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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “The Mean 6”

They say ignorance is bliss. They also say what you don’t know won’t hurt you. I’m not sure if either of those are absolutely true, but today’s episode made a strong case.

From the perspective of the girls, they simply thought that their short camping trip to the Tree of Harmony ran into some snags and mishaps. There were some arguments from misunderstandings, a few blow ups, and at the end of the day they saw that their prearranged campsite had been ruined.

In most situations, people in similar circumstances might say such constituted a “bad time”. They might even go so far as to call it a disaster when everyone kept arguing, the hike ended up being miserable, and the place where they stopped ended up being ransacked.

Those of us at home, however, knew that the girls had little reason to complain. Unknown to them, all of their mishaps and near scrapes with danger were the result of Queen Chrysalis and their clones’ machinations to try and steal the power of the Elements of Harmony for themselves. The small amount of misfortune and anger they had to deal with was an excellent alternative to what she would have done if she had her way, and yet they will likely go the rest of their lives chalking that up to being one of their bad days–never knowing, in the grand scheme of things, how lucky and fortunate they were.

The problem of evil has plagued Christianity as well as all religions for generations. If there is an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent God, then why do such senseless acts of evil, misery, and disaster happen? The oldest book in the Bible, the Book of Job, has this as its main topic, and yet thousands of years later it remains a subject for debate. The only real answer that book itself seemed to offer was that mankind can’t know why, at least completely, evil happens and in particular to good and innocent people. Many atheists, and even religious scholars, have been unsatisfied with that answer for years; especially when the bad incident is truly senseless. Even for those who still have faith, however, eventually the time will come in our lives in which we turn to God and ask: “Why did this have to happen to me?”

I don’t know if any of us will ever have the full answer, whether in this life or the next. Yet as this episode illustrates, there is at least some courage to be taken in knowing that one might never know just how much evil one is being preserved from…even in a seemingly rotten situation.

For today’s message, I would like to paraphrase a tale concerning the Prophet Elijah from the Books of Kings–a figure renown in Judeo-Christianity as one of the most pious and zealous men of the Old Testament. According to the Bible, Elijah never died but was instead taken up to Heaven while still in the body, and ever since then continues to wander the Earth to this day doing the Will of God.

There is a fable that the Rabbi Joshua ben Levi was a friend of Elijah and asked if he could join him in his wanderings. Elijah agreed on the condition that the rabbi never question his actions.

The two set out and first came to the house of an elderly couple. They were very poor, their only possession being a single cow, but they welcomed the two and offered them the best hospitality that they were able. The next morning, Elijah prayed that their cow would die and it did.

They next came to the house of a wealthy man. When they asked to stay, however, he chased them off and dismissed them both as lazy beggars. As they were leaving, they saw that one of the walls of the man’s property was crumbling. Elijah prayed that the wall would be repaired and it was.

After that, they came to a very rich synagogue. They were allowed to stay, but only with very poor and meager provisions. When they departed, Elijah prayed that every member of the synagogue would become a leader.

Afterward, they next came to a very poor synagogue, but one that welcomed them with great hospitality and courteousness. When they departed, Elijah prayed that the synagogue only be given a single wise leader.

At this point, the rabbi could take no more and demanded an explanation. Elijah answered:

  • The Angel of Death had come to the house of the elderly couple to take the wife. Elijah prayed that he would take the cow instead and he did.
  • The wall of the miser’s house had concealed a great treasure. Elijah prayed that it would be repaired and remain hidden from him and so it was.
  • A synagogue with many leaders would be ruined from the arguing and infighting, but a synagogue with only a single wise leader would go on to prosperity.

The moral of the story: don’t think that every time an evil-doer is seen prospering that it’s necessarily to their advantage, or that every time a good and righteous person suffers that it is because God is unjust.

Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, in my darkest times, when my doubts and fears overwhelm me, and everything in the world says to me that God has abandoned me and does not hear, grant that I will continue to cling to you and have faith in you. And I thank you for all of the unknown evils and dangers you have preserved me from without my ever knowing, as well as any act, even if it felt terrible at the time, that helped me to grow as a person and becomes a better follower of Christ. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”