A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Superstition or Faith? A Practical Lesson for Easter

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:1-9)

Sometimes we Christians end up being superstitious and calling it faith. What I mean is (and I have done it too) we try to read the “tea leaves” of circumstances and thereby sort out what God is doing. “Ok, now I see what God’s purpose is here.” But that confidence vaporizes the next day when things take an entirely different, and usually discouraging, direction. “All of these trials I have been through – God has been using them to teach me this specific lesson. Now I see it.” But then the next custody hearing comes up and your abuser prevails. You resolve to follow and obey Christ. But you are the one in poverty while your abuser prospers.

Superstition can sneak up on us and parade as faith. It isn’t. “I am just patiently waiting for the Lord to show me…and then I will…”. That’s the thinking. Usually by “show me” we mean some sign, some happening or observable event, some word spoken by someone that we take to be God directing us. Let me suggest once more that this can easily be superstition, and not faith. Faith, remember, is defined in Scripture this way:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Heb 11:1)

The object of faith is the Lord and His revealed Word, not circumstances or events. Superstition, even with the Lord’s name attached to it, is not faith. It is the notion that the creation around us and the creatures in that creation emanate “signs” to us that we can read and make some sense of, communicating to us what God’s plan is. The thing will inevitably leave you disappointed. Remember Job’s friends?  They claimed to be able to interpret Job’s circumstances and from their observations discern what God was doing in Job’s life. They were wrong.

I am thinking these days more about the purpose of Ecclesiastes being in the Bible. Basically it says this:

Nothing in this life makes sense and we will go nuts if we try to discern God’s plan from events and circumstance. In the end we walk by faith not by sight. Sight is what will make us stumble.

Many times I have seen abuse victims, in the midst of great suffering, refuse to take action that really appeared to be very obviously wise. They were free to do it. God’s Word gave them that freedom. Godly people affirmed that taking such a step would be wise. Civil officials agreed, as did the civil law. But they didn’t take that step. They remained in the place they were in. Why? They said they were waiting for the Lord to direct them specifically and definitely. They were, you see, caught up in superstition and confusing it with faith. What they were waiting for was some course of events, some happening, some word or statement that they would see as a divine direction specifically for them. In their thinking, they dare not take any action or they would lose God’s blessing and perhaps even incur His wrath. But that is superstition, not biblical faith.

The church that I have pastored for many years has undergone much suffering. As we have endured various trials, we have often said to one another: “Ok, the Lord has tried and tested us. He has shown us sin and brought us to repent of it. Now that He has done this, He is going to start bringing new people here to join us. Genuine Christians who love Christ. It’s gonna be a bright, sunshiny day.” But then it doesn’t happen. The reality is, it may never happen. Sometimes in the history of the church, Christ’s people have done the right thing according to God’s Word and their church eventually came to naught. It isn’t always sin that closes down a church, you see. Sometimes following Christ faithfully in a world that hates Christ ends with an empty building dilapidating over the years. No, that doesn’t make sense does it? And that is the very message of Ecclesiastes.

Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to the children of man that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him? (Ecc 3:16-22)

Superstition will try and try to make sense out of the events of this life. It will claim to tell us what God’s plan and purpose is in the specifics of our lives. But it will fail. It is a dead end. Superstition disappoints. Superstition paralyzes. Rather, it is faith we must embrace, and the object of genuine faith is unseen. Faith is trust in God’s Word simply because God has spoken it.

Jesus lives, and so shall I.
Death! thy sting is gone forever!
He who deigned for me to die,
Lives, the bands of death to sever.
He shall raise me from the dust:
Jesus is my Hope and Trust.

Trust Christ. Believe His Word as revealed to us in Scripture. Use wisdom, do what you believe is right application of that Word, and be assured you have God’s blessing even when your circumstances make it look like you do not. In the end, the outcome is in the Lord’s hands. In the end, whenever that day comes, the Christian’s life will turn out to be good, very, very good. How do I know? Because God has indeed given us a sign – the sign of Jonah:

But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mat 12:39-40)

Our story has a happy ending. The storyline gets really, really confusing quite often. But the Lord has told us how it is all going to turn out, and He has given us assurance by means of the empty tomb. Christ is risen. And because He is risen, so shall we rise. This is faith, not superstition.

