Last month, three of our grandsons stayed with us while Mom was recovering from a C-section after the birth of their adorable baby sister. As the boys looked through my book shelves, they discovered “Robinson Crusoe” and enthusiastically asked if I’d read it to them. So each night before bed, it became our pattern to read a chapter. The boys loved it, of course. And as often happens in reading the story out loud, the impact turned out to be far more significant for me than I had ever anticipated, even though I had already read the book to our own children years ago.
In it, Robinson Crusoe finds himself in the desperate situation of having been shipwrecked alone on a deserted island. He became immediately overwhelmed with panic, completely consumed with a suffocating sense of desperation. Hysterical, Crusoe cried out, screamed, threw himself on the sandy beach, and let the hopelessness of his situation totally overtake him. But eventually– exhausted– he calmed down, and with rational control, he assessed his situation, grateful that the destroyed ship was close enough for him to reach and retrieve supplies from. Slowly began to tackle his problems… one detail at a time.
After some time, he sat despondent on the sand with paper and pen that he had found in the ship and wrote for himself two lists: one of the “Good Things” about his situation (for instance, he had retrieved some food and plenty of supplies from the ship), while on the opposite side he listed the “Evil Things” about his situation (like the obvious fact that he was stranded on a lonely island and everyone else had died in the wreck.)
After some time, Crusoe himself was absolutely stunned to realize that even in his horrible, desperate circumstances, the “Good” things far outnumbered the “Evil” of his situation.
As you can imagine, this single thought has been coming back over and over to me in these recent weeks since I read it out loud to Jakob and Ethan. It’s so incredibly simple– and yet so incredibly amazing. Without exception, every situation I have consciously thought about has these two sides to it– the ‘good’ and the ‘evil,’ and the ‘Good’ always outweighs the ‘Evil.’ Dan’s Dad’s death? Yes, there was deep grief, but there was far more happiness in the memories we had and in the closeness he and his siblings experienced together. Marriages that seem to be hopeless? There really was genuine love at one time, as well as provision, happiness, good memories, support, shared dreams that became reality. Cancer? There were still all those years of good health to be grateful for, as well as some excellent treatments, supportive friends, prayer partners, loving families…
Not that man is good, because he is not! But even as Robinson Crusoe himself noted in his story, God is good. And even when we cannot understand His apparent silence in our desperate trials, His goodness still consistently outweighs what we are perceiving as “evil.”
A lot happens in the span of a life, and every single individual will experience what appears to be “evil” at some point. Deep trials will come– injuries, deaths, jobs will be lost, marriages will struggle, churches will disappoint us, disease will suddenly hit us, people will betray us… yet there is not one exception where God’s “goodness” does not far outnumber the “evil” that we perceive in the trial.
Our weakness is that all we can see is the “bad” when it looms relentlessly right in front of us, completely blocking the horizon with its impact. We just don’t see the good! Sometimes, we refuse to see the good. Maybe, like Robinson Crusoe, we need to back up a little bit so we don’t lose our vision of the whole picture… because there is always good to be had, and believe it or not, the good still outweighs the bad!
Frankly, if we really understood this and focused on the good instead of the bad, we’d find out how really small our own grievances are in most situations, compared to the true burdens that so many others are carrying…and yet still, God’s goodness to us is vast, and far, far outweighs the bad. Were a situation like Crusoe’s really true, it would certainly be bad. Yet as Gerald Sittser wrote in ‘A Grace Disguised,’ even when the “evil” of your circumstances are truly horrific– we can never forget that it’s still just one bad chapter… in a very, very good book.
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