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Evil—Part 3: How Do I Live With Bad Stuff?
Sunday, December 17, 2023 by Dr James H Dotson Jr

On my journey through life, I’ve experienced bad stuff. Why does bad stuff happen? Why doesn’t God stop bad stuff from happening? How do I live with/in the midst of bad stuff? Join me as I explore with you the answers to these questions in a 3-part series. I need to let you know up front that my answers will reflect both my lived experiences and biblical perspectives.

This is Evil–Part 3, where I focus on the third question: How do I live with/in the midst of bad stuff? But before you read this blog, let me suggest that you first review Evil–Part 1: Why does bad stuff happen? and Evil–Part 2: Why doesn’t God stop bad stuff from happening? Then, return and continue reading here.

A Little Bit About My Bad Stuff

Early in 2015, I was living with headaches pretty much all day every day. But initially, I did nothing to attend to those signs/symptoms—I just kept working and living as usual. 

At a routine eye appointment later that year, around springtime, I reported my headaches. My optometrist took a closer look and told me my left eye was extended further out than my right eye (protopsis). 

She had me meet with a neurologist who specialized in ophthalmology who confirmed her findings. He then ordered a couple of rounds of brain imaging and told me there was a mass in my brain—it turned out to be a meningioma (primary brain tumor). 

Then, to be on the safe side, he also ordered imaging of my chest, abdomen, and pelvis to see if there were any issues there. Turns out there was cancer in my left kidney that at that point had taken over almost half the organ.

Long story short, in the Summer of 2015 I had my left kidney removed, followed later in the Fall of that same year with my first brain surgery. Because of the position of my brain tumor, they couldn’t get it all out—too close to other critical stuff. So, every 6- to 9-months since then, I go for brain imaging to check the status of the tumor. 

In the Spring of 2019, the report came back that there was an increase/expansion of the tumor. The following Winter 2020, I had my second brain surgery, followed that summer with radiation therapy. One unfortunate consequence of that radiotherapy was that I lost vision in my left eye.

So, among the bad stuff in my life is living today with a brain tumor, vision in only one eye, and only one kidney with stage 3 chronic kidney disease.  

My Mindset Reset

There’s more that I could share with you about the bad stuff in my life, but that’s not the point of this blog. The point is what do I do with my bad stuff and all the bad stuff around me.

For me, it begins with a mindset reset. 

A person’s usual attitude or mental state is his or her mindset: a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations. 

A typical mindset regarding bad stuff is that only good stuff should happen to me and, if God was truly loving–omniscient–omnipotent–omnipresent, he would stop bad stuff from happening to me. 

Living with that mindset is like trying to catch the wind in your hands—it’s not going to happened in this life. In fact, here’s what God tells me:

  • ““I have told you these things, so that you can have peace because of me. In this world you will have trouble. But cheer up! I have won the battle over the world.”” (John 16:33, NIrV
  • “That’s because everyone who is a child of God has won the battle over the world. Our faith has won the battle for us. Who is it that has won the battle over the world? Only the person who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4–5, NIrV
  • “‘I’ll give those who overcome the right to sit with me on my throne. In the same way, I overcame. Then I sat down with my Father on his throne.” (Revelation 3:21, NIrV

I believe God. And so, I’ve reset my mindset from expecting that only good will happen to me to accepting that bad stuff will also happen to me and will exist all around me UNTIL Jesus Christ, who has already overcome the world, returns at his second coming to usher in a new Earth and a new Heaven and a new Me.

But even with that mindset reset, there still remains for me two critical questions:

  • How do I live in the midst of evil and bad stuff in my life NOW?
  • Am I responsible for doing something about evil on the Earth NOW?

How Do I Live in the Midst of Evil and Bad Stuff in My Life NOW?

Decide to follow Jesus and join my life with his.

I have resolved to follow Jesus Christ—his life and his teachings are my guide for living.

Why?

Because over my life journey, I’ve found his way to be better than my own way or the ways of this world. For me, Jesus is more reliable and trustworthy than any other option (worldview, philosophy, theory, religion, person, gods, etc.) out there.