Jesus Lives (Sung by Erin Hill)

25 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    A very convicting post. I mean, VERY convicting! A testing of faith vs superstition – waiting for circumstances vs really trusting Christ and the wisdom from HIS WORD.
    “Jesus Lives” – an appropriate song of victory for today!

  2. Wonderful, Pastor Jeff! The object of our faith IS JESUS and He has given us the assurance that our story will end well.

    In your post, you mention how victims are often paralyzed in inactivity when they may have the freedom to move forward with what is good. Psalm 18 has been a huge help to me in this regard. God arms us with strength for our battles! (vs 32)

    In Ps 18:37-42, David makes it clear that he has responsibility with the strength God provides to take action against his enemies. Vs 37-38 says, “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; I have wounded them, so that they could not rise; they have fallen under my feet.” In the following verse, David makes it clear WHO gave him the strength for the battle (vs 39): “For YOU have armed me with strength for the battle. YOU have subdued under me those who rose up against me.”

    It is both God and man working together by faith.

    Towards the end of the Psalm, David proclaims (vs 46-49), “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up above those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your Name.”

    This is faith in the midst of the storm. May God arm us with strength as we do the faith-battling with His strength against our enemies and may we remember the story does end well. He has RISEN!.

  3. Forrest

    A good reminder, Jeff.

  4. Christ is risen.

    He is risen indeed!

  5. A couple of weeks ago, while riding in a taxi from the Miami cruise port to the airport, I saw the following, painted on the side of an unidentified building:

    “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

    I’ve been pondering that ever since.

  6. rlbenne

    Awesome word!! Thank you!!

  7. Happy2bHere

    This made me realize I actually think that way often (waiting for a definite sign, everything has meaning etc.). Thank you and on such a wonderful day

  8. Marah

    Not sure where to put this, but are there 2-3 essential articles here to have pastoral-types read? My husband has apparently showed back up at church, and I’ve gotten a “we need to sit down with the two of you to find to what’s going on” email. It’s a good place, and I have hope there. But I want to make sure they’ve at least been familiar with some abuse basics. Which articles are best? My husband is no doubt going to play up the repentant sinner bit.

    • Marah I agree with Jeff that the best thing for them to do is to read our two books. But if they want to start with just some posts from this blog, I’d recommend these two posts:

      How a Pastor and His Wife’s Eyes Were Opened to Abuse: A Letter to Pastors

      Abuse and Pastors: An Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors

    • Jeff Crippen

      Marah- unless they have read our two books (Not Under Bondage/A Cry for Justice) at minimum then they are simply not competent to deal with your situstion.

      • Marah

        I should clarify – I have no intention of sitting down with my husband with them. It’s not a situation of marriage counseling (and won’t be). It’s actually a shockingly good groups in many ways; they preached through Ephesians last year, and it’s the only place I’ve ever heard the “submit” verses preached from the context of mutual submission, and that a husband’s responsibility to make his wife feel safe is more important than her following him. I am *cautiously* hopeful that they’ll be open to reading about this stuff.

  9. Brenda R

    This was a good reminder. There are no signs. There is only faith that he will lead me. I truly have no idea what God’s plan is for my life. I must seek him each day and pray that he will use me that day as he chooses.

  10. Charis

    I liken this to the old joke told about the man in the flood plain waiting to be rescued. He said no to the jeep. “I’m waiting for God to rescue me.” Later, as the water rose, a raft passed by. “No, thank you…my God has promised to save me.” And the raft went on for others. Next a row boat came by and he said the same to their kind offer of assistance, “No, no…I know that God will provide a way of escape. I’m trusting in Him.” Finally, he was forced to climb to the roof of his house as the waters continued to rise. In the dusk, a helicopter came and beckoned him to safety. “NO! I fully trust that God will come for me; watch and be amazed!” During the night the man died. When he arrived at heaven’s shore – he asked Jesus, “Why didn’t you rescue me from the flood?” And Jesus replied, “I tried to but you refused. I sent the Jeep, the raft, the row boat – even the helicopter. You were too stubborn an blind to recognize my help.”

