it all from The Devil or from a force of evil. But I would say that so many people have been through this course, at our church and much further afield and the feedback is amazingly positive.
So now, well, I am still asking questions but I do ultimately believe in a force of evil, whether that is from the Devil as a 'person' or otherwise I am still unclear, but I do think that this presence of evil can affect us individually but that we have tools to deal with it and that as Christians Jesus overcame it for us, so we don't have to be under this force.
One of my biggest questions before, was why all the suffering in the world?, why does bad stuff happen?, but I think I understand that better now. In the wider sense of faith, we cannot be forced to believe, because that is not what God is about, he asks us to love him and one cannot be forced to love another, it goes back to free will, as discussed in yesterdays comments section. So in order to love, we must have feelings of our own, including bad ones, in order to distinguish the good from the evil for ourselves. And in that sense God must have created the bad in order for us to experience it. Because if he didnt then someone else did and that would mean he is notthe all powerful force that we believe in. So I subscribe to the theory that God created everything including evil. Whether he ever intended us to experience it as we do now, is another question, and goes back to whether you believe in the Devil, and the fall, which would explain it as far as I can see.
So, I guess while I still have questions, (think I probably always will, because I am always seeking to know more...) I feel that I have a fuller picture of faith in general and of my own now. Whilst I don't wish to dwell on the dark side (!) I do think its important that one addresses this side of faith. For me there are so many issues that I need to get my head around and that's not an easy journey but a necessary one; even when it's not a particularly 'nice' subject to think about.
I will not put down my renewal of faith to knowing more about this, it's not, it's about having my eyes opened by God, but in order to have the full picture, which then enabled me to believe whole heartedly as I have never done before. So in that sense, to Lesleys original question, the difference it has made to me is immeasurable. It is Faith itself.