We all believe in something or someone. Based on my experiences, I choose to believe in Jesus Christ and journey with him through my life—in the midst of both the good and the bad.  

  • ““But suppose you don’t want to serve him. Then choose for yourselves right now whom you will serve. … But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.”” (Joshua 24:15, NIrV)
  • “Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me. “I am the vine. You are the branches. If anyone remains joined to me, and I to him, he will bear a lot of fruit. You can’t do anything without me.” (John 15:4–5, NIrV)
  • Also consider Revelation 3:20-21; John 14:23; & Galatians 2:20.

Give thanks. Set my mind on the positive. Ask for help. Trust God.

While there is bad stuff in my life, there is also good stuff in my life. Instead of allowing myself to be consumed with the bad stuff, I choose instead to deliberately look for and give thanks for the good stuff.

Am I idealizing life?

Not at all. I just recognize that a positive frame of mind is a better way for me to handle the bad stuff of life, than is a negative frame of mind that doesn’t move me one iota closer to resolving anything. 

  • “Always be joyful because you belong to the Lord. I will say it again. Be joyful. Let everyone know how gentle you are. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure. Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things. Do what you have learned or received or heard from me. Follow my example. The God who gives peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4–9, NIrV)
  • “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIrV
  • Also consider Matthew 6:9-13; Ecclesiastes 4:9; Isaiah 41:10; & 1 Peter 5:6–7.

Does that mean I ignore the bad stuff in my life, or go through life with smiles on my face all the time, or hop around every day like a blackbird in the sun?

No, certainly not!

Bad stuff is BAD, and often comes with consequences that are really hard to deal with. Sometimes I grow weary, feel down, or just want to give up. But that actually compels me all the more to talk with God about what’s going on in my life and ask him for help. Over the years, God has risen to the top of my list to reach out to for help. 

Does he always give me what I ask for?

No.

But my cumulative life experiences have taught me that he hears me, listens to me, and always answers my requests for help according to what he knows is right and best for me. My personal life history to date leaves no doubt in my mind that God is looking out for me and has my best in mind. Therefore, I’ll keep trusting him with my life.

And I have a social network—family and friends—who know what’s going on in my life, pray for me, encourage me, and help me in tangible ways at just the right time. We support each other. It’s like we’re journeying through life together.

I also reach out to experts to help me with some of the specific challenges I’m facing. Over my lifetime, I’ve received valuable help from healthcare providers, clergy, counselors, coaches, and other professionals. I’m not afraid to reach out for help when I need it.  

Focus on being ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ.

If I take the Word of God—the Holy Bible—to be true, and I do, then there’s a happening ahead in my future that I want to be ready for: Jesus Christ coming a second time to the Earth.

By being ready, I mean being among those Jesus takes back with him to a new Heaven and a new Earth that will be without bad stuff!!! When Jesus returns, I’ll be receiving an extraordinary inheritance from my adopted Father—God, the Creator and Sovereign Ruler over all.

  • “Brothers and sisters, we have a duty. Our duty is not to live under the control of our sinful nature. If you live under the control of your sinful nature, you will die. But by the power of the Holy Spirit you can put to death the sins your body commits. Then you will live. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. You didn’t receive a spirit that makes you a slave to fear once again. Instead you received the Holy Spirit, who makes you God’s child. By the Spirit’s power we call God “Abba.” Abba means Father. The Spirit himself joins with our spirits. Together they give witness that we are God’s children. As his children, we will receive all that he has for us. We will share what Christ receives. But we must share in his sufferings if we want to share in his glory.” (Romans 8:12–17, NIrV
  • ““Keep watch! Stay awake! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:33, NIrV
  • Also consider Mark 13:24-27; 2 Peter 3:10-18; Philippians 1:6; Revelation 21:1-7; & Matthew 6:25-34.

Am I Responsible For Doing Something About Evil on the Earth NOW?

Let love be the modus operandi of my life.

