All Things for Good: Beauty from Ashes

There is that sense that good overcomes evil (Rom. 12:21).

Good overcomes evil when we respond to wickedness with godliness as Paul says in Romans. Or by apologizing and seeking forgiveness after our own slips into the perpetration of evil.

It is not uncommon to hear people speak of the good that has come from a leader even though he or she is toxic. In fact, a friend and I were talking just this morning about Ravi’s giftedness despite his deep wickedness.

There may be at least two reasons for talking about “all the good they did” in these circumstances:

  • The leader may have problems in this area but he has been so effective in other areas. “He is a talented guy, after all.” We just feel we need to point out his good works.
  • Or, someone may pull the sovereignty card.

I have written of the giftedness of toxic leaders before. It can be a distraction to the destruction that is caused by a leader’s abusive management.

Though they may be gifted in exceptional ways, their leadership will, in the end, bring hurt and suffering to the organization; often, destroying beyond repair as has been evident in the Ravi Zacharias ministry.

See this article

The Sovereignty Card

However, there are times when we can see where the wickedness of man has failed to overcome God’s good work. We see God using Pharaoh in the Old Testament to glorify Him as God’s power and majesty is on full display in saving the Israelites from this deeply evil man.

God has used evil over and over in His creation to bring about His good. He even makes this promise to the believer:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

We can see where, as a person suffers the wickedness of a toxic leader at home or in the workplace, there are good things that come from it in the believer’s life. The victim may be driven out and end up in a job that is much better. He may grow in his ability to be self-differentiated. And, as certainly was the case for my family, survivors of toxic leadership may become much more empathetic to the pain of others in similar situations. They in turn minister to others in similar situations as Paul says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

Careful With Your Line-Drawing

However, I would suggest we must be careful to draw clear lines from wickedness to the good that comes from it when we have opportunities to counsel a survivor of abusiveness.

Recently, I was reading a book by a popular author. What put an end to my reading his book was a comment about slavery.

He noted that many slaves brought to the United States were purchased from African slave owners. The important lesson he noted was that “thank God [the Africans] sold them to the Westerners and not the Arabs!”

I would imagine he saw that as God’s good sovereignty at work. Though they were slaves, they were “in such a better place.”

I would suggest that is both insensitive and unbiblical to draw that line. The wickedness of slavery deserves no rosie coloring.

But this kind of statement is often made to “encourage” those who are suffering under abuse. “Thank God He is doing this really great work in your life. You would not have enjoyed this blessing had it not been for your wicked step-mother.”

To the victim of abusive leadership it appears to give an excuse for the toxic behavior. It often says to the abuse survivor, “God is doing a good work in you, so you should buck up and put up with the abuse,” though that may not be the intent.

Who Draws Those Lines?

I would suggest we allow those who are suffering to draw those lines.

Like Job’s counselors, we can find ourselves under the displeasing eye of the Lord for drawing those lines from suffering to this or that purpose. In his soon to be released book, “Suffering Wisely and Well” Old Testament Hebrew scholar Eric Ortland notes that where normal sacrifices would include one animal, Job’s friends were required to provide 14. The friends had sought to point Job to all the reasons his suffering was being inflicted by the Lord.

The LORD never provided a “reason” and we should be careful in suggesting one. Even when it might seem clear to us, we may be way off the mark and only heaping condemnation or expectation on the victim that is not ours to give.

So, I would rather suggest:

Pray for them to see God’s sovereignty at work. Pray that the Lord will show His merciful hand in their lives. Pray that the Lord will bring beauty from the ashes as Isaiah prophecies.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

It will be part of their healing process. You do not need to draw those lines for those who are suffering. Weep with those who weep. Allow the Lord’s Holy Spirit to bring these things to mind.

All oppressive behavior is a great wickedness in God’s eyes. He makes this clear throughout scripture. He does not give excuse. Nor should we. Especially not to those who are suffering.

Rather point out that they do not deserve the evil treatment they are receiving. The Lord cares deeply for the oppressed (Psalm 9:9).

God’s heart is that we comfort, not draw lines.

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