    I have been wrestling (on my bad days) with waiting for a “sign” from God, wanting to know for sure that I’m doing the right thing, not making a mistake by choosing to leave my husband. By waiting for signs, I allow myself to become paralyzed – immobilized and besought by fear and self-doubt.

    On my good days – I know God has already given me all I need (proof) within Scripture, in direct conversation/revelation (Spirit to spirit), in confirming deeply: peace, love, grace, wisdom within my soul.

    One is faith; the other is not. Please, forgive me, Abba – may I walk more in faith even as I set things in motion and wait on You to open doors and rescue me.

  11. I have heard so many versions of this so many times, it boggles my mind. People won’t leave a bad relationship, a bad church or a bad marriage because “The Lord hasn’t released me yet”. Whatever that means. It usually means they don’t want to take responsibility for their own behavior, so they put it on God.
    On a slightly different note about signs and superstitions; recently my uncle passed- a notorious unbeliever- my father was so upset at the possibility that his brother died unsaved, he has convinced himself that he had “sense” that the Lord had reached his brother in his last moments. HIs brother was mostly unconscious, or unable to respond to those around him for the most part, so now my father thinks the the Lord has given him this “feeling”. It’s just him being in denial and unable to deal with the truth, so he convinces himself that his brother was saved, and puts it on God.
    it is so sad.

    • Charis

      I can’t speak for others. For myself, I can say that although I knew God had “released” me from my marriage months ago the question still loomed that because I COULD go didn’t necessarily mean I SHOULD go. Or better yet – for me, it was a timing issue. When should I go?

      For background, I was raised in a strict, conservative Christian background. Divorce was never an option; it was the unforgiveable sin. It was drilled into me over decades. I don’t know how it became this way but undoing 40yrs of dogma via church, parents, and a minor in Bible from a well-respected university was a deep work for me. Being able to “listen” to my own intuition – and trust it – while still in the midst of abuse and manipulation, walking the path of grieving and grieving deeply was confusing, at best.

      Another piece that is specifically unique to me: while my husband’s 30yr compulsive sexual addiction, lying, persona/masks, deception, abuse/manipulation was all revealed to me 14mos ago – my 5yr old son was diagnosed with kidney cancer 9mos later. Two tragedies had struck almost simultaneously. I truly believe God had prepared me. I had already begun to understand HOW to grieve because of the revelation that my entire marriage was a sham – just in time to put into practice how to grieve walking a child through cancer. This past year has been hell. God is good.

      So, while it may indeed, seem odd that I waited to be released from my marriage from God. I had many good reasons to do so. I needed to do the work on my own, searching scripture. Praying & fasting. Reading every respected book I could get my hands on to educate myself, while trying to remain open that I could have it all wrong. Journaling. Meeting with pastors. Participating in counseling and LIFE groups. Building new friendships with Safe Friends. Learning the art of re-establishing intuition (I don’t believe I have ever truly “listened” to my body before – wow, what an experience). Recognizing when the Spirit speaks to me – such precious conversation. Registering with the local Domestic Violence Women’s Shelter – how validating. Slowly sharing my story with others – taking a risk.

      I didn’t want to simply “find evidence” that supported my angry, hurting, knee-jerk reactions. I dug in deep and forged a path. I asked Jesus to walk each step with me. Like the blind man beside the road, I asked Him to “Open my eyes.”

      It is my desire to walk the pathway of healing with all the integrity I can muster, knowing I have done everything possible – everything asked of me – truly opening my heart to be seared by God in authenticity. As painful as it might be. As mind-blowing as the Truth might be for me.