We—human beings—are the purveyors of much of the evil on the Earth. If I want to do something about the bad stuff on the earth, let me begin by loving God and loving my neighbor. 

  • ““Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ This is the first and most important commandment. And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22:36–40, NIrV)
  • ““In everything, do to others what you would want them to do to you. This is what is written in the Law and in the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12, NIrV)
  • Also consider 1 John 4:11; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; & 1 John 5:3.

Resist the devil.

There is no question but that the devil is here on the Earth with the expressed intent to destroy us and he has a host of angels joining with him to that end (1 Peter 5:8 & Revelation 12:9). So, is there anything I can do about Satan? Yes!!!

For Satan to rule in my life, I must give him control of my life. That I choose not to do. Rather, I give control of my life to the Holy Spirit whose power—working in, with, for and through me—overcomes the devil.

  • “So obey God. Stand up to the devil. He will run away from you.” (James 4:7, NIrV)
  • “Even though you are evil, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father who is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”” (Luke 11:13, NIrV)
  • So I say, live by the Holy Spirit’s power. Then you will not do what your sinful nature wants you to do. The sinful nature does not want what the Spirit delights in. And the Spirit does not want what the sinful nature delights in. The two are at war with each other. That’s what makes you do what you don’t want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the authority of the law. What the sinful nature does is clear. It enjoys sexual sins, impure acts and wild living. It worships statues of gods. It also worships evil powers. It is full of hatred and fighting. It is full of jealousy and fits of anger. It is interested only in getting ahead. It stirs up trouble. It separates people into their own little groups. It wants what others have. It gets drunk and takes part in wild parties. It does many things of that kind. I warn you now as I did before. People who live like that will not receive God’s kingdom. But the fruit the Holy Spirit produces is love, joy and peace. It is being patient, kind and good. It is being faithful and gentle and having control of oneself. There is no law against things of that kind. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their sinful nature to his cross. They don’t want what their sinful nature loves and longs for. Since we live by the Spirit, let us march in step with the Spirit. Let us not become proud. Let us not make each other angry. Let us not want what belongs to others.” (Galatians 5:16–26, NIrV)
  • Also consider 1 Corinthians 10:13; Proverbs 4:23; 1 Corinthians 15:33; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:24; & 1 John 4:1-6

Serve—share the love and truth of God with others. 

As God leads, equips, and empowers me, I will work for the good of others. Obviously, I can’t cover the whole world, but I can serve within the sphere of influence God has given me.

I will do what I can to share with others the love and truth God has shared with me. I will not be passive nor silent. 

  • “The LORD has shown you what is good. He has told you what he requires of you. You must treat people fairly. You must love others faithfully. And you must be very careful to live the way your God wants you to.” (Micah 6:8, NIrV)
  • ““You are the salt of the earth. But suppose the salt loses its saltiness. How can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything. It will be thrown out. People will walk all over it. “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill can’t be hidden. Also, people do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand. Then it gives light to everyone in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine in front of others. Then they will see the good things you do. And they will praise your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13–16, NIrV)
  • “Then Jesus came to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. So you must go and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And you can be sure that I am always with you, to the very end.”” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIrV)
  • Also consider Matthew 24:14; Luke 10:29-37; & 1 John 4:7-21.

Final Thoughts

Evil will not last forever—absolutely not!!! There will be an end to Satan and an end to evil and those who follow after evil. Jesus is coming again with a new Heaven and a new Earth where there will be no Satan nor evil. But unfortunately, it will get worse before it gets better as history and world events confirm.

Until then, I must stand firm in my faith in Jesus and my hope in my future inheritance—a new residence free of evil—and live on purpose to glorify God and edify others. 

  • “Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor. Then you can stand firm against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world. So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing. So stand firm. … At all times, pray by the power of the Spirit. Pray all kinds of prayers. Be watchful, so that you can pray. Always keep on praying for all of God’s people. …” (Ephesians 6:10–20, NIrV)
  • See also Revelation 20:7-15; Matthew 24:4-31; & Revelation 22:12-21.

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