On Wednesday morning, during my quiet time with God, just finishing up Proverbs, a question formed in my head. It’s not as though I have never asked the question in one form or another many times before but this time, somewhat older and by default wiser, a clearer answer came. Some folks refer to this as the Lord speaking to them. I refrain from labeling it that way because without a strong, mature knowledge of how God speaks to us through the Spirit it sounds arrogant. Somehow. But that’s just me.
Nevertheless, this is how He speaks to me, when I am ready to hear. Time after time, it’s usually the simplest answer possible. Humans keep trying to make walking with Christ so hard, so complex, so bound by religious law and definable only by the highly trained and credentialed. But even Christ said that His yoke was easy. Pretty clear, that. Not sure how it got off track from EASY.
I mulled over the answer to my question the rest of the day and into the next. On Thursday, I made a trip to Costco and paused in front of a stack of books. First title I laid eyes on was Accused by Tonya Craft. It’s the true story of a woman who prevailed against the most heinous accusations possible - child molestation. Not sure why but I put it in my basket.
On Friday, I had the whole day to myself, with nothing on the schedule, husband out of town, so I sat and read all 405 pages. From cover to cover. The sun was shining when I began and was long set when I finished. That the unique circumstances came together to allow this marathon read did not escape me. Whenever God is trying to get through to me, He always sends confirmation in the most unusual way.
Tonya Craft, a gifted, well-liked kindergarten teacher in a small town in Catoosa County, Georgia, on the first day of summer break, May 29, 2008, gathering her two children and a friend to head to the first swim of the summer, opened her door to two detectives. Her life from that moment forward for the next two years was an unimaginable trial of faith. First accused of molesting two girls, over time she was also accused of molesting even her own six year old daughter.
Told in first person, the story, nightmare actually, takes the reader in real time into the depths of grief, fear and disbelief that Tonya experienced and compels the reader to consider how easy it would be for anyone to face such a tribulation. Accusations are so easy. Guilty until proven innocent, everything was taken from her. Her job, her children, her reputation, her life as she had known it.
On the inside of the dust cover the last paragraph states: “Accused is the first hand account of Tonya’s fight to clear her name and regain custody of her children. Her story shows us that, for the falsely accused in a flawed legal system, simply telling the truth isn’t enough.”
Tonya made two good decisions from the day her whole world fell apart to the day she was truly free again more than two years later. First, she determined not to roll over and let evil have its way. She fought back. Along the way she learned what was truly important in life and worth standing up for. Secondly, she learned, the only way to be free is to forgive. And so she did, eventually. But not in the middle of the fight.
She pointed out that the forgiving stage was more for her children and her sake, not necessarily for those forgiven and this is the point then. Christians are lulled into believing that we don’t have to put up a fight. We must be meek and let the wolves ravish us. We are admonished to be victims. But that’s not what Scripture says.
(2 Timothy 3:1-5) But know this, that in the last days grievous times shall come. (3:2) For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, (3:3) without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, (3:4) traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; (3:5) holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof: from these also turn away.
And for those times when you cannot avoid or turn away from such people?
(Ephesians 6:12-13) For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual [hosts] of wickedness in the heavenly [places]. (6:13) Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand.
Sometimes we must be still and let God do what we cannot do. And then sometimes we are called to get up and do. Learning the difference is part of maturing in the Spirit.
What Tonya Craft’s tale confirmed for me is the difference between cowering and succumbing to the forces of evil or choosing to do all, against the odds, and then stand. Just stand.
The question I asked on Wednesday was, “What is the point of tribulation?” “Why does God thrust us into the fiery trials?”
And the answer is: Purpose.
God does nothing without purpose. We may not know what the purpose is at the outset but we can be sure of one thing - there is good purpose. If we are called to trouble, and we respond with truly righteous intent, and not our own agenda, we can count on God taking us all the way through to the other side where the purpose waits for us.
Tonya Craft fought back, prayerfully paying attention to God’s prompts, even when it was counter to her legal team's advise, and ultimately found the purpose for all her life-altering trouble.