      For me, this is what Elisabeth Klein and Leslie Vernick describe in the effort known as Stay Well/Leave Well. It has taken me a long time to reach a point to where I can now say: “If I were to stay…I would not be Staying Well. I am Leaving…and I am Leaving Well.”

      I am still learning how to rest in the freedom. That Jesus is not here to condemn me for my choices when sprung from a heart that earnestly searches for His Truth. That He has graced me with the freedom to leave – whenever I am ready. That, even if it is a mistake – He loves me still; He blesses me still. He is not waiting with curses and a harder row to hoe. Yet, this is the faith of my childhood. The condemnation waiting for me from my parents and those who attend my church. This is the 40yrs of rotten theology I am undoing on my own. I have asked for help, yet – as so well described on this blog – the church is much more concerned with parity, with keeping the marriage intact.

      For someone who was taught to respect authority, to seek guidance and to obey…this is new territory. To truly embrace that this decision is between me and God – and then to take action and live that out. Wow. That is courage for me. To let go of my desire to feel fully justified in the eyes of the congregation, knowing they will judge me unjustly. That is where the rubber meets the road.

      Learning how to “Chew the meat and spit out the bones” – yes, this is new for me. All of this. Just as for many of us, waking up to the reality of abuse within our most intimate relationships is slow and painful and chilling and defies reality – like waking from a nightmare. It takes time.

      It may not be everybody’s story. It is my story. I am still lifting out of the fog. It is surreal. There are days of doubt. 40yrs is a lot to undo…especially when I am just now discovering that I have “married” my mother. So much work. I’m exhausted.

      • Charis, thankyou so much for sharing your story and your journey. Wow. What a testimony! 🙂

  12. Charis

    Many, many thanks to you and Pastor Crippen – and the other contributing authors – for words timely spoken.

    I cannot tell you how many times I came here and found an article (or several) that were God’s heart whispering directly to my soul. So much validation. So many words of Truth. Really, from the overflow of my heart and what is left of my sanity – I am indebted to you. Thank you!

    • thepersistentwidow

      Charis, I hope that your son is doing better. We do have a prayer request page should you wish to add his situation or any other concerns to it. I am sorry for what you went through but your faith shines through in your story. Thank you for sharing it. Keep pressing on, God will provide for all that you need. As you know, He is faithful.

  13. IamMyBeloved's

    Fabulous post and timely as well. How easy it is, to slip from faith to superstition. How easy it is, to look for the “signs” that we are following God, instead of just “knowing” that we are by obeying and following His Word. There are many non-specifics in the Bible. There is no place where we are told when to leave or how to leave an abuser. But, we know that God has freed us from bondage and oppression.

    I have found myself looking for signs to know what to do in particular circumstances with the abuse in my life. But God has shown me, that just as this article states, even if all falls apart here and I am left destitute, it cannot touch me, my spirit of soul or change or affect the long-term plan God has laid for me. He planned it and He will work it out. My Salvation is from Him, as is my faith – so I just keep marching on. The end of that road, will be the sweetest thing I have ever know, or have ever truly cared to know.

  14. Not Too Late

    A fantastic message, thankyou, Pastor Crippen. I think superstition has definitely been interweaved into some of the messages that I grew up with in the church. We were led to believe that we should not move until we felt a sign from God, even if evidence of God’s will was obviously in the Bible. Leaving abusive relationships is a case in point. I remember praying and waiting for that sign from heaven, as if it would be the answer to everything. Thanks for reminding us that faith in Christ and His Word as revealed in Scripture is all we need.

    • Jeff Crippen

      You are welcome. I highly recommend Gary Friesen’s book, Decision Making and the Will of God on this subject. The book rattled some cages that needed rattling in regard to some of the very false teachings you mentioned.

  15. Amylisa C.

    Amazing, eye opening and so helpful!! I am grateful to have found this!!

    • Hi Amylisa, welcome to the blog! 🙂

      • Amylisa C.

        Thank you. I want to also check out the book that Jeff Crippen mentioned here about Decision Making.

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